The motto of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds. As one outreach to the community in which they have tried to live out their motto, the cathedral parish has maintained a kitchen ministry to feed the intercity poor for over 20 years. More than 70 active volunteers have seen that ministry double the number who came to be fed to 100+ per day over the last four years. That many volunteers rubbing elbows in the cathedral’s current 227 square foot kitchen has become a hinderance to reaching that many hungry folks. The feeding program is an ongoing and active ministry pressing the parish membership forward with the current refurbishing program; Raise the Roof, Ring the Bells, Feed the Hungry.
In 1994 the parish began a refurbishing and retrofitting of the the building originally begun as just a basement in 1889. Started as a downtown parish, the building has been enlarged and altered over the years, finally being designated the Cathedral by the Archbishop of New Westminster in 1929. The parish proposed to add a bell tower to the building in 1943, however city regulations restricted church bells. For many years the cathedral was the highest building in the city, “the light on the hill” guiding mariners to port.
The refurbishing project started in 1994 gave the foundations a seismic upgrade, renovated the interior and installed a new tracker organ. The building also became more functional and accessible. The new project has 3 main goals; to install a new roof, build a 100 foot bell tower and more than double the size of the kitchen.
Raise the Roof
The building’s 30 year old composite shingle roof used asbestos as a binding agent. Those shingles have allowed moss growth to penetrate the structure exposing the cathedral to the elements. The new roof will have a steel structure tied to the seismic retrofit in the building below and be made of zinc. It should last 100 years.
Ring the Bells
Christ Church will now have a bell tower that houses 4 bells and boasts an artistic glass installation by Canada’s renowned stained glass artist, Sarah Hall. Called Welcoming Light, Sarah has captured the buildings history as the light on the hill in an installation that will encompass all four sides of the tower’s uppermost 18 meters. Sarah describes her project here. You can also see a rendition and learn more about the art piece from the Vancouver Sun here.
Feed the Hungry
The 3rd part of the project will provide an expanded kitchen, adding 306 square feet of space. The kitchen will have new food preparation and storage space, along with new fixtures and appliances.
On 10 April 2015 the British Colombia provincial government announced that it was donating C$1 million to the project. Another C$2.5 million was given by the Jack and Darlene Poole Foundation. The parish membership has donated C$1.2 million, leaving an additional C$2 million needed to be raised.
The Rt Revd Melissa Skelton, bishop of New Westminster, reflecting on the province’s gift said;
“This generous grant recognizes the place that Christ Church Cathedral holds in Vancouver and British Columbia and will help ensure that the cathedral community continues to play a significant role in meeting the spiritual and physical needs of the people of Vancouver.”
The Very Revd Peter Elliott, is dean of Christ Church Cathedral and rector of the cathedral parish. He summed up his parish this way;
“It’s well-known; it’s well loved in the city. But really, the most important legacy is that it is an active and growing Anglican congregation, inclusive in [its] outlook, a place where everyone is welcome, and from this place there is a regular daily feeding program for the poor and hungry of Vancouver’s downtown.”
Of the three phases in the renovation plans, the roof, once it is in place, will provide its protection without most folks even realizing that it’s there. The new bell tower will be the most public, with bells rung every day, morning and evening, Sundays, Christian Feast days and to honor the holy days of Vancouver’s interfaith community. But the kitchen will be the most personal, effecting the lives of men, women and children seeking nourishment and a human hand providing the living Christ in the heart of the city.
Photo: Randy Murray, Anglican Journal
posted by David Allen