Church History

The year is 1930. A number of Adventist families decide to move from Vancouver to the Aldergrove area. They are dedicated to the work of the Lord and in the midst of the great depression, these pioneers do not lose sight of their mission. Imagine these families loading their possessions in model A’s and T’s heading out of Vancouver and New Westminster. They cross the Fraser via the new Westminster bridge which was built in 1904 – the first bridge ever, over the Fraser River. They twist and wind their way past Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley via Old Yale Road to their new homes in Aldergrove. Four families among these early Adventist emigrants of 1930 and 1931 will show great support and leadership in the fledgling work. Those were the Bakich, Lapchewich, Kanachy and Koehn families. After campmeeting in 1931 a group of 18 were organized, on July 13, into the very first Aldergrove SDA Church.

No history of the first Aldergrove church would be complete if the work of Branes Kanachy was not highlighted. Branes was an active lay preacher, a soul winner and the driving energy of this early church. He led in the construction of the first Aldergrove Church on the Old Yale road between Aldergrove and Abbotsford. (It’s location by today’s geography would be at the Eastbound Mt. Lehman exit on Highway 1.) The conference leaders seeing Branes’ work with the Aldergrove Church urged him to join the ministry. That’s exactly what he did and was snatched up by the greater New York Conference and pastored the same congregation there for over 25 years.

There are two members of the first Aldergrove Church who are members of our current church – Jack Evans and Arlene Wettstein Bereza. Arlene graduated form the 8th grade in the little school behind the church.

The church thrived in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s but when the Highway came through, around 1960, the church had to move and a new site was selected on Mt. Lehman Road.

The official opening ceremony was held on Saturday, February 13, 1960. The participants included most of the Canadian church dignitatries of the day. Four presidents were there – Elder R.A. Smithwick – B.C., Elder J.W. Bothe – Alberta, Elder George Adams – Man.-Sask. and Elder W. A. Nelson, Canadian Union conference.

A few of our current Aldergrove members were part of that second church. Arlene Wettstein Bereza and Jack and Lila Evans. Arlene was the first bride to walk down the aisle of the new church. Jack was an elder in the church and Lila worked in the children’s divisions.

In this church the membership grew rapidly and that growth, oddly enough, led to it’s demise. By the early seventies one had to arrive at church early to get a seat and clearly the congregation needed to either build a new church or split the congregation. They chose the latter. The conference offices had just been finished in 1972. They offered the use of the new facility at no cost. Many of the leaders were in the group that moved to the conference headquarters.

The remaining members struggled to keep the doors open but the church was ultimately sold in 1973 to the Worldwide Apostolic Church (now called the Solid Rock Christian Church).The membership scattered to the Langley and Abbotsford churches.

From 1973 to 1978 there was no SDA church in Aldergrove except as it may have existed in the hearts and minds of a few. The church in Langley was crowded and the memories of the old Aldergrove church had not yet faded. Many Aldergrove residents had been attracted to the area by the presence of the academy were driving in to Langley for church and wondering why. So plans for the development of the work in Aldergrove began to be discussed and was the subject of quiet contemplation in the thoughts of some young Christian families.

The first tentative steps this infant church was the rental of the Lutheran Church on the Northeast corner of 272nd St and 32nd Avenue in Aldergrove. The first service was held on Saturday, January 7, 1978. The rent was $50.00 per week. The list of perspective church families numbered twenty and the addresses were mostly Aldergrove. There were 58 charter members. Pastor Frank White and Herb Larsen Sr. were present on that opening day, representing the Conference. Pastor Arnold White attended and also now added Aldergrove to the Langley/White Rock district he was responsible for. That same year Pastor Les Saylor and his wife Millie from Abbotsford Church assumed the mantle of the Aldergrove Church. Now that the Aldergrove Church had been re-organized a few began to talk quietly about buying property to build their own church. They did search for a site, but Ernie Embleton wrote in his notes that it was really just a half-hearted search. What if they found one? They had very little money. Then on Sabbath, March 29, 1980 Del Knowlton mentioned there was a new "For Sale" sign on a 2.5 acre property on 28th Avenue. One member who knew the listing agent called at sundown and pleading urgency asked for a Sunday morning showing. The member signed a personal interim agreement and the membership assumed the purchase.

After 6 months of zoning negotiations and applications to re-zone for church use the deal closed in October of 1980. the purchase price was $55,439.00. Now all they had to do was raise $425,000, spend all their spare time for a few years and the church would be theirs. It must have seemed a daunting task.

Due to a fire in February 1981, the Lutheran Church was rendered structurally unusable and forced this small company of believers to move their worship serviced to the FVAA Gym. This would be their "home" for over four years.

Marvin Rick, who designed the second Aldergrove Church was again asked to make up plans to build the new structure. Marvin teamed up with Dallas Mowat for the first time on a project. Between them they were responsible for much of the design, engineering and red tape needed to build this new church.

In June 1982 the basement and main footings were poured. Members of the Aldergrove Church engineered, supervised and largely built the church. The goal that summer was to have the church to lock up stage by winter. Marvin Rick, Jack Sands, Steven Haluschak, Herb Pardy and Ernie Embleton spent most of that summer on the building. The rest of the members were there evenings, days off and Sundays. A bond took place that exists among those workers to this day.

In the fall of 1981 Pastor Benjamin Shoun, and family, came to pastor the Aldergrove Church. They stayed two years and really got into the spirit of church growth – both spiritually and physically.

Through the next few years the members, although still meeting in the local Adventist Academy Gymnasium, offered such community focused programs such as creative writing, stop smoking, vegetarian cooking and high school Biology. Some weeks members were there every night. Prayer meetings consisted of at least four different groups, each with their own interest. The congregation coalesced into a family. Young people were actively involved. They had barn parties, pancake breakfasts, Youth services and a Pathfinder Club.

In August 1984, Ken and Vera Wiebe with their two sons, Brad and Randy, joined the Aldergrove Church as the new pastoral family. Very soon after their arrival they attended one of our famous silly barn parties and, he confessed later, wondered about this group he had taken on. The Wiebes stayed with us for over four years and learned to adopt some of our "unusual" ways. They fit right in and we like to think they still have a special spot in their hearts for the Aldergrove Church.

On April 27, 1985, we had our first service in the Fellowship Room under conditional occupancy. The Sabbath School turned into a praise and thanksgving service from spontaneous thankful hearts.. On April 25, 1987 we had our first service in the sanctuary – no pews, but no one minded. That month Dan and Gail Froese, arrived to bless our church.

On December 12, 1987 we had our official opening service. We had politicians here representing all levels of government – local, Provincial and Federal — Arneson, Gran and Wenman.

In December 1988, Ken and Merrielee Wright, with their two children Aidan and Alicia, arrived in Aldergrove. For the first time we didn’t have to share a pastor. The Wrights served here for six years. they led out in a period that saw our church grow to exceed 300 members for the first time. They are missed for a great deal of warmth and friendship they shared with us.

In the last year of Ken’s leadership – November 1994 – Marilyn Banford came to pastor in Aldergrove. She came as an Associate Pastor, but did a stalwart job in leading the church alone for a year, from September 1995 to September 1996.

In September 1996 Rick and Ruth Anne Labate joined our church family to take the leadership of our church. Rick with his enthusiasm and passion for life, brought a spark to Aldergrove and shared many good times with our church family. They stayed with us for four years before returning to their home state of Virginia.

In September of 2001 David and Shandra Jamieson, with their four children Shantel, Stacia, Joshua and Jared, took over the leadership of the Aldergrove Church. Pastor Dave has a passion to share the Christ who cares with the members of our community as well as fostering a spirit of community among the members.

May of 2002 saw Walter Rogers join the pastoral team as our Youth Pastor. Walter has won the hearts of the young people in our church and is actively training young people to lead out in drama, children’s ministry and music ministry.

The hand of the Lord has moved wonderfully on our behalf. We are on the verge of becoming a mighty force for God in the Aldergrove area. With outreach programs such as the ACTS Computer Training School and the Breakfast program (see Ministries for details) we are touching lives in our community in a very special way. The opportunities that lie before our church family are bigger than we could ever imagine. As we put our hands in God’s hands and allow Him to lead us "Dream Big" takes on a whole new meaning. Where do we go from here? It’s up to us.