A Brief History of Steveston United Church

Steveston United Church began during a period of economic boom. At least 23 canneries were operating in Richmond by the turn of the century, of which 15 were in Steveston. What began as an Indian mission at the turn of the century has developed into a congregation The life of striving to meet the changing needs of its community.

Built entirely by volunteer labour, the Steveston Methodist Church, at 2nd Avenue and Chatham Street was completed in 1891. In 1894, Rev. Alfred Eli Green was hired by the Richmond Church.  Also around this time, a Japanese Mission Church was built on a lot near the Phoenix Cannery and later moved to the south side of Chatham St. just west of No. 1 Rd.

A mission hospital was also constructed around that time and served as a vehicle for ministry to Japanese workers and fishermen. An interdenominational Sunday School opened in 1894, which operated until the time of the Church Union in 1925. A Japanese language school, kindergarten and Sunday School were opened in 1905 in the mission building at No. 1 Road and Chatham St. The Methodist and Presbyterian Churches joined with others to form the United Church of Canada, in 1925.

An artistic view of Steveston United Church made by Pat Lowes

The Steveston United Church and the Japanese Mission Church continued to serve their respective congregations as separate bodies until the internment of Japanese during World War II. With the return of Japanese fishermen and their families to Steveston in 1949, the United Church congregation offered the use of their building to the Japanese Mission Church for services. In 1951, two elders of the Japanese Church were elected as elders by Steveston United Church. Initial steps for bringing the two congregations together began in 1952 and culminated in an official amalgamation in 1953.

After a number of renovations and additions to the church and hall, it became necessary to plan for a more modern facility. A new church was built in 1978 to replace the old mission church. This new building has also be renovated and added to, and now is home to a preschool, the Japanese Language School, several community organizations, a chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, and cubs, scouts and girl guides.

Throughout the history of Steveston United, the Ladies’ Aid, Women’s Missionary Society, and Women’s Associations have contributed to the well being of the Church. It was discovered that catering community events were an effective method of raising funds. The church records note the Board of Trade and special events at Steveston Community Centre as early customers.

For a look even further back in time, see this document by F.E. Runnalls:

History of Steveston United Church – F.E. Runnals – 1965

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