Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver

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Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver

Coordinates: 49°17′03″N 123°07′13″W / 49.28417°N 123.12028°W / 49.28417; -123.12028

Christ Church Cathedral, in Vancouver, British Columbia, is the cathedral church of the Diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada. The Cathedral is located at 690 Burrard Street on the north-east corner of West Georgia Street and Burrard Street, directly across from the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

Parish history

The first service was held, without a church building, on December 23, 1888 at 720 Granville Street in the town of Vancouver. Later, on February 14, 1889, a building committee was formed to collect the necessary funds for the erection of the church. It would be located on land bought from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR); Henry John Cambie, chief engineer of CPR′s Pacific Division and People′s Warden of the new church, was a key negotiator in acquiring the property.

By October 1889, Christ Church′s basement was built and on October 6, the opening service was held for 52 parishioners. The joy of a new church did not last forever.

By 1891 the CPR objected to the unfinished building that had quickly been nicknamed the root house. It was viewed an “eyesore” and the parishioners feared they would lose their location due to lack of funds to complete the building.

A financing scheme was developed by a parishioner and the cornerstone was finally laid July 28, 1894, and the church dedicated, Sunday February 17, 1895. The church was built in the Gothic Style with ceiling made of cedar planking and ceiling beams and floor constructed out of old growth Douglas fir.

By 1909 the first expansion was done and by 1911 the first organ had already worn out, it used a human blower hired at $5 per month, and was replaced by a new organ manufactured by Wurlitzer. In 1920, electricity replaced candles for lighting, and in 1930 the lanterns now in the church were installed.

In 1929, the Archbishop of New Westminster constituted Christ Church as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese. The church planned to build a bell tower, but in 1943, the city by-laws were changed to restrict church bells.

In 1949, after many building alterations, the Casavant organ was installed. Constructed partially of war surplus parts and remnants of the Wurlitzer, the instrument served well but had a problematic history.

Spring and Fall 2004 saw the installation of a Kenneth Jones tracker organ in the south gallery of the renovated Cathedral. Comprising a three manual console and 2500 pipes, 1700 salvaged from the Casavant, it is the first Christ Church Cathedral organ custom built to speak with optimum effect in the sanctuary.

In 1971 the church membership voted to demolish the building and replace it with a hi-rise tower complex designed by Arthur Erickson. This redevelopment was opposed by the public and in 1976 after much lobbying; the cathedral was named a Class A Heritage building in the municipality of Vancouver and The Province of British Columbia.

In 1995 an eleven year program of Restoration and Renewal was begun. Christ Church Cathedral is the Regimental Church of the Seaforth Highlanders and is in the process of being designated Regimental Church of the BC Regiment, Duke of Connaught's Own. It is also the church at which the British royal family worships when in Vancouver.

Cathedral heraldry

The Celtic Cross, which is found on both the Cathedral′s exterior and interior, represents the roots of the Anglican Communion in the British Isles. The spindle whorl and the three salmon in the style of the Coast Salish Nation, represent the First People of Canada and the original inhabitants of the west coast.

The Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P) in the centre are the initials of the words Christus Rex, Christ the King. The motto is “I hold before you an open door” (Revelation 3:8), the title of the first sermon preached in the Cathedral by the Rector, the Rev. H. B. Hobson, December 23, 1888.

Cathedral clergy

The former dean and rector, until 1994, was Michael Ingham, who is now Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster. The current dean and rector of the Cathedral is Peter Elliott.


Holy Communion is celebrated using both the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services. Both a simple spoken celebration and a choral or sung eucharist celebrated with congregational hymns featuring an eclectic mix of mass settings, psalmody, anthems and instrumental music are practiced.

Music in worship ranges from plainsong to motets from the baroque and classical periods to contemporary and world music. Cathedral musician, Rupert Lang is a prolific, respected composer and many of his sacred pieces debut during this liturgy.

The Cathedral clergy share preaching duties at services with guest preachers booked throughout the year. Guest preachers in the recent past have included former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie and world renowned environmental scientist David Suzuki.

Same-sex blessings

Bishop Michael Ingham authorized a liturgy for the celebration of lesbian and gay covenants in December 2002. Diocesan guidelines require that parishes who want to offer this ministry seek the approval at a meeting of Vestry.

Christ Church Cathedral's Annual Vestry meeting in February 2003 gave approval for this ministry to be offered as part of the parish's pastoral care for the community.