When I tell most people that our family lives in Vancouver, they say something like: “I love British Columbia! It is so beautiful there!” While I would agree, I have to kindly respond that we live in the other Vancouver, in the US state of Washington (or “The ‘Couve” as the locals refer to it).
Vancouver, USA is located just north of Portland, Oregon on the north side of the Columbia River in Clark County, Washington (named after William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition). The northern banks of the Columbia River were originally inhabited by the Chinook and Klickitat Native America tribes. The first settlement by Europeans in this region was Fort Vancouver, which was established in 1824 as a fir trading post of the Hudson Bay Company. Today, Vancouver is the largest suburb of Portland, Oregon with just over 400,000 people living within Clark County. Given its population, it is quite surprising that there is only one NAPARC church in the county. That is, there was only one NAPARC church. That is part of the story of how Peace United Reformed Church got its start.
The story of Peace URC goes back to the planting of another church: Grace United Reformed Church. Grace URC began in 2009 in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. Grace Church, from the beginning, had a vision to support missions and that included domestic missions (or church planting). With Grace’s steady growth over the last ten years, the Consistory agreed that it was time to move forward with planting another Reformed church. But where?
Since 2014, Grace Church has had a strong Vancouver contingency that only continued to grow. Beginning in 2018, the Consistory of Grace Church began putting into motion its missionary vision and set its sights on Vancouver. The Consistory of Grace Church proposed this location for several reasons: (1) because of the continued commitment of the Vancouver families to attend a local Bible Study, (2) the distance to attend Sunday morning and evening worship services in Portland, Oregon (a 30-90 minute commute each way) and (3) the lack of Confessionally Reformed churches in Vancouver.
In response to this need and the prayers for a Reformed witness in Vancouver, Grace Church began searching for a Church Planting Minister who could oversee and cast a vision for this work. In May of 2019, Grace Church called me to fulfill this position! I was installed as an Associate Minister of Grace Church on June 16, 2019.
With me in place, as a Church Planting Pastor, Grace Church established a Steering Committee to coordinate the recommended next steps for establishing a Church in Vancouver. The Committee suggested the name “Peace United Reformed Church,” to maintain a close connection to Grace Church (reflecting the blessings of the Apostle Paul: “Grace and Peace…” cf. Rom 1:7, 1 Cor 1:3) and also to celebrate the Gospel-Peace that God gives sinners through the work of Jesus Christ alone (Rom 5:1).
Peace United Reformed Church began meeting again for a weekly Bible Study in September of 2019. Since beginning the Bible Study in September, Peace URC has seen a steady flow of visitors. Because of the steady growth and interest through social media, the Consistory of Grace Church decided to move forward with calling evening Catechism services beginning in February, 2020. On February 2, 2020, we held our first worship service with over 90 souls in attendance! After meeting for evening worship throughout February and the beginning of March, we had to cancel in-person worship services because of the restrictions on large public gatherings by the Governor of Washington State. We are now streaming our evening services to our Facebook page and meeting over Zoom for Bible Study on Thursday nights.
Location: 2901 NE 65th Avenue, Vancovuer, WA 98661 (Meeting at Living Water Church)
Overseeing Church: Grace United Reformed Church, Portland, Oregon. Support can be sent to Grace Church at: 2800 SE Concord Road, Milwaukie, OR 97267-4617 c/o Council.