Building History

Our Building History: Born out of Peace

The Sanctuary was built by the Rev. (Lt.-Col) G.O. Fallis, C.B.E, E.D., D.D as a memorial to those who served and died in World War One. Rev. Fallis made a solemn commitment to the soldiers whose memorials he presided over while he was serving as a chaplain in France to return and build a peace memorial.

His intention was in no way to glorify war; on the contrary, it was, above all, a peace memorial. The mission of peace-making – cultivating right relationship with God, self, neighbour and the planet remains an important focus of our congregation.

About Reverend Fallis

The Rev. Fallis arrived in Vancouver after the war, in May 1920, to serve a congregation already imbued with the same idea to build a memorial, and plans were quickly laid. Two competitions were held and all plans were sent to Prof. C.H.C. Wright, Head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Toronto for judging. The first project, the Memorial Hall, was completed in February 1923. For five years the gymnasium was transformed into a sanctuary for Sunday services. The act of building the community centre first, complete with one of the first indoor pools in Vancouver, before the sanctuary established was an intentional choice –  a statement that community service would always come first.

The second project, the Memorial Chapel, was planned by the firm of Twizell & Twizell. Sir George Foster, K.C., M.G., the President of the League of Nations Society in Canada, turned the first sod on July 1, 1927. The Hon. Walter C. Nichol, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, laid the corner stone on September 17, 1927 and the address was given by Major-General W.W. Foster, C.M., D.S.O. The Chapel was dedicated November 9, 1928, following which the first communion was conducted by Rev. W.G. Wilson, M.A., D.D., President of the BC Conference of the United Church of Canada.

Regular services commenced on November 11th, 1928, exactly ten years to the day after the Armistice in 1918. Specifications for the Chapel involved ten stained glass windows; one for each province and the Yukon Territory, as well as the Chancel window and an All-Canada window. To see photos of the windows click here.

The striking part of the story is the unique manner in which funds were raised to underwrite the cost of these windows. The goal – which Rev. Fallis accomplished – was to involve Canadians from coast to coast with the ideal of making this a truly national church.

Books of Remembrance

Canadian Memorial also bears the distinction of housing the only other copies of the Books of Remembrance outside of Ottawa. The Books of Remembrance contain the names of all Canadians who served and died in World War I, II and the Korean War. These books are available to the public. Please contact our office for viewing. For more information on Canada’s role in the war and the veterans that served, visit the National Site.

Casavant Pipe Organ

The organ is a Casavant pipe organ donated by Americans in memory of the more than 1,500 Americans killed serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. The organ cost $30,000 (which adjusted for inflation, was the equivalent of $330,000 in today’s dollars), and the builders were the pre-emanate organ builders from Quebec. The organ has been restored,  is regularly maintained and still delivers excellent music.