The faith community expands in Vancouver
A Japanese community began to form in the Fairview neighbourhood in the early decades of the twentieth century. Many had found work in the sawmills in the area.
In response, the Woman’s Missionary Society began running a kindergarten out of a rented building in Fairview on West 5th Avenue. In 1921, the Powell Street Church board agreed to set up a second mission in Fairview, and rented part of a grocery store at Yukon and West 4th Avenue. The space was used for English night school and a church sanctuary, under the supervision of Rev. Yoshimitsu Akagawa.
In 1928, the United Church purchased property at the corner of West 6th Avenue and Columbia Street for the mission. A new building was constructed through a grant of $5,000 from the WMS, $4,000 from the Board of Home Missions, and $2,000 from the Japanese community. The new church was known as the Fairview Japanese Mission, and was always considered an off-shoot of the “Mother Mission” on the corner of Powell and Jackson. It opened with a celebration and dedication service on Monday, November 12, 1928, with Rev. Kosaburo Shimizu conducting the service and Rev. S.S. Osterhout preaching.
The United Church Year Books combine the statistics for Powell Street and Fairview congregations. However, the annual reports give a flavour for the activities and associated numbers at the Fairview Mission. For example, in 1933, in addition to Sunday worship, English night school and midweek prayer meetings, children and youth activities flourished: there were 214 in the Sunday school, 70 in the Saturday school and 55 mothers in the Kindergarten PTA.
During the Second World War, the building continued to be used by the WMS, who employed a kindergarten worker on the premises. St. Giles United Church, located at West 10th Avenue and Quebec Street, also used the building for its Sunday school, until it moved to a new neighbourhood in 1949. In 1949, the Board of Home Missions renovated the building and it was reopened as the Columbia Street Mission — no longer a Japanese congregation.
In 1955, the English-speaking congregation of the Vancouver Japanese United Church began sharing the building with the Columbia Street congregation, worshiping there in the evenings. By 1958, both English- and Japanese-speaking congregations were worshiping there, but moved to Renfrew United Church in 1962. The Columbia Street congregation disbanded in 1969, and the building was sold and demolished in 1977. Kawano, A History, 39; Mitsui, 166.