Pacific Spirit United Church is both very old and very new. Ryerson United Church was founded in 1911 as Kerrisdale Methodist Church and became Ryerson United Church after Church Union in 1925. Dunbar Heights United Church began in 1914 as a community Sunday school, became Dunbar Heights Union Church in 1922 and Dunbar Heights United Church following Church Union. The two dynamic, Vancouver churches, both with able and committed lay leadership and an eye to the future of the United Church on the west side of Vancouver, first met in April 2015 to float the idea of amalgamation. Twenty months later, January 1, 2017 we celebrated our first service as one new congregation.
The separate paths are illuminating. Dunbar Heights engaged in a Strategic Ministry Planning process in 2011. It was clear that the congregation was committed to being part of a vibrant church on the west side of Vancouver and was open to leaving its building to live into this vision. Plans were made to meet leaders of a congregation which shared the vision. Ryerson’s leaders responded enthusiastically. Ryerson’s vision of “enriching lives through faith, community and the arts” had led it into a rezoning and building redevelopment process to seismically upgrade the heritage sanctuary and improve its potential as a much loved community rehearsal, concert and recording venue; to create a new activity centre for church programming, offices, partner community choirs and other performing artists; and to dedicate space to social housing.
In preparing for amalgamation, intentional work happened so people could work, talk, pray and worship together, drawing on a wide pool of leadership. The congregation approved a Commitment Statement and a Strategic Ministry Plan that resonated in our hearts and called us beyond where we each had been.
At a congregational meeting on December 3, 2017 the congregation adopted Pacific Spirit United Church as our permanent name. The name reflects our aspiration to be a source of peace making in the community and the world, and our hope that the Spirit unfettered by gender or “humanness” will continue to nudge us forward.