What: The Five Stones Church building situated along Columbia street in historic New Westminster, BC has been around for over a century. The city was host to the first China town in Western Canada. It was also named the first capital of BC, before Victoria stole that title. According to Staff Pastor Jon Wong, the building’s history is part of the appeal of the church. “You’re gonna see different pegs out of the walls or a spot that says carpet or a spot that says nails. It was a store house for different things so we really didn’t want to cover that up,” he said. “We wanted to leave all that exposed just so we keep the history.” The building also survived a fire and some parts are older than other renovated areas. “The older parts of the building are probably over a hundred years old. Even if you look at the bricks you’ll see different types of bricks and different types of structural beams,” said Wong.
Where: 612 Columbia Street, New Westminster. The address facing Columbia Street is sandwiched between a Vegan retailer, and a small clothing boutique. Other notable landmarks on Columbia Street include a strip club, several bridal boutiques, and an Army and Navy. The back side of the church looks out to the water and is situated along “Antique Alley” where retailers who have seemingly been around just as long as their buildings sell a variety of vintage knickknacks and used goods. Originally a Front Street warehouse, it served many of the ships along the New Westminster Quay.
Who: After pastoring for 12 years in Minneapolis Minnesota, Pastor Rich Kao felt called to take his ministry elsewhere. He and his wife Memie wanted to plant a church in a multicultural and metropolitan area and finally decided on Vancouver because of the good ethnic mix.
When: Established November 2003. The congregation initially met in one of the lecture halls at Douglas College. When the congregation started to grow and space became available in the old warehouse along Columbia street, they jumped on the opportunity.
Why: They needed a space that would fulfill their calling to be an urban church — one in which they could easily minister to the people in the community. To do that they needed a space that was central and accessible. Columbia Street was the perfect fit.
“[We have] a Babylonian agenda to seek the welfare of the city and practically that means engaging in all that is part of the life of that city, whether it is commerce, whether it is the creative arts needs, whether it’s even in the political realm. So we’re really here to immerse ourselves in the culture yet to represent kingdom culture.”
—Pastor Rich Kao
“The really neat thing that our landlord said to us before just because of the great fire and the history on Front street, he really feels that we’re coming in to redeem what was broken and so it’s really symbolic of that.”
—Karmen Wong, Associate Staff
“One of my clients is very familiar with the history of New Westminster and he said that this building and a series of buildings along this area were originally sweat shops. And it was Asians, coolies as they called them that were working in this area and that’s part of the redemptie process. They were utilized ignored, buried. New West tried to get them out of their mind, and now it’s the redemptive process.”
—George Price, Financial Administrator
“The first time I [came to five stones] I felt really welcomed. I pretty much met Rich and Memie at the door.”
— Associate Staff