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Summer program participants visit Buddhist church

Church members’ desire for inclusion resonates
Wednesday August 3, 2011 — Deb Bartlett

One of the trips taken by participants in Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion’s summer recreation program was to the Vancouver Buddhist Temple on Vancouver’s east side.

Summer program leader Patrick Trainor says it was interesting to hear that the facility, a member of the Buddhist Churches of Canada, wanted to be called “church” and be inclusive.

Patrick says as a staff member of an organization that works towards inclusion on a daily basis, it was wonderful to visit another organization whose members also wanted to “assimilate and fit in.”

The people on the trip were surprised to see pews as in a Christian church. The Buddhist church is very ornate, says Patrick.

“The folks really enjoyed it,” he says.

According to the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples of Canada website, Japanese immigrants were established in the east end of the city, and the second generation of Japanese Canadians were being born in the late 1800s. Some of the immigrant families joined local Christian churches, but most feared the loss of their faith, heritage and culture. Fourteen Buddhists met in October 1904 with a goal of building a temple and requesting a minister from Japan.

The original 14 became the organizing committee, and raised enough money to purchase property that became the first Buddhist temple in Canada, Dec. 12, 1905.

When temple members were evacuated because of the War Measures Act, the temple closed. Membership re-organized in 1951, and in 1954 the Methodist Church building at 220 Jackson Ave. was purchased. A new building was constructed in 1979.

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