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white gold church

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Loreth Beswetherick A 6,000 square-foot church proposed for White Gold will not compete with the Whistler Interfaith Chapel for community funding. Art and Nellie Den Duyf have offered to donate about 1.25 acres of their land off Fitzsimmons Road North for a place of worship, to be used by the Whistler Community Church. The congregation falls under the umbrella of the B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. The Den Duyf land donation forms part of a rezoning application currently with the municipal planning department that includes two single-family employee lots and one market lot. The Whistler Interfaith Chapel needs more than $5 million for the construction of the Millennium Place building but Whistler Community Church pastor Tim Unruh said his congregation doesn't need to ask the community to build their place of worship. "We are not going to start a big fund-raising drive. When we talk about building a church we are not asking the wider Whistler community to build it for us." Nellie Den Duyf, who owns the land, said the congregation currently has around $80,000 in a kitty to put towards building a church. The land will be donated and the B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches will contribute funds and labour. The church will be registered to the Mennonite Brethren group which currently oversees 80 churches throughout the province. Den Duyf said congregation members are also very generous in donating a portion of their earnings to the faith. "We are not raising any funds. We never will, so we are not in conflict with the interests of the Interfaith Chapel." She said she is concerned a perceived conflict of interest may jeopardize their proposal. The White Gold church has been identified in the 1999 municipal budget as one of the key projects to be processed by the planning department this year. RMOW planner Mike Kirkegaard said he will likely tackle the rezoning application in November. He said the Den Duyf application was originally part of the 1996 municipal employee housing proposal call. It was one of the two initial projects shortlisted by council but the scope of the project has changed, said Kirkegaard. "It kind of received approval in principal but then the concept was altered to include a Mennonite church and to also retain one of the lots as a development lot." Kirkegaard said a rezoning is now required. The land is currently zoned for rural use (RR1), which permits a church building but only under 4,000 square feet in size. Den Duyf said the congregation would like to know if the church concept has council's approval in principle before the November elections. She said ideally they would like to prepare to break ground in the spring of 2000. Den Duyf said Whistler Community Church moderator, Michael Hutchison, has had several meetings with municipal administrator Jim Godfrey and director of planning Mike Purcell. She said no one appears to oppose the plan. "I think if we have a church there, it will be the perfect place. A community church in the community, not in the town centre." Unruh said if this proposal doesn't fly, the group will still find land to construct a place of worship. "We still plan to have a church in Whistler." To date the congregation has been using the Myrtle Philip Community Centre. There are 50 resident members of the congregation but Sunday services usually see between 130 and 200 people attending. "At Christmas and Easter there are even more," said Den Duyf. "Last Christmas the gym at Myrtle Philip was full." She said the faith is attracting more and more young people and a part-time youth pastor, Jack Crompton, has now been hired. The congregation has had a full-time minister since 1980. "We are not a fly-by-night church," said Den Duyf. She said the 1999 operating budget for the congregation is $88,000 and it goes up each year. The Whistler Community Church has been renting the gym and the Millar and Horstman rooms at Myrtle Philip for three hours every Sunday morning. They run a Sunday school, daycare and youth groups. Unruh said the congregation would use a church seven days a week, which is one of the reasons they are not part of the Interfaith Chapel project which has brought together Anglicans, Jews and members of the United Church. Unruh said being part of the interdenominational group doesn't gel for his congregation. "We believe Jesus is the most important part of our lives and, when we talk about a building, we want the kind of place we would be free to say what we want about Jesus," he said. "People have different ideas about who he was. We want to build a place that is dear to who Jesus himself said he was," said Unruh. "We also want to be good neighbours and that is different from asking everyone to build our house and to use our house." He said he would describe his faith as evangelical — where the bible is the rule. "The bible is our authority." He said if the faith believes something to be true, then it is true for all, not just their religion. "I don't believe we are the only true church," said Unruh. "I believe there are many other Christian groups preaching the right thing."

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