South Burnaby UC History

1908 – 2016

The church began as a Methodist 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, with student minister, Mr. G.B. Ridland (he also led services for at least one other Methodist congregation in the area).

In 1912, the small congregation of Dundonald Methodist raised money and, with volunteer labour, built a church building on Gilley Ave, opposite the school. The new church was named for the school, which in turn had been named for 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.

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 a 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 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. 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, serving the area bounded by 2 blocks east of Gilley Ave to Boundary Road, and from Imperial St to Marine Drive.

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, rotated 180°, and moved uphill to a lot on Gray Ave. (it is still there and serves as the current church hall.)

Music has been a special joy and the choir has had an active history. The first choir was formed in 1928. The choirs over the years have enjoyed presenting musical events and special Christmas programs. Fellowship included choir parties. There have been junior and youth choirs. During the 1970’s a young people’s choir, the Coffee Club Singers, presented several rock musicals to rave reviews. Between 2007 and 2013, a church band calling themselves The Rumblers, led music for family-friendly services on Third Sunday of each month.

The women of Dundonald Church formed Women’s Circles and a Women’s Missionary Society. They enjoyed their contribution to the church, as well as social occasions. By the mid-1950s, there were 6 Women’s Circles. In 1962, United Church Women was formed nationally and the Circles became UCW units. In the 1980s, there were as many as 7 Units. In addition to monthly unit and general meetings, the ladies have held Thankoffering lunches and dinners, Spring Teas and Christmas programs. By 2016, there is only one active UCW unit. As part of their mission, the UCW has run a Thrift Shop in the basement of the church since 1972. It is open Thursdays 10 am – 2 pm, September to June, bringing in over $25,000 annually for UCW projects and church activities.

The AOTS (As One That Serves) Men’s Club was formed in 1954 and continued for 60 years, famous for its pancake breakfasts, garage sales and Burns Suppers. They held monthly dinner meetings, with the UCW catering. By 2014, membership had declined and the club officially disbanded. The men of the church are still active today, but not as a formal group that meets regularly.

Youth groups have been a vital part of the church, working and learning together. Highlights have been Teen & Young Adult retreats (1996-2011). AOTS has sponsored Scouting groups since the 1950s, while Guides, Brownies and more meet in our church facilities. A parent-participation preschool operated in the church hall, 1954-2013.

The Sunday School, the original foundation of Dundonald Church, has continued as an active and vital part of South Burnaby United Church, welcoming children of all ages each week. (Photo: Sunday School planting a tree, 1994)

Since 2008, the Family Matters group has hosted monthly Sunday evening potluck dinners, bringing together young families for fellowship and spiritual inspiration. As part of the process of amalgamation with West Burnaby, the Family Matters group has included WB families in monthly dinners and fellowship since 2014. In recent years, Family Matters has been helping out at the pancake breakfasts.

Throughout all our own local activities, the members of South Burnaby have actively supported community and global outreach programs.

Twice a month, since 2002, the AOTS men and the UCW ladies have prepared sandwiches for distribution by First United Church Mission on the Downtown Eastside.

From 1999 to 2010, SBUC offered a summer day camp called Summer Jam, which provided summer activities for neighbourhood children, as well as employment for college/university youth.

South Burnaby has been an active partner with the Fair Haven United Church Homes, St. Michael’s Centre and L’Arche Community, all located in the South Burnaby neighbourhood.

We hosted a successful & well-attended community street fair, called “Rumble on Gray” each September, 2001-2004.

The congregation has sponsored several refugee families, beginning in 1980 with Vietnamese Boat People and continuing to the present time (2016), currently partnering in 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.

In 2015, a new group calling themselves the “Fun-Raising” Team was formed to add some funds to church coffers and some fun events for church members and the community. In 2015, they took on the Burns Dinner, 2 pancake breakfasts, a pie & cookie sale and a “ChristmaSong” musical evening. In 2016, they added a spring dinner event of lighthearted entertainment and a fall “Black & Bling” dinner of more formal style.

Amalgamation of South Burnaby and West Burnaby United Churches

Changes have continued throughout our history and our church has adapted. In the early years of the 21st century, we are seeing a decline in church membership and attendance, dwindling financial resources, older buildings needing repair, and changing demographics (aging & deaths of our older members, and higher real estate prices forcing younger families to live elsewhere). A Road Ahead Committee was formed at SBUC in 2011 to look at 4 areas: Refreshing the Sanctuary; Audiovisual Technology; Spiritual Renewal through Worship, Christian Education & Music; and Financial Sustainability. The first steps taken were to provide a large screen and projection so that the words and images for the Sunday service could be presented at the front of the sanctuary. In 2012, The Road Ahead Committee transformed itself and became the JNAC committee, tasked with preparing for the search for a new minister.

The United Churches in Burnaby began meeting informally in 2011 to share ideas for cooperation in building and enhancing ministries. Because of the proximity and longstanding friendships, we at SBUC looked specifically at ways to work together with West Burnaby United Church. It began slowly in 2011 with a couple of joint services: Third Sunday at SBUC on Sept. 18th 2011 and World Wide Communion at WBUC on Oct. 2nd . The idea of joint services continued with alternating services being held as frequently as once a month through 2012 into 2015. Members of both WBUC and SBUC were encouraged to take part in activities at the other’s church (joint Bible/book studies were among the successes.) At the same time, a working group of the United Churches of Burnaby was looking at values, challenges and possibilities for congregations, under the guidance of Rev. Brian Fraser (Presbyterian).

Rev. Brian Fraser spoke to the AGMs of both congregations in Feb. 2013 and a task force with members from both congregations was established to look at options for planning and location of an amalgamated congregation, with SBUC representatives joining a WBUC planning group working with redevelopment and construction on the WBUC site.

After the congregation chose to end the pastoral relationship with Rev. Jennifer Goddard-Sheppard in April 2014, SBUC welcomed Interim Minister, Rev. Jay Olson whose goals were to help heal congregational wounds and to plan for the future (including amalgamation). A Transition Team was formed to support this Interim Ministry and, from its inception, it included membership from WBUC, as well as 2 required representatives from Presbytery. Rev. Jay remained with us until early 2017, departing after the amalgamation had been finalized, and with the call of Rev. Graham Brownmiller (who had been the called minister at WBUC) as Lead Minister confirmed by the congregation.

As 2015 opened, the working group changed its name from “Amalgamation Team” to “New Community Team” to confirm and refine the values lying at the heart of a possible new community as it took shape. This led to the preparation of a mission statement and details of worship, learning, belonging, service, staffing, facilities, and finances.

In addition to the “New Community” team, SBUC representatives took part in the “West Burnaby Site Building Committee”, later to be called the “Redevelopment Committee”, to discuss designs and options for a new church on the Sussex site. Both of these committees were made up of equal numbers of members from both churches.

The New Community Committee produced a framework for amalgamation called “Stronger Together” and it was circulated in the fall of 2015, with amendments being made based on feedback. An amalgamation vote by secret ballot was held by both congregations on Dec. 13, 2015. The vote at SBUC was 90% in favour, while the WBUC vote failed to meet the 2/3 majority needed. Even with this failure to finalize the amalgamation, SBUC agreed to have WBUC worship jointly with us during the construction phase of the new Sussex site. A subsequent vote at WBUC in April 2016, was overwhelmingly passed. Soon after the positive vote at WBUC, Westminster Presbytery passed a resolution approving the amalgamation for Jan. 1st, 2017. The 2 churches would “move in together” as of July 1st, 2016. On Dec. 4th, 2016, a name for the new congregation was selected: Jubilee United Church, recognizing the history of Jubilee United Church (which was a founding congregation of WBUC), the location of Jubilee Ave. between the two churches, and the theological theme of Jubilee.