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North Vancouver's Capilano United Church marks 100 years

In April 1914, divinity student Arthur Douglas Pringle began holding religious services inside a little green schoolhouse in North Vancouver.
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Lorraine Bentley, Joyce Bayly and Better Sayers gently page through one of Capilano United Church's original bibles. The church marks its 100th anniversary this spring and, in preparation for the celebration, members are reaching out to the community for stories and historical photos.

In April 1914, divinity student Arthur Douglas Pringle began holding religious services inside a little green schoolhouse in North Vancouver.

His small congregation was the foundation for what would eventually become Capilano United Church, a North Shore institution that is marking its centennial anniversary on April 27 with an open house.

"It's been a very small and simple church for many years," says Lorraine Bentley, an event organizer and 40-year member of the Capilano congregation. "We want to acknowledge that we've been part of the North Shore for 100 years and are still proud to be here."

In preparation for the open house, organizers are reaching out to the community for photos, memorabilia and stories that highlight the church's history - particularly the early decades. Snapshots from weddings, baptisms, picnics or potlucks are all welcome and will be displayed at the open house. "There's amazing stories of not just the church but the history of North Vancouver tied up in it too," says Bentley.

The church building, as it stands today, was erected in 1925. The manse came later in 1958 followed by the Christian Education Centre in 1961.

When the church was thriving, well over 200 people attended services each week. But, like many churches, numbers have dwindled over the years despite efforts to adapt and attract new faces. Today, on a typical Sunday, there are about 20 people in attendance - most of them over 50 years old.

"It's really sad," Bentley says. "It's just become a situation where people aren't interested anymore in attending formal church services."

She adds, "We're at a real crossroads right now because we don't know if we're going to continue by amalgamating with another congregation or whether or not we're just really going to have to close the doors."

Despite an uncertain future, a century in the community is cause for celebration. "We've been there for 100 years, and we're still there."

The open house runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. An informal church service will take place at 10:30, followed by lunch, tea, coffee and goodies. Everyone is welcome. Capilano United Church is at 2260 Philip Ave., North Vancouver.

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