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On the afternoon of Saturday, September 10, 2016 more than 125 people gathered in the common room (with kitchen adjacent) of the 127 Society’s new Jubilee House (at 1077 Richards) for a dedication, blessing and open house event.

The 127 Society was founded in 1981 by Hilda Gregory, Cynthia Llewellyn, Anne McCullum, Lil Thirkell and Adrian Ross, all Anglicans from the Vancouver area. What these five accomplished back in the early 1980's with a stake of $2000 that they had pooled together was and is remarkable.  There were others involved in those early days and amongst that group were people like Ian Birtwell, a public buildings and properties construction and maintenance expert, and engineer, Graham Rawlings. Both Ian and Graham, long time Christ Church Cathedral parishioners and both were present on September 10 for the event.

The original motivation in the late 1970's/early 1980's for the 127 Society for Housing’s desire to create safe and affordable housing was a reaction to the displacement of thousands of low income urban renters due to the “renovictions” that were rampant during the Expo 86 preparations.

And now in 2016 there is a new chapter in the 127 Society for Housing history, “New Jubilee House.” According to the material distributed at the event:

  • New Jubilee House is built to be environmentally sustainable to LEED Gold standard, replacing the deteriorating old Jubilee House, allowing tenants to say in their neighbourhood.
  • The City of Vancouver owns the new Jubilee House and the land on which it stands. The 127 Society for Housing signed a 60-year leasehold with the City to operate the building as social housing with 87 low-income units and 75 low-end-of-market units.
  • In the absence of subsidies from senior levels of government, rent from the 75 low-end-of-market units will subsidize the operation of the 87 low-income units.
  • New Jubilee House has 11 fully wheelchair accessible units and two elevators (compared to old Jubilee House which had many stairs and only five partially accessible units.)
  • Jubilee House has a state-of-the-art bedbug baking room on basement level 2.
  • There is a beautiful rooftop garden with a capacity of up to 60 persons.

The MC for the event was Joan Seidl, the current President of the 127 Society for Housing. The Very Reverend Peter Elliott offered a reflection and a prayer of blessing. Deputy Mayor Heather Deal offered remarks as did Max Kerr, the Executive Vice-President of Brenhill Developments the company involved in the project.

Joan Seidl began her address by saying “moving is not always fun. We’ve just moved 87 people.” Joan was referring to the fact that the original Jubilee House across the street which will be torn down and a new development constructed on the site had to be emptied of tenants. The site of the old Jubilee House is part of a land swap deal with the City and Brenhill Development that created the opportunity and subsequently the resources to build the new building that is housing the former tenants of the old building. Joan continued in her remarks, thanking the staff, tenants, board members, volunteers, the City of Vancouver and Brenhill Developments for all they have done. She focused her gratitude toward everyone that had helped move the 87 residents into the new building.

Joan was followed by the Very Reverend Peter Elliott, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral. He began with an observation about the weather, it was indeed a “perfect” late summer day and then he made reference to his written reflection available in the Celebration of new Jubilee House program bulletin which was as follows:

Not many apartment buildings are named after a theological vision. Jubilee House is. An ancient vision outlined in various sections of the Hebrew Bible, the year of Jubilee occurred once every 50 years. Traditions of a Jubilee Year included freeing people held in slavery and forgiveness of debt: a Jubilee year was an economic revolution that would give everyone a home and debt free life in a peaceable kingdom.

Of course a Jubilee Year never actually fulfilled the promise, but the theological vision continued through the generations and was embraced by Jesus in his first recorded sermon, in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4). There he chose to read the proclamation from Isaiah of the Jubilee year:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s Jubilee.’

The vision of Jubilee inspired leadership of the 127 Society for Housing to name their first building “Jubilee House”: this new building continues that designation. Today’s celebrations are a wonderful occasion to express thanks, first to God who gave this vision of Jubilee, and secondly to the people that God inspired to make this vision a reality – those who have taken leadership in ensuring the provision of affordable and safe housing in Vancouver’s downtown.

The 127 Society for Housing particularly honours the memory of the late Hilda Gregory, whose vision and tenacity provided the impetus for this work: together with her good friend Cynthia Llewellyn, Hilda’s deep commitment to putting faith in action has paved the way for today’s celebration.

Dean Elliott thanked Joan Seidl who is following in “the footsteps of giants” and then he said a few words about those, “giants” the late Hilda Gregory and Cynthia Llewellyn. Cynthia now aged 96 was present at the event and took time to meet with folks in the Jubilee House Library. Many of the books in the library are from the collection of the late Hilda Gregory. He went on to say that we are inspired by Hilda and Cynthia and those who have followed, and through their devotion to justice and compassionate service “we hold in our hearts a vision of what the world could be…a world of peace and dignity.” He then offered the following prayer of blessing:

"Loving God, you made us in your image and blessed us with wisdom, creativity, skill, compassion and love. Inspire us to action as we glimpse your vision of Jubilee where all dwell safely and securely.

In Jesus Christ you have called us to share food with the hungry and to provide shelter for the homeless. You give us a vision of Jubilee Peace where all will live equally and fully in the abundance of the earth.

We pray that your Holy Spirit will transform our world and transform our hearts and minds. Make us into a compassionate people, eager to serve, ready to forgive and always beholding in each other the grace and love of the God we know in Jesus Christ.

And so we ask you to bless this Jubilee House. May this be a safe dwelling place. May your peace descend upon this home for many. May this be a place of harmony, forgiveness and grace today and always.


Joan began her introduction of Heather Deal by saying that things were getting pretty bleak, the old Jubilee House facility was falling apart, there was no money to come from the federal or provincial governments, however the City of Vancouver did not give up and worked with Brenhill and the 127 Society board to bring about this very positive outcome. Deputy Mayor, Heather Deal looked around the audience and acknowledged a number of people present (including former City of Vancouver advocate for the homeless, Judy Graves)who have committed themselves to the plight of the hard to house and been instrumental in increasing public awareness that moved to action. Deputy Mayor Deal admitted that there was pushback from a number of sources, not everyone was keen on the City of Vancouver getting involved in such a project.  However, there were so many positives in the 127 Societies presentation that the obvious benefits of the plan won out. She mentioned the library, the affordable food store and the history of community available at the 127 Societies buildings.

The last to speak was Max Kerr of Brenhill who managed the development and construction of the building. In his address Max mentioned that the Brenhill building used to be on this site across the street from old Jubilee House.

In conclusion Joan thanked 127 Society for Housing’s Executive Director for the past 18 years, Joanne Graham and then she closed by mentioning the names of the members of the 127 board, many of whom are long time parishioners of Christ Church Cathedral.

The visitors were encouraged to look around the parts of the facility that were open for viewing: library; low-cost food store;  rooftop garden; sample suite 304, an example of a low-income bachelor suite;  and the bedbug prevention baking room in the basement level 2.  Folks were also encouraged to meet, reconnect and enjoy cake and snacks that had been served buffet style in the common room.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, 

the builders labour in vain

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the guards stand watch in vain." Psalm 127: Verse 1 



  • Cynthia Llewellyn under a portrait of Hilda Gregory in the library
  • East facing view from the rooftop
  • Joan Seidl
  • The Very Reverend Peter Elliott offers a prayer of blessing
  • Deputy Mayor, Heather Deal,
  • Max Kerr of Brenhill
  • Howard Teasley displays some wares in the Low-Cost Store