Photo courtesy Gilmore Park United Church
Gilmore Park United Church was crumbling. There were strategically-placed rain buckets in the 1958 building.
“The congregation’s men with hammers did their best but it was a losing game,” said church board member Tanya Martens.
In 1997 the congregation took a radical step, bulldozing everything and starting over.
With what turned out to be a visionary move, the first part built was Gilmore Gardens, an assisted living apartment building for those who no longer want to live on their own but who don’t really need the care of a nursing home.
After two years, when St. Anne’s Anglican generously shared their sanctuary, the Gilmore Park congregation started their Sunday service at St. Anne’s on Francis Road, and then on that rainy May morning, walked to their new church at their old location, at the corner of No. 1 Road and Blundell.
That was 20 years ago.
With minister Rev. Maggie Watts-Hammond presiding on Sunday, May 5, the congregation both celebrated and was celebrated. They came together to thank the congregation for the financial support that makes their work possible, thanks to the revenue from Gilmore Gardens.
At a time when Bible quotes are sometimes used as cudgel for conservative political purposes, Gilmore Park United works to live Jesus’s words: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
In addition to their community meal that feeds 200 people each week and which also trains young people in safe food handling, Dave MacDonald thanked the congregation for their support of Pathways Clubhouse and, in particular Pathway’s youth program which they hope to extend to high school mental wellness clubs.
Marnie Plante from the Turning Point Recovery Society spoke of the full continuum of services they offer with the help of Gilmore Park, pointing out that their supportive apartments were all furnished with the congregation’s help and that the Storeys building on Granville was built with community partners and without a corporate partner.
Tabitha Marie Geraghty of CHIMO Community Services cited the over 16,000 individual client interactions they had last year with the help of over 200 volunteers. She thanked Gilmore Park for “filling in the gaps,” by offering funding outside the lines of official government or other agency criteria.
Geraghty gave the example of a young woman who needed a special diet and medication that wasn’t covered by CHIMO’s conventional funding. The congregation’s funding meant CHIMO could give her the help she needed.
Time and again, it was clear that it wasn’t just money the congregation gives that was appreciated; the gifts of their time and personal resources were appreciated too.
One example was a blanket, knit prayer shawl or hand-made quilt at the end of every pew, all donations to the Linus Project, a world-wide endeavour which gives comforting blankets to children, seniors, and women having to leave their home under sad, often tragic, circumstances.
Many former members who have since moved away and former clergy were in attendance.
One couple came in from Ladner while former interim minister, Rev. Jennifer Goddard-Shepperd, recently moved back from Nova Scotia recalled her days leading the popular city-wide youth group at Gilmore Park called WTF (Where’s the faith) where each week they’d have another theme like, “Who To Forgive” after watching a popular movie that provoked conversation.
With the mortgage long burned on their church building, and a strong community, Gilmore Park United looks to the future. Their future, and our community’s, is brighter thanks to their vision, 20 years ago.