Melanie Wallace, Diocesan Archivist, curates a wealth of materials for those who want to write a parish history.

Knowing your parish story can be extremely valuable for a congregation, says Melanie Wallace, diocesan archivist.

 "You can look where you've been and be inspired to move forward," she said from her office at the Vancouver School of Theology.

Wallace is the chief record keeper for the diocese with all sorts of materials going back to the founding of the Diocese of New Westminster in 1879 and beyond. She also keeps the archives for the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and several of its dioceses.

During the next decade two dozen parishes are coming up to their 100th or 150th anniversaries, she said, and it's a good time for the parish to commission a centennial or sesquicentennial history.

The archives contain a wealth of materials, said Wallace. Wallace and her predecessors have prepared a "Finding Aid" for each parish. It lists everything related to a parish that the archives contains.

The amount of material varies by parish. "But we have at least some material on every parish," said Wallace. "By canon the parish registers have to be handed over. Those are what we call the hatch, match, and dispatch records." (Baptisms, marriages, and burials.)

Privacy regulations limit some of the materials, but very early records are often open. Also available are vestry books that record each service - the type, the number of people present, and sometimes a few notes. "The notes are the most intriguing."

100th Anniversaries (Centennials)

In 2007
St. Alban, Burnaby

In 2008
St. Augustine, Vancouver
St. David, Vancouver
All Saints Ladner

In 2009
St. Mark, Vancouver
St. Margaret, Cedar Cottage
St. Agnes, North Vancouver
St. Clement, North Vancouver
St. Columba, Maple Ridge

In 2010
St. John Sardis
St. Helen, Surrey

In 2011
St. George, Vancouver
St. Mary's Kerrisdale
St. Thomas, Vancouver
St. Peter, Rosedale
St. Oswald, Surrey

In 2012

St. Helen, Vancouver

In 2013
All Saints, Burnaby
St. John Squamish
St. Stephen, Burnaby
St. Stephen, West Vancouver

150th Anniversaries (Sesquicentennials)

In 2009
Holy Trinity Cathedral, New Westminster
St. John, Maple Ridge

In 2012
St. Mary Sapperton
Christ Church Hope

In 2016
All Saints, Agassiz


Work has begun on parish histories for five parishes. The Rev. Graham Witcher is working on a new history of St. David's, Delta; Ros Lecomte, for St. Alban's, Burnaby; the Rev. Esther North, for St. Bartholemew/St. Aidens at Gibson's; John Stowe, for St. Clements, North Vancouver; and Susan Waddacor, is doing research on people buried in the old cemetery at Christ Church, Surrey.


Witcher has just about finished most of the research on his book. "Melanie has been extremely helpful," he said. He has also been helped immeasurably by Al Wakarchuk, St. David's parish archivist for the past 30 years.

While it's taken a great deal of time going through years of minute books, newsletters, and correspondence - and frustrating when one finds certain records missing - he's found the job most interesting.

"It's marvelous to hear what was important to people in the past, and how they responded," said the Rev. Esther North, who has almost finished the history of St. Bartholomew's. "Although I did read more old parish council minutes than I ever wanted to."

St. Bartholomew's history also will include a DVD with pictures and video, including segments of television programs in which the parish has appeared.

"For people joining the parish I think having a history is very valuable," said North. "Until you know its history, you don't really know a parish."

Said Susan Waddacor, who is working on a history of the Christ Church cemetery, assisted by Patrick and Louise Goode, archivists at nearby St. Oswald's in Surrey:

"Some people have said there really isn't any history around here. But certainly going 125 years or more back, that's history, and it's very interesting."

A view from the past-the choir of St. David’s, Delta, 41 years ago

For those interested in writing or contributing to a parish history, Diocesan Archivist Melanie Wallace can be contacted at the Diocese of New Westminster Archives, which are housed at the Vancouver School of Theology, on Tuesdays and Thursdays by calling 604 822-9583, or by sending an email to