Royal City church finds new life

Renovation, new minister among changes as Queens Avenue United looks to a new and brighter future

After a dwindling congregation over the last few years, a commitment by both the community and presbytery has led to a complete turnaround for Queens Avenue United Church.

The 52-year-old building is almost completely renovated and has a new minister on board who has been helping to shepherd the positive move forward over the last year.

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"We're still in the midst of a renovation," Nathan Wright, the church's new minister, said in a phone interview. "We'll finish it next month. It's been a 13-month project."

The renovation was funded through the recent sale of Grace Hall.

"We've done extensive remodelling work," Wright added, about the church on Queens Avenue at Sixth Street. "We've really made an investment in the infrastructure of the building."

In a way, the church has been transformed to become a multi-purpose building with the congregation at its core, but also housing other community and religious groups including two daycares, a tai chi practice, music program, other faiths and more.

"We have brainstorming sessions coming up to figure out how to better engage the community," he added.

The turn of events sparked when the presbytery - a United Church governing body of ordained elders and ministers - made a concrete decision to save the church, according to Wright.

"It's a long-standing part of the community," he said.

"The idea was to make sure the congregation remains a central part of the community."

"They decided not to let the church go down and to do whatever they have to do to make sure it stays."

There are about 70 attendees every Sunday on average, Wright said, with more members in the books.

"Our congregation said no to it getting closed down," he added. "We want it to be here for future generations."

Wright was previously a chaplain at the University of British Columbia after moving here with his partner and son from New York.

"I think I'm the first pastor in years to live within the community," he added. "Most of them commuted in from elsewhere."

Wright said he chooses to live close to the church to provide a better service and be more involved in his community.

"It's been a great group of people to work with," he explained. "It's a committed congregation."

Member of the congregation Virginia Barteluk agrees that the church is on the up and up.

"I remember Maclean's magazine had a small article on our church and its projected demise and ended saying that Queens needed a 'resurrection,'" Barteluk said in an email. "And I believe this is happening."

"Things are on the up for us."

Queens Avenue United Church is at 529 Queens Ave. For more about the church, check out its website at www.queensavenue.org.

editorial@royalcityrecord.com

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