Rev. Dr. Hedwig Dorothea Henrietta Bartling was born in Germany. As a young child, she emigrated with her family from Germany to Canada, settling in Saskatchewan, just a year before the First World War. In 1933, she was engaged by the Woman's Missionary Society (W.M.S.) of The United Church of Canada to work among the Ukrainian people in northern Alberta. In 1942, she went to Lethbridge to work among the Japanese-Canadian internees. After the war, Bartling worked first at the Chinese Christian Community Centre in Victoria, B.C. (1950-1951), followed by several years at Steveston United Church in Richmond, helping build the integrated Caucasian-Japanese congregation (1952-1956). Following three years at Queen's Avenue United Church in New Westminster (1960-1962), and studies at Union College, she was ordained. Hedwig Bartling died in 1993.
First United Church has its roots in First Presbyterian Church (organized in 1885) and Princess Street Methodist Church (begun in 1888). The two congregations were involved in mission work very early on, and performed joint outreach projects since the early 1900s. By the time of the First World War, the national mission boards of both churches put the two congregations under their control in order that the mission work could continue. Princess Street Methodist Church, which had become Central Methodist Church in 1908, became the Turner Institute in 1916.
First United Church in Vancouver was established in 1925 through the amalgamation of First Presbyterian Church and the Turner Institute. The amalgamated congregation chose to meet in the Presbyterian Church building, which had been erected in 1892 at the corner of Gore and Hastings Streets. The minister, referred to as Superintendent, served as pastor to the congregation and had oversight of mission operations.
After church union, the old Turner Institute building was used for First United’s Welfare department, later known as Welfare Industries. The Rev. J. Richmond Craig, who had served as Superintendent of First Presbyterian Church from 1921, helped establish Welfare Industries, as well as Camp Fircom, and the congregation’s radio ministry. Welfare Industries was organized to provide employment, training, rehabilitation and opportunity for those unable to find employment in normal industries. Camp Fircom was established on Gambier Island as a fresh air camp for mothers and children. The Rev. Andrew Roddan is another significant Superintendent (1930-1948), who saw the mission through the Depression and war years. The original Presbyterian Church building was torn down in 1964 and the present building opened in 1965 at the same spot.
Welfare service work and advocacy programs have been the central components of the mission. Over the years, First United Church has mainly addressed the needs of the homeless, the unemployed, and ethnic groups (including the Finnish and Japanese congregations). In 2007, the congregation was disbanded, but the mission remained active and was incorporated as First United Church Community Ministry Society in 2014.
The first United Church Chaplain, Rev. M.J.V. Shaver, was appointed to the University of British Columbia after its creation by BC Conference in 1959. An interdenominational committee, the Anglican-United Joint Chaplaincy Committee, was formed in 1969, through the BC Conference Committee on Church and State in Education, to begin the process of creating a joint chaplaincy at UBC. In 1970 the Anglican United Campus Ministry (AUCM) was created. In 1974, the AUCM and the UBC Student Christian Movement (SCM) merged to form the Cooperative Christian Campus Ministry (CCCM) at the University of British Columbia. In 1979, the SCM left the CCCM and the United Church and Anglican Church continued to operate campus ministry at UBC through the CCCM. In 1986, the CCCM was dissolved and the partnership between the United Church and Anglican Church at UBC ended. Later that year, after a brief period without a United Church campus chaplain, the United Church Campus Ministry (UCCM) at UBC was formed. In 2021, Campus Ministry at UBC became a part of Pacific Mountain Regional Council through the formation of Campus United.
Jacques Moon was born in Mundare, Alberta in 1922. He was a professional photographer and trained at Art Center School in Los Angeles. Moon lived in Squamish, B.C. during the 1950s and moved to Vancouver in 1962. His primary source of income was from his work as a purchaser for Pacific Great Eastern Railway/BC Rail. Moon was a long-time member of the United Church of Canada, attending Windsor United Church (Vancouver, B.C.) He died at Vancouver in 1997.
Rev. Fong Dickman, originally known as Fong, Tak Man, was born in 1860 in Yan Ping, Kwangtung [Canton or Guangdong], China. He came to Canada in 1884 to seek a better life. Initially Mr. Fong made a living by driving stagecoaches between Vancouver and New Westminster, B.C. While attending a mission school at night, first in New Westminster and subsequently in Vancouver, Fong developed a keen interest in Christianity. He was baptized at the Princess Street Methodist Church in Vancouver, and appointed to the Chinese Methodist Church in Nanaimo in 1898 as a missionary at large. At that time, his name was Anglicized to “Dickman.” In 1906, Fong Dickman was transferred to Vancouver to set up and produce the Wa-Ying Yat-Po, (华英日报, the Chinese-English Daily Newspaper, 1906-1909), one of the very early (if not the first) Christian newspapers in the Chinese language published in Canada. After 25 years of service, Fong Dickman was ordained by the Methodist Church of Canada in 1923. During his lifetime, he served in pastoral ministry at Nanaimo (1898-1906 and 1913-1921), Vancouver (1906-1913), New Westminster (1922-1930), and Edmonton (1930-1939). Rev. Fong Dickman retired in 1939, living in New Westminster until 1942, then residing in Vancouver from 1943 until his death on April 10, 1946.
Fong Dickman married Jane Chang in Victoria in 1899, and the couple had four daughters: Lavina Fong Dickman, who later became Lavina Cheng; Esther Fong Dickman; Anna Fong Dickman, who became Anna Lam; and Mary Fong Dickman (who died at a very young age). Aside from their loyal assistance with the church work, Anna was the first Chinese Canadian to become a registered nurse in B.C. and Esther, a school teacher in Vancouver. Mrs. Fong Dickman died in 1927. Beyond missionary work, Rev. Fong Dickman enjoyed creative writing, featuring early Chinese immigrants from his pastoral perspective. Rev. Fong Dickman was a philanthropist, who was noted to have supported a missionary in the city of Fat Shaan in Fong Dickman’s native province in south China.
Chizu Uchida was born in Vancouver and attended the Powell Street Church (Japanese Mission) with her family until the internment of Japanese Canadians in 1942. She and her family attended the Japanese United Church in Montreal for a short while until returning to Vancouver in the mid-1950s. From that point, Chizu was a member of the Vancouver Japanese United Church, and a founding member of the English-Speaking Congregation in 1969. She served on the Church Board and also for a time as secretary of the national Japanese United Church Conference (Kyogikai). She died in 2017.
Deryl (Dal) James Michael McCrindle was born in Vancouver in 1945. He attended Union College and was among the first graduates of the Vancouver School of Theology (after Union College and Anglican Theological College amalgamated). McCrindle was ordained by B.C. Conference in 1972. He served charges in rural Manitoba (1972-1974) and Winnipeg (1974-1977) before returning to British Columbia. He continued in pastoral ministry at First United, Prince Rupert (1977-1985); St. David’s, West Vancouver (1985-1990); St. Andrew’s-Wesley, Vancouver (1990-1991); St. Giles, Vancouver (1991-1996); and St. Andrew’s (Haney), Maple Ridge (1996-2006). McCrindle served as president of BC Conference (1984-1985) and as chair of both Prince Rupert and Vancouver-Burrard presbyteries. After retirement in 2006, he continued his ministry, serving as an associate minister at West Vancouver and St. David’s United Churches and as chaplain to the Royal Canadian Legion in West Vancouver. While in the north, he was adopted by the Tsimshian community at Lax Kw’alaams and became a member of the “wolf” clan of that community.
John ("Johnny") Kumaji Nihei was born May 6, 1902 in Fukushima-ken, Japan. He came to Vancouver in 1919, where he worked as a "house boy" (as it was then known) and played for the Vancouver Asahi baseball team until 1923. Mr. Nihei moved to Ocean Falls in 1923, where he worked for the mill and was part of the Japanese United Church. He was inspired during these early years to become active in the social justice movement within the Japanese community. In 1942, during the uprooting of Canadians of Japanese descent, the federal government sent him to road camp in Lemperire, B.C., to work on construction of the Yellowhead Highway. He was then sent to Tashme internment camp to help build the settlement, where his family later joined him. After the war, the family lived in East Lillooet (1945-1951) and then settled in Hope. Mr. Nihei died November 26, 2001 at Hope, B.C.
Joan Imai was a member of the Vancouver Japanese United Church English-Speaking Congregation, from 1971 until 1979. Her husband, Gordon, was the minister of the Lower Mainland Pastoral Charge of the Japanese United Church during that period. She and her husband returned to the Vancouver Japanese United Church after Gordon retired, and she remained a member until the English-Speaking Congregation closed in 2017.
Dorothy Yamamoto was a longtime member of the Vancouver Japanese United Church English Speaking congregation, until it closed in 2017.
The Rev. A.D. MacKinnon was a pioneer minister of the Presbyterian Church in British Columbia. He was born in Nova Scotia, attended theological college at Queens, and came to the Kootenay region of B.C. as a student in 1893. He was ordained in 1896 in Kamloops and served at Quesnel, where he opened the first Presbyterian Church in the Cariboo. He later served at Kitsilano Presbyterian Church in Vancouver (1913-1920) Williams Lake (1921-1941) and Peachland (1941-1946). Like many Presbyterian ministers of his generation, MacKinnon joined The United Church of Canada during church union in 1925.