Pastor David Jamieson in the sanctuary of the Adventists’ Church in the Valley. (Aldergrove Star files)

Pastor David Jamieson in the sanctuary of the Adventists’ Church in the Valley. (Aldergrove Star files)

‘The church is not a building, the church is its people’

Though Church in the Valley remains closed, pastor David Jamieson is full of optimism

Almost one year into the pandemic, one of Langley’s largest congregations – Church in the Valley – sits empty.

But pastor David Jamieson told the Aldergrove Star that people’s faith and the church’s determination to move forward couldn’t be stronger.

“We don’t use the phrase ‘going back to normal’,” Jamieson said, looking to the popular term, new normal. “We are instead embracing opportunities, habits, and new patterns that are changing in people’s lives.”

Church in the Valley, located at 23589 Old Yale Rd, totals 63,000 square feet; it closed to the public on March 14th, 2020.

“We were one of the first churches to do so out of an abundance of caution for the safety of both our congregation and our community. We now offer an at-home worship experience,” the pastor explained, noting all adult and children’s programming followed suit and went virtual.

“2020 was definitely a year we’ll never forget! It was an unprecedented year marked by some unusual events,” he assured.

He did note that parishioners were temporarily welcomed back for six weeks when Dr. Bonnie Henry eased restrictions in October.

Five different worship bubbles of 50 people or less were formed while services continued to be streamed in what Jamiseon called a “hybrid platform.”

Since provincial case spiked around the holidays, all services are being held strictly online again.

A small socially-distanced prayer team making specially-crafted blankets is the only group meeting at the facility.

“The building is very quiet and it was never meant to be,” Jamieson noted. “It was built to be a community centre and have lots of activity.”

Eight years of planning and construction led to the facility officially opening in September of 2015 – consisting of an 875 person sanctuary, a base of the Acts of Kindness Program, a smaller chapel, kitchen, meeting rooms, atrium, and sports court.

“We still have Canadian Blood Services coming in every second Tuesday to hold their blood drives and we have had some filming in our building, both of which have followed COVID-19 protocols,” Jamieson said.

Acts of Kindness community services continues to provide essential services to those in need in the Township of Langley.

“We recently gifted our 75th vehicle to a single mom through our AOK – Cars For Moms program, our Extreme Home Repair team completed a COVID-19 socially distanced mini home renovation, and each week our AOK Kindness Hub and AOK Nightshift provides food, clothing, and the basic necessities of life to more than 250 individuals in need,” he said.

But with much of the media attention focused on churches blatantly defying orders and holding in-person worship, the pastor specified that Church in the Valley has a very mature and community-minded congregation.

READ MORE: B.C.’s COVID restrictions on in-person worship to be tested in court

“They understand it is a health issue that impacts everyone,” he said. “We view ourselves like all of the theatres and restaurants – we are just one of the many organizations affected.”

The technological change has lead to a broader congregation that Jamieson said has continued into a strong online presence.

“We’re getting more viewers from Canada, the United States, and all over the world – the more exotic being Hawaii, Sweden, and Germany,” he remarked.

From Jamieson’s vantage point, he’s viewed the pandemic as an opportunity and said he will continue using using digital means after the vaccine distribution.

“We hope that the pandemic comes to an end relatively soon and that our community organizations and businesses will begin to thrive again and that we can worship together once again,” Jamieson explained. “What we’ve learned throughout this pandemic is that the church is truly not a building. The church is its people.”

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