South Burnaby United Church History 1908 – 2010
The church began as a Sunday School in 1908, at Dundonald School (later Riverway East School and currently Glenwood School) at what is now Gilley Ave and Marine Dr. in South Burnaby. Miss Helena Crake offered a Sunday School class in the school for 19 pupils.
By 1909/10, a church congregation was formed, as Dundonald Church and Riverway East School Methodist Church, with a student minister, Mr. G.B.
Photo credit: Dundonald Church and Riverway East School , between 1911 – 1919. City of Burnaby Archives, Photo ID 325-024.
In 1912, the small congregation had raised money and, with volunteer labour, had built a church building on Gilley Ave, opposite the school. The new church was named Dundonald after a Mr Dundonald who was one of the trustees of the school.The Dundonald congregation continued to worship in the little church, with student ministers and lay preachers, through into the 1920’s. Most services were a combined Sunday School and worship service. Photo credit: Dundonald Church. City of Burnaby Archives, Photo ID 325-022
In 1925, when the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist churches in Canada joined to form a new denomination – the United Church of Canada, the name of the congregation was changed to Dundonald United. In 1926, Rev. John Wright began his ministry and attracted the interest of residents living further away from the Gilley location. It became evident that the little church congregation needed to move uphill and west to be closer to the growing population along the Interurban tram line.
The little building at the foot of Gilley was sold in 1927 and the site for a new church was obtained at Clinton St. and Curragh Ave., with land donated by two families. The congregation met in rented premises above stores at Portland St. and Buller Ave. for a year, during which time the new building was completed. The new church opened in October 1928.
Dundonald United Church flourished and grew throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s. There was a choir, Womens Auxiliary units, CGIT, Trailrangers, Tuxis, Mission Band, Young Peoples Society and more. The Sunday School grew from 181 in 1928 to 400 in 1953.
In 1950, Dundonald United became a separate pastoral charge and changed its name to South Burnaby United. In the early 1950’s, Burnaby saw a huge influx of new families as large numbers of houses were being built on the South Slope. A second Sunday School was opened in the school building at Joffre and Rumble. A deposit was made on two lots on Nelson Ave. at Sidley. The area the church was to serve was bounded by 2 blocks east of Gilley to Boundary Road and from Imperial to Marine Drive. The Nelson site was later abandoned because the street was not on a bus route. The present site at Gray and Rumble was served by a bus so the building location was changed. After the decision was made the routes were changed and we were without local bus service until 2005! The property was obtained at the corner of Rumble St. and Gray Ave. and a new church was built there, opening its doors in October 1953.
Families continued to come to the South Burnaby area. In 1958, the Sunday School enrolled 1000 pupils. More space was needed. The 1953 building was uprooted from its position and moved uphill to a lot on Gray Ave. (it is still there and serves as the current church hall.) A new and larger church building was erected on Gray Ave. at Rumble, and was dedicated on Thanksgiving Sunday, 1959.
South Burnaby United Church purchased a Craftsman style house at 2111 Jubilee (renumbered to 7092 Jubilee in 1960/61). It served as the manse until Rev. Russell Beairsto arrived and purchased his own home. The house was rented out from 1984 – 1989 and was sold May 1989. The building is still there.
For the past 50 years, South Burnaby United Church has continued to grow and share.
The AOTS Mens Club was formed in 1954 and continued for 60 years, famous for its pancake breakfasts and garage sales. The men of the church are still active today, but not as a formal group that meets regularly.
The women are part of the United Church Women. As part of their mission, they have run a Thrift Shop in the basement of the church since 1972 – it is open Thursdays 10 am – 2 pm, September to June.
Youth groups have continued – Scouts, Cubs, Guides, Brownies, and more meet in our church facilities.
Music has been a special joy and the choir has had an active history. During the 1970’s a young people’s choir, the Coffee Club Singers, presented several rock musicals to rave reviews. Currently, choir practices are held on Thursday evenings and new singers are always welcome.
South Burnaby has been an active partner with the Fair Haven United Church Home, St. Michael’s Centre and L’Arche Community, all located in the South Burnaby neighbourhood.
The congregation has sponsored several refugee families, beginning in 1980 with Vietnamese Boat People and continuing to the present time, currently wrapping up sponsorship of a family from Syria. The church provided ESL classes to new Canadians from 1990 to 2013.
Beginning in 1989, SBUC has hosted a series of soup and sandwich lunches weekly during Lent, with guest speakers bringing a message to attendees from neighbouring churches of various denominations. These Lenten Lunches continue, on Wednesdays in Lent, from noon to 1 pm.
Throughout all our own local activities, the members of South Burnaby have actively supported community and global outreach programs.
The Sunday School, the original foundation of Dundonald Church, continues as an active and vital part of South Burnaby United Church, welcoming children of all ages each week.
As we celebrate 100+ years of fellowship, we thank God for the opportunity we have been given here in South Burnaby. We remember the pioneers who had the vision to start a Sunday School and a congregation, those who worked so hard to provide us with places to worship, and those who continue to serve in so many ways ……
West Burnaby United Church (History)