The Right Reverend Peter Klenner – pastor of All Saints Community Church White Rock (and a bishop of the Anglican Mission in Canada) – acknowledges the timing of the church’s latest project might seem odd.
But he says the current bid to purchase the historic Holy Cross building in Crescent Beach from the Catholic Church as its new home – and a fundraising drive to raise $3 million needed to buy the property and refurbish the church and its parking lot – has actually been a long time in the works.
Among the aims of All Saints’ project, he says, is to preserve the charming 1946 building on Beecher Street as a ‘sacred space’ available to all – regardless of affiliation – who want to visit to pray and reflect.
In post-pandemic times, he says, owning the building will also allow the church to offer a ministry centre for all ages, including senior citizens, youth and children, as well as potentially providing a collection point for the food bank, a day care and nursery centre, and help and support for new immigrants and refugee families for whom English is a second language.
Klenner says other aims for the restored church would be to provide a place for lonely people, offer a memorial garden and host an annual summer festival, as All Saints has previously done.
In his brochure pitch for Project Oikos (using the word for a home or dwelling in New Testament Greek scripture), Klenner admits that raising funds to buy a church building during a global pandemic might seem “like a crazy idea”.
But the disarmingly down-to-earth cleric – a native of Perth in Western Australia – says he also likes to recall the Old Testament account of the people of Israel having to cross the Red Sea 3,500 years ago.
“They were also leaving during a global pandemic,” Klenner told the Peace Arch News. “God was faithful then and I believe he’ll be faithful now.”
Since the church launched a low-profile campaign in September it has already raised some $225,000 toward the cause, he noted.
The choice of the Crescent Beach church building is anything but random, Klenner said – it was All Saints’ rented home for seven years from 2007 to 2013, a fact for which he credits the generosity of the Catholic Star of the Sea Parish, its finance committee and office staff, and its former pastor, Father Stanley Galvon (now rector of Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver).
“The Catholic Church has bent over backwards to help us,” he said.
“Father Galvon said back in 2007, ‘We have a church in Crescent Beach that only gets used for one service a week on Sunday – why don’t you use it the rest of the time?’ They rented it to us for $100 bucks a week, which really only went to cover lighting and heat.”
The space allowed All Saints to engage in many community outreach activities, Klenner said – including concerts and the Night Shift Street Ministries project – but rumours of the building’s impending sale, in 2013, led to his church renting the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 16 Avenue and 146 Street instead.
“The only reason we left (Holy Cross) was we heard it was for sale,” he said.
That led to a period of uncertainty about the future of the building, amid divisions in the Star of the Sea parish between those who believed the building should be sold and others who didn’t want it to be.
“That took seven years, and I believe it ultimately went all the way to the Vatican,” Klenner said, who added that, once a decision to sell the property was clear, All Saints began negotiations about purchasing the building in October of 2019.
Noting that while the whole process – including an architectural assessment and drafting of plans for refurbishing the interior – has been slowed by the pandemic, he said All Saints is still in earnest about wanting to purchase the building.
“In the original agreement it was supposed to be all done by the end of this year, but we believe that, given everything that has gone on this year, the Catholic Church would be willing to extend that.”
Major points for All Saints’ bid are a respect for the history of the building and a desire to reinvigorate its role in the community as a place for prayer and a focal point of activities, Klenner said.
“It’s like buying the house you rented for seven years,” he added. “We didn’t want to see a developer build a bunch of condos on the site.”
Recent contacts with the Crescent Beach Property Owners Association have indicated their support is likely, he added, although the project is still to be formally presented to the membership.
Noting the building is ‘heritage listed,’ Klenner said All Saints is committed to commemorating the building’s roots in the community.
He pointed out that the church came to Crescent Beach because, in the 1940s Roman Catholic Archbishop Duke (of the Vancouver diocese) had a summer home in the community.
The All Saints fundraising presentation describes the way that summer residents in Crescent Beach preferred to attend Sunday mass in the archbishop’s home, which had a small chapel, rather than travelling to worship in White Rock. The archbishop ultimately saved money from offerings to buy two lots on Beecher Street, and parishioners built it themselves in 1946, with a dedication and blessing ceremony held on July 14 of that year.
Among the items the church wants to preserve is the unusual wrought iron and wood sculpture of the resurrected Jesus that has long hung on the wall behind the altar, Klenner said.
He said the current fundraising drive fits in with an another imperative of the project – that it be entrusted to the next generation of church leaders debt-free.
“We want the next generation to be concentrated on ministry, not on worrying about paying the mortgage,” he said.
And while the goal may seem daunting at the moment, Klenner said, he has faith that it can be accomplished – particularly since the Semiahmoo Peninsula is noted for its generosity, and the deadline for businesses and individuals making donations for tax purposes is approaching.
“Anything is possible,” he said.
“The other point that spurs me on is that on many, many levels, this project could have been closed down. The Catholic Church might not have rented it to us in the first place. They might not have wanted to sell it to us. The community might not have wanted us there.
“But every box has been ticked,” he said. “Every door has been opened to us.”
For more information on the project, visit allsaintswhiterock.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Klenner directly at 604-209-5570.