Jubilee UC History

For the history of our founding congregations:

South Burnaby United Church

West Burnaby United Church

Jubilee United Church – A History (January 2017 – March 2020)

Beginning in 2012 South Burnaby United Church [SBUC] and West Burnaby United Church [WBUC] began a process toward amalgamation. Through that process, we learned that Dundonald Methodist Church (the original congregation of South Burnaby UC) and Henderson Methodist Church (a founding congregation of West Burnaby UC) had shared student ministers in the 1910s, a Mr. G. B. Ridland.

Westminster Presbytery approved the amalgamation of the two congregations in April 2016, and West Burnaby United Church moved into South Burnaby United Church on July 1, 2016.  In December, at a congregational meeting, our new name was chosen: Jubilee United Church [JUC]. This name reflected our history (Jubilee United, a founding congregation of West Burnaby), the location of Jubilee Ave between the two churches, and the theological concept of Jubilee.

On January 1, 2017, Jubilee United Church officially began. The Rev. Graham Brownmiller was called as Lead Minister for the congregation. A Transitional Governance model was instituted: a Transitional Council, Trustees and Ministry & Personnel Committee all elected (by slate) at the congregational meeting, and four Core Ministry Groups [CMG] (Worship, Belonging, Service & Learning). The CMGs were not intended to be committees with membership, but groups of interest which would help the Minister to carry out the work of the congregation as determined by the Congregational Meeting and the Transitional Council. In many ways it is a Policy Governance model, by which the Executive Team (governing body) deals with the ends “what do we want to do” and the Minister is empowered to deal with the means “how will we do what we want to do.” Currently we are exploring ways of clarifying our governance.

Both SBUC and WBUC had history as churches where Outreach, Choir and Sunday School had been important to their identities. JUC continued these priorities, though understood that some of the ways that these ministries had been done would need to shift, adapt, and change, based on the context of the day.

Throughout 2017 a group of women met once a month, as did a group of men, to make sandwiches for First United Church in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. In 2018 First UC changed their programming and asked churches to stop providing sandwiches.  

The weekly Community Lunch, which had begun at WBUC continued at JUC, saw a decrease in participants from sixty to seventy (60-70) on a Tuesday down to fifteen to twenty (15-20), most likely due to the new location further away from Kingsway and the Skytrain. 

The JUC choir has consisted of approximately twelve (12) people, mostly seniors (65+ years). Marcus Petrunia, who had been the choir director at SBUC, continued in this role as Choir Director until Easter of 2019. The choir presented a cantata for Christmas in Dec. 2017 and led a service of Lessons & Carols in Dec. 2018, and similarly a service of Readings and Music on Palm Sunday, 2019. 

In the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020 two young  people in the congregation were offering Sunday accompaniment, but we had not hired a new Music Director before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we began virtual Sunday services using recorded music for congregational singing (at home).

The Sunday School and Youth Group began small, but thanks to births, and some new members moving to the area, by 2020 has approximately fourteen (14) children and ten (10) youth involved on a regular basis on Sundays.   In addition, Family Matters, an intergenerational group, gathers bi-monthly for a meal and social time together. These are not just folks who have children, but includes those who are interested in connecting with the families with children as well. The list of people involved is extensive!   For Easter and Pentecost in 2020 we distributed family packages while families were isolated at home; we sent packages to twenty-four (24) households, which was approximately forty-five (45) children and youth! It was great. 

SBUC’s minister Rev. Ray Sadler began a Lenten Lunch series in 1989 as a way to provide an education experience for members of the community, and to extend the invitation ecumenically from the area. JUC continued the idea of the Lenten program and has tried to re-imagine how that program might happen. In 2019 we had guest preachers on Sunday and then at the lunch we summarized the theme of the sermon and did something to respond (e.g., sending post cards to local Mosques who had experienced some faith based attacks). In 2020 the plan was to move to a dinner program with some gathering time for families, a meal, worship and a program. The COVID-19 pandemic caused us to put the series on hold; we will see how it evolves in future. 

A Bible and Adult Christian Education group has met weekly on Wednesday afternoons since 2017, led by lay members, retired clergy, as well as by student minister(s). Over that time till the present (June 2020), twenty-four individuals have attended, averaging 7 people per week.  Topics covered have ranged from video discussion on Christianity in general, selected bible books from the Hebrew and Christian testaments, Christian meditation, parables of Jesus, books on religion in a wider sense including & outside Christianity.  Some people from outside the JUC community are among those who have participated.

The UCW (United Church Women), with only one Unit meeting monthly, has organized a few events for all the ladies of the congregation – a social get-to-know-you evening; a lunch at a local restaurant, a presentation of church history.  The executive continues to meet quarterly to manage the UCW budget which is mostly income from the Thrift Shop and donations which are made to it. The Thrift Shop, which has been operated by the [SBUC] UCW since 1972, continues to operate out of the building on Rumble. It often realizes approximately thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) annually, the proceeds of which are donated to charitable and community organizations in the area and to the operation of the church.

The UCW hosted an event that recognized the super-seniors of our congregation with a Nonagenarian (90+) and Centenarian (100+) Tea held after the Sunday service, in June 2017 and again in June 2019.  Over 30 Invitations were sent each time, and almost 20 were able to attend.

We have always tried to have a presence in our community, and so we have a long-standing relationship with Fair Haven United Church homes, St. Michael’s Care-home, and a good and long relationship with L’Arche Vancouver. Both SBUC and WBUC had some history of refugee sponsorship, and JUC continues this tradition. We are regularly asked to help sponsor different refugee families from many parts of the world, and when we feel like we are able to help, we do. JUC has helped to resettle at least one family, and currently has two in the works.

Through the academic school year of 2017-2018, JUC had a field education student spend a small amount of time with us to learn about ministry in a congregation. And then, in 2018 JUC agreed to be a Supervised Site for a candidate for Ordained Ministry. SLt. Colin Brown joined the community as our Supervised Ministry Experience Student and Associate Minister. Colin was a member of the military and was seeking to become a Navy Chaplain, ordained as a minister in the United Church. Throughout his two years with us, Colin had an opportunity to preach, offer pastoral care, lead bible study, and experience life as a minister in a community of faith. A Lay Support Team was made up of Barb Tunnicliffe, Glo McArter, Nancy Baird, and Bill Gilpin, and Rev. Graham served as Colin’s supervisor. At the end of the two years, the Mountain Region Candidacy Board declined to ordain Colin, ending his candidacy. Since then, he has affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.

The FunRaisers committee has given us great social & fundraising events: Burns dinner/Sottish Ceilidh in Jan/Feb; 2 pancake breakfasts (spring & fall); a spring supper event (Canada 150 in 2017/ 1950s rock&roll diner in 2018/ Mexican Fiesta in 2019); an elegant dinner & entertainment in fall; Breakfast with Santa in December.

The Family Matters group has held family potluck and movie nights.  They have held 2 sleepovers in the church hall, an annual Hallowe’en party, and an Easter morning celebration each year. This group helped organize a congregation/family Canada Day picnic was held after the church Service on Sunday July 1, 2018. They were also behind reviving an SBUC event from the early 2000s – the “Rumble on Gray” street fair was held in September 2018 & 2019, with vendors, bake sale, live entertainment, children’s activities, hot dogs, etc.  Both years the weather was wet, and we were hoping for sun in 2020! Very successful Family Camps were held at the end of August in 2018 and 2019 at Camp Olave on the Sunshine Coast.

We have many dedicated lay people who provide leadership: participating in worship, preparing meals and providing fellowship coffee, tea and goodies, organizing social events, and welcoming newcomers on Sunday morning. Most of that is (currently) on hold while we are worshipping virtually together, but there is a dedicated telephone tree of approximately ten (10) who then phone approximately ten (10) each, which reaches close to one hundred and twenty (120) members and adherents of the congregation. 

Included in the time capsule is a letter from our Lead Minister, Rev. Graham Brownmiller which explains the context of our lives right now as this time capsule is being buried. We are in the midst of a pandemic and we are attempting to figure out how to engage our community, even while we don’t know how long we need to be physically distant from each other. Some of our activities (e.g., Bible Study, Sunday School, and fellowship time) are continuing virtually, and we are cautiously thinking about how other activities might slowly begin again.

We trust that whoever you are, whenever you are, that the world you live in is one where history shows that Jubilee United Church continued to be a visible and viable presence in the Metrotown and South Slope area of Burnaby.