Last congregation leaves historic East Vancouver church

Fate of century-old Anglican church unknown

The Parish of St. David of Wales at 2475 Franklin St. in Hastings-Sunrise closed at the end of February, but it’s unclear what will happen to the historic church in which it operated. The church, which since 1996 has been home to a series of contemporary Stations of the Cross paintings by artist Chris Woods, is a century old.

The Anglican congregation voted Feb. 2 to ask their bishop to close the parish because there were no longer enough active parishioners.

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Management of the property reverts back to the Diocese of New Westminster and the Diocesan Council will make decisions about the future use or disposal of the property, according to a notice posted in the Hastings elementary school newsletter, which is located nearby.

Randy Murray, spokesman for the Diocese of New Westminster, said about 50 people were at the final service Feb. 23. He also attended.

“[Rev. Michael Batten]’s quote from the sermon was, ‘for years we have been wondering when this day would come and now it’s here, but it’s really about the story that we’re carrying and the story that we tell,’” Murray said.

Batten will become the full-time rector at St. Thomas Anglican Church, also in East Vancouver.

Three parishes have operated in the church building over the years — All Saints, St. Saviour’s and St. David of Wales. St. David of Wales operated for the last 44 years. Murray said there are no plans to do anything with the building.

“This is a parish closure, so they are closed. So they will now go through the rest of the legal procedures with the diocese to close. The building is the building,” he said.

“Any decisions about the building are made by the governing body of the diocese, which is the Diocesan Council and the executive officers and of course the new bishop [Melissa Skelton]. I don’t see anything on the next Diocesan Council agenda.”

Kiwassa-St. David’s Preschool and Nisga’a Ts’amiks Vancouver Society will continue to operate out of the building for the time being, as well as a few community groups that use the space.

Not all community activities will be able to continue, according to the note in the school newsletter.

“Sadly, however, the parish premises will no longer be available to occasional users from the community,” it states.

The 115.5-by-122 square foot property is valued at $1.96 million, according to B.C. Assessment.

Janet Leduc, executive director of the Heritage Vancouver Society, said it is worried about the fate of heritage churches.

“It is absolutely a concern and one of the things that we’ve encountered is it’s really hard to get a handle [on the issue]. We know that there are diminishing congregations and the churches don’t want to say, so you don’t find out until they’ve actually been sold or are up for sale,” she said.

“The other thing that seems to be happening with some of the newer religions is they’re looking more for theatres… so the churches that are growing are not necessarily buying churches, which seems odd, but we definitely are interested [in the fate of churches]. It’s just trying to get information.”

Leduc said the St. David of Wales building is historically important and is designated B on the city’s heritage register. Leduc also noted the importance of the Stations of the Cross paintings and that it’s important that they are preserved.

Murray said: “I know that they are valued by all and they will be taken care of.”

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