In a move that’s said to be a way to diversify services, members of the First United Church, Crescent United Church and Sunnyside United Church have voted to amalgamate.
“What it means, as of July 1 of this year, we will have one official United Church body with one governance system and one ministry team among us,” First United Rev. Louise Cummings told Peace Arch News this week.
Approximately 90 per cent of the congregation voted Feb. 19 in favour of the decision.
Cummings said they will continue to use all three buildings, and it’s “a little too early” to talk about the future of the facilities.
“At this point, we’re not planning to get rid of any of the buildings. We see that we need all of them at this point, and we will make those decisions further down the road.”
She said the amalgamation is about “consolidating our resources, energy and people so we can have a more effective ministry in the area.”
The three churches were duplicating a lot of programs, Cummings said, and this transition will provide an opportunity to diversify church services.
“The reality of the financial challenges, that’s there too. The duplication meant that it wasn’t really – (for) any of us – sustainable long-term. This is about planning towards a future where the church is alive and vital.”
Four years ago, church officials started to mull over a multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the White Rock First United Church. Church officials expressed a desire to redevelop the site, at 15385 Semiahmoo Ave., into an affordable-housing complex.
Jean Kromm, a member of the church’s futures committee, told PAN in December that the affordable-housing plan was turned down by the developer. She was hesitant to share other details of the plans before an application is submitted to the city. At the time, she was hopeful the application would be sent to the city by the end of February.
It has yet to be received by the city.
“You know about development, it’s a waiting game and there’s some stuff we have no control over being sorted out before the application goes to the city,” Kromm said Tuesday.
Concerns with First United Church’s long-term financial sustainability spurred the redevelopment discussion.
“What we know is that the redevelopment of the site on Semiahmoo is going ahead, to the best of our knowledge,” Cummings said, noting that for the time being, the churches continue to offer the same worship services at the three locations.
“What we’re doing is working on developing new styles of worship at different times of the day as well as our usual Sunday morning. We’re diversifying instead of shrinking.”