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Baptist church in Coquitlam merges with Burnaby ministry

A long-standing church on a key piece of Coquitlam land is now under the Willingdon Church in Burnaby.

An iconic and long-standing church on a key piece of Coquitlam land is now under another ministry’s hands.

On Monday, July 1, Willingdon Church in Burnaby — originally known as the Willingdon Mennonite Brethren Church — took over the property title for the Blue Mountain Baptist Church.

Located at 450 Blue Mountain St., at Austin Avenue, Blue Mountain Baptist Church is currently undergoing renovations for the merger.

Mel Fehr, a transition pastor at Blue Mountain Church, told the Tri-City News on Tuesday, July 2, the church leadership wanted to create the best use of its property for the neighbourhood, which is also changing.

Fehr said the church currently sees about 130 parishioners at its Sunday services and its congregation is getting younger.

He said a visioning exercise started a few years back to look at how to renew the site with the Mennonite community, a process that involved townhall meetings with local Baptist members. Willingdon leaders also took part in dialogues and a ministry integration team was formed after a vote.

That team has been meeting every two weeks “to make sure there’s a seamless transition […] One of the questions we asked early on was, ‘What does it mean to be a church for our neighbourhood versus simply church in the neighbourhood?' The merger seemed like a no-brainer.”

“We are excited about restoring the energy in the church," he added.

The rebranding of the new Willingdon campus in Coquitlam is expected to launch this fall after the construction updates are complete.

Long history

Blue Mountain Baptist Church has a long history, starting more than 80 years ago as an outreach ministry of Sapperton Baptist in New Westminster with a Sunday School serving the families of the workers of Fraser Mills sawmill.

In 1920, the congregation started a Sunday school in the Fraser Mills townhall. It took another 24 years for the Fraser Mills Mission to construct a church building in Maillardville, on Allard Street.

In 1960, the City of Coquitlam awarded a four-acre former gravel pit and public works yard property, at the southwestern corner of Blue Mountain Street and Austin Avenue, to the Baptist church, despite it being the lowest bidder for the site.

The first service in its new location was in May 1964 and, seven years later, the mortgage was paid off; a seniors manor was later added next door. Major renovations to the exterior of the A-frame building happened between 2002 and 2004.

The ministry merger with Willingdon Church comes in the 60th year the Baptist ministry has been at Blue Mountain Street and Austin Avenue.