A dream for almost two decades, a community church with room for all has opened in Port Coquitlam at a time when many churches are redeveloping or scaling down.
In what is now PoCo’s Dominion Triangle, home to a growing neighbourhood of stacked townhouses, industrial buildings and new shopping centres, Riverside Community Church is providing a welcoming place in an otherwise concrete landscape.
With its soaring glass atrium, hints of B.C. wood and shiny concrete floors, the 56,000-square-foot building at 2239 Fremont Connector, appears austere, but pastors say it will be anything but, and promise the new church at will play host to community gatherings, conferences, theatre productions, weddings as well as church services.
“This was built with the community in mind,” said associate pastor Dave Jonsson on a recent tour. “Every decision was made taking into consideration of how the community would use it.”
Upon entering the vast atrium with its popcorn-like lights dropping from the ceiling, the church’s entrance is meant to impress with art gallery-like starkness, waiting for the church’s more than 850 congregants to fill it with light, sound, artwork and activity.
But the dream of the church builders who purchased a 10-acre property 18 years ago and sold off six to pay for construction, as well as an older church building on Lougheed Highway, was to create a building that would have several uses.
While some may wonder about whether the building will simply stand empty until church-goers arrive, that’s not the aim, says Jonsson, who is often seen in the community doing tricks on his skateboard.
“We want this building to live up to our vision, which is this is a community where everyone belongs and many believe. That’s foundation, we want to be community, we want to be a place where everyone belongs.”
And judging by the multi-purpose spaces built into the structure, the new Riverside church appears sized for multiple groups — from large gatherings to a pick up basketball game for teens.
There’s a 1,400-seat theatre, with an orchestra pit and a sprung-floor stage suitable for dance recitals, a full kitchen, a large activity centre, with plans for drop in soccer, and basketball, and several classrooms for children, youth and high-school students that can also be rented out for meetings.
Although some spaces need final touches — a mezzanine for the theatre, a wood floor for the gym and final landscaping — Riverside staff have moved in and a church service has already been held in the cavernous sanctuary that also serves as the theatre and auditorium.
Paster Terry Janzen said the church will be a visible part of the Port Coquitlam community — indeed, a family carnival will be held Sept. 8 to mark the grand opening— but for how he’s happy to get the word out that the new building is open and willing to serve.
“It’s literally designed to be a gift to the community,” Janzen said.