A gathering planned for this Sunday in light of the pending demolition of the former First United Church in White Rock had an unexpected item added to its agenda, following the recent discovery of a brass time capsule in a wall of the decades-old building.
Learning what’s inside the weighty cylindrical container will “be the big, exciting mystery that we’ll all share together,” Jean Kromm, a member of the redevelopment committee, said this week.
Kromm said the capsule – which she learned about last week – was found by crews that are preparing the church for demolition. Measuring approximately eight inches in length and an inch in diameter, it was discovered behind an exterior cornerstone located to the left of the building’s front door, near a plaque that was erected when the church was built.
The cylinder was encased in a small box and wrapped with a Sept. 26, 1957 edition of the Semiahmoo Sun newspaper, as well as a church bulletin from the day.
Yellowed from the passage of time, the Sun was in otherwise good condition, complete with the news of White Rock’s first mayor as its headline story.
The church bulletin details information including the budget for expansion plans of the day. The sum – $50,000 – is dramatically less than the multi-million-dollar tab for the four-storey residential care facility that’s set to replace it.
Kromm said murmurings of concern around the demolition process prompted the decision to plan Sunday’s event, “to give people an opportunity to express their feelings” about it and ask questions.
Rev. Janice Young said it’s also an opportunity for those who feel connected to the church to say their goodbyes.
The congregation did that a year ago when it was decommissioned, she said, “but there may be people in the community that maybe haven’t, and we want to give the opportunity to do that before it comes down.”
Redevelopment committee member Kees Koster said he is among those who aren’t ready to say goodbye. A part of the congregation since 1990, Koster has been involved in much of the building’s maintenance and renovation efforts over the years, as well as the extreme-weather shelter, and has accumulated many memories over the years.
“Maybe it’s just my nature that I find it hard to let go of things that are worthwhile,” he said.
“I think once the building is down and once the construction is started, it should focus me the other way. It’s almost like going to a funeral – once you put the body in the ground, that’s closure. I don’t think it’ll be closure for me till the building is down.”
Young said there is a connection between grief and gratitude, but said it’s important to remember that the building itself is not the church.
“The church is way more than a building,” she said. “The church is still here.”
With the discovery of the time capsule, she hopes people who attend Sunday’s gathering – set for 6 p.m. in front of city hall, 15322 Buena Vista Ave. – will come forward to share any memories they may have.
“Let’s go down memory lane… hear why this church was important to them,” she said.
Demolition of the 15385 Semiahmoo Ave. building is anticipated to get underway next week and take about two days to complete. However, the exact start is dependent on the issuance of a permit for the work.
The city’s director of corporate administration, Tracey Arthur, said Wednesday the city needs a ‘Hazardous Materials Abatement’ report from the applicant before the permit can be issued.
Construction of the care-facility campus – which will incorporate a new, ground-level Peninsula United Church fronting Semiahmoo Avenue – is expected to begin in the coming months.
Anyone with more information on the time capsule is asked to contact Kromm at 604-542-0304.