Ninety-three years ago Dunbar was a very young community. It was a time when Vancouver was expanding; schools such as Lord Kitchener Elementary and Lord Byng Secondary opened, streetcar lines had reached this outlying area of the city and the business district between West 25th and 30th Avenues was growing.
It was during this time that St. Philip’s Anglican Church, our Champion of Dunbar Village, was founded.
The church has been an integral part of the community since 1925. St. Philip’s school program started in a small school annex, followed four months later by worship services. Within a year the process of building the church began.
The church has meant and continues to mean many things to many people. St Philip’s serves people at all times of their lives, especially those on a journey of meaning, balance, and faith.
St. Philip’s has recently welcomed rector Stuart Hallam and the parishioners are extremely excited. Reverend Hallam, his wife and daughter arrived in Canada at the beginning of May from England.
The Reverend’s breadth of experience includes pastoral care, youth and young adult ministry, as well as team ministry. This is exactly what St. Philip’s Church had been searching for.
Reverend Canon Dr. Harold Munn acted as the church’s interim Priest-in-Charge for the last six months while the parish awaited the arrival of their new rector.
Reverend Munn says, “Times have changed and churches are no longer as central to public life as they were in the past and so the general public are less likely to experience both the beauty and the affirmation of dignity and justice that the congregation stands for.”
While the general public may not be as involved as they once were, St. Philip’s is taking proactive steps to build their congregation.
“I think St. Philip’s is on the verge of developing a new depth of relationship with the Dunbar community in which the remarkable qualities of beauty in music and other expressions of awe in Sunday worship, as well as the commitment to treating those on the margins of society with dignity and respect can be even more deeply shared,” says Reverend Munn.
He adds, “New times provide opportunities for new relationships of depth and belonging at what is a challenging time in history. The community and St. Philip’s church have a unique opportunity to move together into a satisfying and fulfilling future in which the lives of all our citizens can be enhanced.”
Parishioner Diana Bragg began attending St. Philip’s when she was a child, making this her 75th year as a parishioner. She was christened, confirmed, married and held funeral services for family members at the church. She continues to be actively involved as a volunteer in many capacities.
Diana recalls bowling at the church’s two-lane bowling alley (yes, you read that correctly, and it still exists) in the 1950s. She points out, “St. Philip’s was our “community centre” before Dunbar built its own, providing children and adults with many opportunities, including bowling, badminton and many youth groups.”
Community outreach is central to St. Philip’s and involvement comes in many forms.
The Westside Anglicans Neighbourhood Ministry provides care and companionship to the homeless and others in need in the community. St. Philip’s works with three other Anglican churches on Vancouver’s west side: St. Anselm’s, St. Helen’s and St. John Shaughnessy.
Parishioner Mary Lymburner explains, “It started eleven years ago with small teams of three or four people, preferably one from each parish, walking around the streets in our neighbourhood to meet the homeless, offering conversation, and packets of non-perishable food and fruit. This basic activity still happens, with a team going out every Saturday morning from one of the four churches.”
They also launched a Mobile Care Unit, which provides integrated basic medical care and social service support on the west side. In 2017 they assisted 156 people by providing help with medical problems and navigating government processes, such as access to housing.
When Coast Mental Health’s Dunbar Apartments opened in 2011, members of St. Philip’s knitted an afghan bedspread for each resident, donated new linen, and the children painted a picture for each room with the words “Welcome to your new home.” Diana says, “We regularly drop off items they need and food.”
Helping those in need is of utmost importance to St. Philip’s Anglican Church.
Diana mentions, “We are in the process of bringing to Canada a widow with four children, her brother and their parents from a camp in Lebanon. They are almost on the way after over a year of planning.”
Mary adds, “There are many facets to a sponsorship: fundraising, the application process itself, finding housing, welcoming the refugees and helping them settle, helping them enrol in school for the children and English classes for the adults, and ultimately helping the adults find jobs and become independent. It is a very interesting and rewarding process, as we get to know people from a very different culture and life experience.”
Parishioners volunteer at the Vancouver Food Bank distribution at St. Michael’s Multicultural Anglican Church in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Food and money are collected for the Vancouver Food Bank the first Sunday of the month.
At Christmas, hampers of gifts and food are assembled and donated to needy families identified through two inner city schools; 24 families benefited last year. The church adopted an inner city school (Lord Selkirk Elementary School and its Annex) and funds supplies for their breakfast program. As well, the church purchases clothing with Outreach money for two women’s shelters.
Diana says, “During Dunbar Village Business Association’s Harvest Festival the church sets up a table in front of Shoppers Drug Mart and hand out invitations to church events. Our rector used to bring his big curly dog for kids to pat – it was always a big hit.“
St. Philip’s annual Christmas Fair is an important parish community-builder and is the church’s biggest fundraiser. Preparations begin as early as summer when people put up preserves, knit, sew, create and bake – especially legendary fruitcakes. All ages of parishioners contribute, and Dunbar businesses support the church with donations of goods and services. The Christmas Fair draws loyal shoppers every year who line up down the block by opening time.
Senior members of the congregation and others from the community enjoy the Seniors Café. This free monthly drop in program offers activities like painting, flower arranging, container gardening, and board games with the chance to chat and have refreshments.
Another program open to both parishioners and the Dunbar community is the All Parish Open Gym. These drop-in evenings have become very popular with youth and their parents. A potluck supper begins the evening followed by games in the open gym.
Michael Murray is the church’s music director and his talent is highly valued. He conducts and accompanies the choir, playing piano, harpsichord and organ. Last year the church hosted 16 concerts that were well attended by the general public.
The charity this caring congregation offers is immeasurable. Thank you, St. Philip’s Anglican Church, for being a Champion of Dunbar Village. And to Reverend Hallam and his family we offer a warm welcome.
St. Philip’s Anglican Church
3737 W. 27th Avenue
Vancouver BC V6S 1R2