The family 10 am service at Holy Trinity Vancouver, one of several during the week

One of the busiest buildings in Vancouver combines a theatre company, a seniors’ centre, a non-profit legal consulting society, and a lively Anglican Church.

Holy Trinity Vancouver moved into the large building at 12th Avenue and Hemlock Street in 1994, after outgrowing two earlier church buildings on nearby Pine Street.

It’s still labelled on the Hemlock Street side “Chalmers’ Presbyterian Church.” That’s because two facades and the building’s dome have been designated “Heritage A” by City Council, and can’t be changed.

Doesn’t that confuse people?

“I think it still does,” said the Rev. John Oakes, who has been at Holy Trinity since 2002. While other signs designate the church as Anglican, the parish still needs a larger sign on 12th Avenue, which will come in time.

But that’s not the major priority at the moment. It’s to deal with the hundreds of people who go through the building’s doors, to make sure they get what they need, and they are aware that there’s a welcoming Anglican Church on the premises.

Holy Trinity Vancouver’s rector the Rev. John Oakes and Rector’s Warden Dr. Margaret Blom

The building was purchased in 1991 from the United Church, which had incorporated many Presbyterian congregations in 1925. “They were a small congregation trying to manage a large building,” said Oakes.

Anglican Holy Trinity, founded in 1899 as a mission of St. Paul’s in the West End, was growing. “They had a dream to have a community centre in the building,” said Dr. Margaret Blom, Holy Trinity’s rector’s warden. Parishioners Paul Wagler and Bill Stewart were two of the important original dreamers.

The South Granville Seniors Centre was an early tenant. Today it serves hundreds of seniors in the area who attend lunch, play bridge, learn languages, take “easy movement” classes, and engage in many other activities.

Soon moving in was Pacific Theatre, which has its own theatre on the ground floor, under Holy Trinity’s nave on the second. A professional theatre, it specializes in plays with a religious theme.

For a time the regional headquarters of Alpha Canada was housed in the building. Alpha is a British-based organization with programs to help Christians of many denominations introduce the Gospel. They left because they needed more space.

Taking over their offices has been Access Justice, a non-profit society that organizes free legal clinics in communities across the province at which lawyers donate a few hours of their time. Some clinics are held in the building.

And many other groups meet at Holy Trinity. Weight Watchers meet four days a week. Three Alcoholics Anonymous groups meet regularly, including a Francophone group. The Council of Canadians meets monthly. The Vancouver Gallery Singers, a 25-members choir, rehearses and gives concerts in the nave and occasionally performs for the congregation. Even a tinnitus support group--made up of people who suffer from a constant ringing or buzzing in their ears--use the premises.

The groups pay rent, said Oakes, but at rates below market. “Well below market,” added his warden.

And the parish of 200 members is very much alive with two Sunday morning services: one at 10 am with contemporary music, and another at 11:30 using the traditional Book of Common Prayer. “We can’t have something for everybody but we do offer two distinct worship services,” said Oakes.

Magaly Varas leads a group of Spanish-speaking seniors at the Seniors’ Centre at Holy Trinity Vancouver

There is also midweek Wednesday evening communion and Bible study, a monthly 7 pm youth service called “the Vibe,” run in conjunction with Camp Artaban, and a monthly 7 pm congregational prayer service. Plus special events.

“One of the most encouraging trends has been the revival of young families,” he added, which has revitalized the Sunday school. “The scope of lay involvement has been a real plus,” but it may be about time for the parish to employ a curate--if money can be found and the diocese could help out.

Recently Holy Trinity had to raise $200,000 to repair its roof. “The building is a gift from God and we have to be good stewards,” said Oakes.

Holy Trinity is a parish proud to label itself “evangelical.” The parish’s evangelical worship style and theology, and its liveliness, attract Anglicans from the North Shore, Burnaby, and Delta, as well as from its local South Granville neighbourhood.

“For a medium-sized parish there is a lot going on here. We want to deliver a Christian message with what we do rather than just what we say,” said Oakes.

Definitely Anglican –and very lively