A Journey Back in Time
North Lonsdale United Church (NLUC) has a long history dating back more than a century to the Fall of 1913 – early days in North Vancouver, which only began to develop into a vibrant community in the first decade of the 20th century. In 1900, there were only 72 households in Moodyville – the original mill town on the waterfront – and a handful of others in neighboring areas. By late 1903 though, driven in part by regional growth associated with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in Vancouver (across the inlet) in the closing years of the 19th century, the waterfront area referred to as the “Town of Lonsdale” began to experience rapid development. The City of North Vancouver was incorporated in 1906 and quickly grew into a thriving community with attendant comforts and commerce, and supports for healthcare, education and transportation. From this core, the community expanded gradually along key routes such as Lonsdale Avenue which extended uphill from the waterfront. In the early years of the second decade, when NLUC got its start, the several hundred people living north of the City lived in scattered homes on the slopes of the North Shore mountains recently devastated by a major forest fire. Dirt roads extending beyond the core were rough, and street cars ran from the ferry dock (foot of Lonsdale to Vancouver) to key areas including Lynn Valley and Upper Lonsdale, which is where our story begins.
The First Church
Within this early setting, a group of four families, including Mr. and Mrs. E.T. Bailey, wishing to have the support of a church in their new Upper Lonsdale community, well uphill from the waterfront, rented an empty store on the corner of Lonsdale and Kings Road, and invited the Methodist Church to guide them in the formation of a congregation. George Hamilton, a student minister from the Columbian College in New Westminster, was selected to lead the new “store front” ministry, making the long commute each week by streetcar and ferry, to lead the West Vancouver Methodist congregation, as well as North Vancouver, now added to his circuit. In 1914, Mr. Hamilton was succeeded by Robert Morrison, another Columbian student, who, following his ordination in 1915, became the church’s first ordained minister, continuing until 1917.
Plans for erection of a church, begun in 1914, were realized with the dedication of the new church on East Kings Road near Lonsdale in April of 2015. This tiny church, seating less than 100 people, was built entirely by volunteer labour. First called Bethel Methodist Church, the name was soon changed to North Lonsdale Methodist. With the union of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches in 1925, the church became North Lonsdale United, its congregation augmented by those who transferred from St. Stephens Presbyterian. In 1929, a manse was purchased for the minister on East Osborne Road, a couple of blocks east of Lonsdale. From 1914 to 1919, North Lonsdale was a joint pastoral charge with West Vancouver, from 1919 to 1934, with Lynn Valley, and from 1934 to 1957 with Capilano.
The King’s Road church was bare, with plain wooden chairs for the congregation and a small pump organ. It included a room at the back, which was used as a kitchen, a meeting space, a Sunday School classroom, and a dressing-room at Christmas concert time. Since Christian education was a priority, a Sunday School was established with 10 children to start, and with Mr. Bailey as superintendent. By 1930 the congregation comprised 110 families totaling some 380 individuals. Due to size constraints, two Sunday services were held each week, with an average of 56 families worshipping on Sunday mornings and 34 in the evenings.
Expanding and Moving Up Hill
The church was flourishing, and by 1948 it was becoming increasingly apparent that the building was too small and that changes were needed! The minister at the time, Rev. Hislop Dickson, had his eye on a nearby property at the corner of Osborne and Lonsdale, only 3 blocks uphill, and just down the street from the manse. The new lot was purchased in 1950 with the intent of building a church hall initially and adding a sanctuary soon after. With the land cleared and the building constructed largely by volunteer labour, the new church hall was opened as the focus of church life on the 3rd Sunday of Avent, December 13, 1953. With the rapid growth of the North Shore community and the local environs particularly, it was at the center of a burgeoning community of young families and was too small almost from the day it was completed!
By 1959, plans to complete the new sanctuary were well underway. A building fund was established, pledges obtained from the congregation, plans finalized, and architectural drawings prepared. Sod turning took place in November 1959, with the first sod turned by Mr. Bailey, who had helped to inaugurate the congregation 46 years earlier. Construction started the following day, and the North Lonsdale sanctuary building, which remains the home of the congregation, was dedicated on May 15, 1960.
Church Life and God’s work over more than a Century
North Lonsdale United has been an important part of the Upper Lonsdale and North Shore community for nearly 110 years. Throughout this period, it has been a focus for Christian worship, education, and rites-of-passage (baptisms, weddings, funerals), a source of comfort during difficult times, a place of fun and fellowship, and a welcoming venue for community, Support Groups, and youth activities. Over these decades, the church has supported a host and wide variety of outreach initiatives in the local community, the North Shore, the Lower Mainland, and globally. And it has responded with love and compassion, adapting to changing patterns, demographics, needs and priorities in the community that it serves. We look forward to serving and continuing God’s work into the change and promise of the future!
1913 “Store-front” ministry, East Kings Road at Lonsdale. George Hamilton, student minister.
1915 Dedication of North Lonsdale Methodist church, built with volunteer labour. East Kings Road at Lonsdale. First ordained minister, Rev. Robert Morrison.
1925 Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches amalgamate as the United Church of Canada. The name North Lonsdale United is adopted.
1950 Purchase of the new Upper Lonsdale property at Osborne and Lonsdale.
1953 Opening of the new Church Hall, largely built with volunteer labour, at the center of a burgeoning community of young families.
1959 Planning and fundraising for the new (and current) church sanctuary building. Sod-turning, construction and completion of the new building, under budget.
1960 Dedication of the new church sanctuary building.
1970 Church library, initiated in 1966, dedicated as the Bailey Memorial Library, honoring Mr. and Mrs. E.T. Bailey, church founders with three other families (and the first names on the membership role of the new congregation).
1974 Service of Celebration, Thanksgiving and Dedication to recognize the final payment on the mortgage, confirming the faith of those who had envisioned and built the sanctuary.
1988 Celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the church.
1989 Refurbishment of the original Church Hall, and rededication as Duncan Hall, honoring the memory of Edgar and Helen Duncan, who were closely involved in the life of the church over many years.
1990 Publication of “The Church on the Hill”, the story of North Lonsdale United Church, by the 75th Anniversary Committee.
2013 North Lonsdale celebrates its centenary. 100 years of Christian service and commitment!
1. Rev. Dr. George Hamilton 1913-1914 – Student Minister
2. Rev. R. R. Morrison 1915-1917
3. Rev. Swan 1917-1919
4. Rev. N. Barlow 1919-1921
5. Rev. Manly F. Eby 1921-1924
6. Rev. R. Wilkinson 1924-1930
7. Rev. Milton Perley 1930-1933
8. Rev. John Archibold 1933-1946
9. Rev. Hislop Dickson 1946-1960
10. Rev. Benjamin Taylor 1960-1965
11. Rev. Charles G. Raymont 1965-1975
12. Rev. Clifford R. Henning 1975-1986
13. Rev. Brian Thorpe 1986-1987 Interim Minister
14. Rev. Dr. Donald L. Faris 1987-2001
15. Rev. Robin N. Jacobson 2001-2019
16. Rev. Jaylynn Byassee 2019-