History

We’re not a new church that took over an old building, but the name on the building’ foundation stone is different from the one on the sign. We’ve been a church for nearly a century, but in that time we’ve seen a lot of change, and have had times where our numbers have grown significantly, but our building has stayed the same size. How did we come to be this kind of group of people meeting in this kind of building?

We Started Out in an Upper Room

West Coast Christian Fellowship began as a small group of believers meeting in a room above a grocery store on Renfrew Street under the leadership of the Scottish evangelist H.J. Gardiner.  In 1921 this group founded St. Margaret’s parish of the Reformed Episcopal Church also known as the Free Church of England.

Plot on the Corner of Windermere and Georgia Streets

Trusting in the promise from Philippians 4:19 that God will meet all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus, this small but growing group purchased a plot of land to construct their first church building. This was in May 1922. The property was at the corner of Windermere and East Georgia streets, where we are still meeting today.

Our history begins with this old church building on the corner of East Georgia and Windermere.

Sunday School on the Rise

In the years 1923-1933 St.  Margret’s church was going through difficult years of financial hardship and several different ministers. Despite these facts the Sunday School grew over-proportionally during the years 1926-1928 due to a fruitful partnership with the Sunday School Superintendent.

Constructing the Church Building

After those difficult years, Mr. T.W. Fry became the leading minister of St. Margret’s church  in November 1933.  He and the new church were financially supported by Frank Derry, Fry’s brother-in-law. His generosity allowed them to build a beautiful new church in Tudor-style, similar to an English parish church, in the shape of a cross. The construction was completed in 1938, the same year the Lions Gate Bridge was opened. We still worship in this building today.
The purpose of this building was to have open doors for people to worship and to fellowship and to influence the community.  

 

1938 through 1952:
Stability, Death of a Pastor, New Leadership, and Revival

During these years St. Margret’s was a small, well established church without any financial problems, but was lacking a clear presentation of the gospel. After Mr. Fry’s death, many short-term ministers followed. Returning as missionaries from China, Eric and Dorothy McMurray led the church from 1950-1952. Through their biblical preaching the congregation got revived and grew. Their friend Rev. Robert Birch took over as pastor in 1952.

 

1952 through 1977:
Growth and Change under Pastor Birch

Under the leadership of Pastor Robert Birch, known as Pastor Bob, from 1952 to 1977, St. Margaret’s grew and changed. This small, traditional congregation developed into a thriving and lively church, emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and miracles. Pastor Birch was a man of prayer who loved people and clearly preached the Word of God.

 

Radio Broadcasts and Sermon Recordings

Pastor Bob and St. Margret’s church became known far beyond Vancouver especially due to radio broadcasts of its church services and tape recordings of the sermons being mailed out in large numbers every week. Radio listeners joined the church.

 

“The Day Long-haired Kids Took Over a Church”

That was how the headline of a Vancouver Sun article in 1972 described St. Margret’s church during the late 1960s and 1970s. The traditionally-minded people in the church were challenged by the influx of hippies who had acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as part of the Jesus People movement, and by others who were seeking spiritual truth. St. Margret’s became a home for many of them, some of whom are still active members of the fellowship today.

Our history takes a big turn as the Holy Sprit encounters and fills hundreds of hippies in Vancouver.

Springcrest Retreat Centre

In the early 1970s, a plot of land near Langley was donated to St. Margarets Church. Our members transformed it into a retreat centre, named it Springcrest, and used it to host conferences and children’s camps. 

 

Pastor Barney Coombs from England

After two visits to Vancouver and a meeting with Pastor Birch, Barney Coombs, a pastor from England, was invited to join Pastor Birch in his ministry. As St. Marget’s had been flooded with newly converted Christians it needed to establish house groups to train these disciples in the Word of God. This was Pastor Coombs’ first task after he arrived in 1976. His ministry was focused on helping each member grow in Christian character and in their spiritual gifting.

In 1977, after Pastor Birch was called to join Burnaby Christian Fellowship, Barney Coombs became the leading pastor of St. Margret’s church.

In 1980, we changed the name of our church from St. Margret’s Community Church to West Coast Christian Fellowship.

 

Aiding and Planting New Churches

Whenever we’ve grown as a church, some of our members felt God calling them to serve outside the walls of our building. So we have become a church that sends out leaders and groups to support other and to begin new churches.

Between 1979 and 2018 several families were sent out to establish new congregations in Vernon, Kelowna, Langley, Warfield, Burnaby and on Pender Island or to lead churches in Winnipeg and in Vernon.

 

Formalizing Our Commitment to Christian Education

We have had a heart for Godly education ever since our Sunday school grew in leaps and bounds back in the 1920s. In the 1980s, we transformed the Springcrest retreat centre again, establishing King’s School,  which is now operated by the King’s Community Church in Langley.

Ten years later, we felt God leading us to start another school here in Vancouver, West Coast Christian School. It has since grown large enough to need its own facilities, and since 2005 is located at 15 North Renfrew Street, just a few minutes away from our church building.

 

From Barney to David

As Pastor Barney’s international commitments grew David and Beth Carson served our church as leaders for 9 years. In 1998, Pastor Barney Coombs invited a youth leader from Indiana named David Bornman to join the staff of our church as a pastor. In 2000, we inducted him as our senior pastor, a role he carries to this day, along with chairing the West Coast Christian School Board.

 

Happy Trails

In 2009, God led Andrew and Rachelle Freeman and some other young families to start Warfield Community Church in Warfield, B.C., just outside of Trail, B.C. As with every church plant we’ve yet supported, though quite a few highly involved people from our congregation were moved along in God’s plans, He soon after brought new people both to us and to the planted church.

 

Here we are

One thread that has been present throughout our history is the focus on Christ as the centre of our lives and goals. Our aim has been to trust Him with everything: with opportunities and ventures, with our children’s educations, and with His people; we strive to release everything in our lives to His good care.

We believe that God has you, dear reader, on a path as well, and we’d love for you to come be a part of our present and make more history along with us.