As is true of most Baptist churches in the Greater Vancouver area, Kerrisdale Baptist Church had quite humble origins.1 Baptists living in the Kerrisdale neighbourhood met, starting ca1913, at the home of Ralph Daggett at 38th and Dunbar (which seems to me to be outside of the Kerrisdale precinct and more accurately within Dunbar district). Later, they moved to another temporary site at Wilson Road (41st Avenue) and Carnarvon where Kerrsisdale Elementary school is located today.
The church was formally organized in February 1914 with Rev. Joshua T. Marshall as pastor. They continued to meet at the school site during this time. Later that year, the church reported to the denominational HQ that they had a charter membership of 32 souls. Over the next couple of years, two decisions were taken by the congregation. First, they adopted a formal name. Nope, not Kerrisdale Baptist; Calvary Baptist Church! Second, they moved from the school site to a store at the corner of 41st Ave. and Balsam Street.
Around 1917, the congregation purchased a lot at the corner of 37th Ave. and Yew Street. However, by 1920, they had found and bought another lot at the corner of 43rd Ave. and East Boulevard. So the church had a lot, but no building. And so it was with guarded glee that they received news from the Home Mission Board (the local denominational office) that there was a former Baptist building available. And at no cost to the Kerrisdale Baptists.
There was just one wrinkle: It was situated in Port Coquitlam!
The Kerrisdale Baptists were made of pretty stern stuff. The fact that their future building was located in Port Coquitlam was viewed as a challenge, rather than as the insoluble bureaucratic tangle which it would doubtless be today. In charge of planning and carrying out the project was Canadian General Electric Co. manager and Baptist church member, Frank McNeill.2
There were two principal stages to the journey from PoCo; a rivers segment; and a land one. For the rivers leg, the church-on-barge needed to proceed down the Pitt River and the Fraser. Six bridges had to be raised along the way. Finally, just west of Marpole, the barge was beached at the foot of Angus Drive (at that time, Angus Drive was called Angus Ave. and went as far as the Fraser River).
The land leg required that huge rollers be used to carry the structure to its final destination north on Angus and over to East Boulevard — at night. Several BC Electric wires needed to be cut along the way. Meanwhile, a foundation and basement walls of the correct proportions were set at the East Boulevard site. The foundation fitted the structure perfectly.
Before the building was moved to its new site, the name of the church was changed to Kerrisdale Baptist.
The Kerrisdale Baptists had a tendency to call ministers who were at the tail end of their ministry careers. This meant that these men were less energetic than one might hope for in a pastor of a new congregation. Joshua Marshall lasted scarcely a year (1914-15); likewise John Pirie (1921-1922). George Reynolds lasted longer (1922-30), but his replacement, Charles Morse didn’t (1931). Merle Mason (1934-37) made it just three years. J. Willard Litch (1937-43) had a respectable pieriod in the pulpit at KBC, but poor health and 50 years of continuous ministry in Baptist churches (including First Baptist) made it advisable for him to resign in 1943. His replacement, Clarence Wright (1943-46) endured in the pastorate for just over three years. And J. Leroy Sloat (1946-51), while he had a longish period in KBC’s pulpit, finished his 50th year of ministry there in 1951 and resigned later that year.
By the early 1950s, it was apparent that a larger building was needed to accommodate the growing congregation, but no adjacent lots were available. Clark Bentall donated a large property located at the SE corner of Granville and 49th avenue. Sod was turned for the new building in January 1955 and the sanctuary was dedicated on July 10, 1955. Because the church was located outside of Kerrisdale, it would be known as Trinity Baptist Church.
The old church structure was sold to the Christian Scientists for $50,000. It was sold by the Christian Scientists in 2013 (listed for just under $6 million). On November 8, 2016, an early morning fire destroyed the church building. Today, there is a four-story condominium at this location with retail space at street level (5888 East Boulevard).
1 I am very grateful for the eagle eyes of my old friend, Bill Reimer, manager of Regent Bookstore, for setting aside the little booklet for me on which much of this post is based: The Past is the Prologue: A History of Trinity Baptist Church Prepared for the Celebration of its Diamond Jubilee, 1914-1974. n.d. . At first, I thought that the (unnamed) author(s) had been playing a bit fast and loose with another Canadian book title, the memoirs of Vincent Massey, What’s Past is Prologue. But I have since learned that ‘past is prologue’ references are common in historical literature!
2In January 1950, Frank McNeill managed to steer his car into a ditch (it must have had some unspecified issue). He didn’t consider it safe (for others) to leave his automobile there, so he walked until he found a service station. He asked the service station attendant to move his car to a safer location and then McNeill collapsed. He died before he reached hospital (Province 20 Jan 1950).
3John Davidson, the photographer of the early views of Kerrisdale Baptist shown in this post, was the BC Provincial Botanist and was a professor at UBC. Known as “Botany John”, he was the founder of the Vancouver Natural History Society and was a charter member with his wife, Annie, of Kerrisdale Baptist Church.