It’s hard to put into words what the opening of the Whistler Community Church’s new, dedicated space in White Gold must mean to the faithful congregation that has, since 2000, had to meet every Sunday in a local elementary school.
But Pauline Wiebe, parishioner since 1981, offers two: “Endless possibilities.”
This past Sunday, Oct. 3 marked the official commissioning service for the 820-square-metre church located at 7226 Fitzsimmons Drive, a collective effort that was decades in the making.
The church has existed since 1979, when worshippers met in the Skiers’ Chapel, a cozy Creekside A-frame that was home to many a christening, wedding and community event over the years. Since 2000, however, parishioners have met every week in the Myrtle Philip Community School, which was expected to be a temporary home.
“It is pretty surreal because this was a very long time coming,” said lead Pastor Jon Pasiuk. “When the Skiers’ Chapel was decommissioned in the late ‘90s, the church moved into the school and they thought, ‘OK, this is maybe four years tops.’ To finally be in the building is such an amazing blessing.”
A local family donated the land for the project in 1999, but actually getting a facility built proved a long road. Financed through private donations, the $4.2-million building includes an auditorium with capacity for 250 people, a fellowship hall and kitchen with seating for 120, as well as four smaller rooms that will be used for Sunday school, youth ministry, a nursery, and office space.
The building will also be available to rent, and already hosts a range of programming such as kids sports camps, academic tutoring, and piano lessons.
“Part of the deal with the municipality to do this is they wanted us to use this as a resource for the community, and of course that fit with our mission as well,” noted Pasiuk.
The community was also welcomed on Saturday, Oct. 2 for a block party and open house, which included a barbecue, bouncy castle, dunk tank (“I’m going in the dunk tank,” Pasiuk said) and art auction, courtesy of late congregant, curator and artist Helga Ruiterman, who donated her remaining works as a fundraiser for the church.
For the congregation of about 80 locals—although weekly attendance tended to average around 130 pre-pandemic, Pasiuk said—the church represents a permanent home base that will ideally help increase membership.
“Obviously our hope is to grow from here,” Pasiuk said.
“We definitely feel like we’re much better able to make our presence in the community known and that we’re here. Our capacity to serve people has increased so much.”
The Whistler Community Church, a BC Mennonite Brethren member, has long had something of an itinerate membership, even dating back to its days in the Skiers’ Chapel, with seasonal workers and weekenders sprinkled in among a core group of locals. The pandemic only further fractured attendance, with congregants mostly meeting outdoors since Easter and others tuning in virtually.
But, as Wiebe can attest, a church is so much more than the four walls it’s housed in.
“Church is really not a building; it’s people,” she said.
Service is held every Sunday at 10 a.m. To learn more, visit whistlerchurch.ca.