First Up! is the group that has been looking into how to make the physical plant or church building as effective and useful as possible for our needs. Here is their report that goes to the congregational meeting on November 18, 2018:

FirstUP! Report to Congregation  November 18, 2018

We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.


Church History

With confidence in God’s abiding presence, the early settlers in Kelowna made the courageous decision to leave their wood frame church and build a new brick sanctuary in 1909 dedicating it as Knox Presbyterian Church.  It has been in continuous use since then.  Its stately Gothic design provides a worshipping space that offers good sightlines and superior acoustics.

At the time of church union, 1925, the United Church of Canada represented a uniquely Canadian expression of the Christian faith.  The early church embraced the growing diversity of the country and sought to advance cultural and physical well-being through programming.  To create a space to serve this mission, the hall was built 1928-9 as a gymnasium for church sports programs.  Over the decades it has housed Scouting and Guiding programs and a myriad of other community activities.

In 1949 the addition on the south side of the hall was completed.  It provided space for the Thrift Shop as well as meeting spaces.  Laminated beams were installed in the gymnasium in 1967 to allow the addition of Sunday School rooms on the third floor; the Bernard St. entrance was also added at this time.

In 2002 both the sanctuary and the hall received heritage designation for the exterior only.   The church was advised that any future changes would require a heritage revitalization agreement with the City of Kelowna.

Throughout its history, First United has maintained and upgraded the facility.

Redevelopment History

Discussions about redeveloping the hall began in 1975!  Over the intervening forty-three years the congregation has received architectural plans and redevelopment recommendations on three occasions:                                     1985 –Woodworth/Ulrich/Frie

1999-Turik Newmann

2009 Upland

In addition, an energy audit by Cobalt Engineering was completed in 2010.


Over nearly half a century, a lot of money has been invested in the hall, but the building remains inaccessible, energy inefficient and unsuitable for the congregation’s current needs.  Each redevelopment committee concluded that doing nothing was NOT an option.

First Dream Team

On  April 24, 2017 the First Dream Team meeting was held.  The team has included the following people:  Nikki Attwell, Chris Fabbi, Ernie Park, Rob Riddle, Donald Schmidt, Keith Watts, John Powell, Trent James, Martha King  and Sharon Wilson .  The following year we were joined by Linda Gilmour, Peter Wilson & Janet Watson. We have also received invaluable input from Murray White.

FirstUP! is born!

At the June 26, 2017 meeting of the First Dream Team we approved a name change and adopted a  logo and the tagline: “Rising to the Challenge of Our Next Century”.

In an effort to focus our task, we formulated the following:

FirstUP! Mission Statement

To explore ways to enhance the energy and mission of the congregation through the transformation of the physical space of First United.

Needs and Wants

FirstUP! reviewed the work (drawings, recommendations) of the previous committees and made several inspections of the building.  We were able to identify some key needs:  insulation, upstairs washrooms, reliable heat, air circulation, lift/elevator, ramps, power doors, upgrade mechanicals to current codes (safety concern), along with a list of wants:  A/C, new kitchen, accessible route from sanctuary to hall, new thrift shop, brighter SS space nearer sanctuary, better space for bell ringers, laundry & shower for Outreach programs

We wrestled over many meetings about the potential of a shared church/housing project but dismissed it for a number of logistical reasons (building height restrictions, lack of lot space, loss of church parking, long-term building management responsibility/conflicts). At the same time, we are committed to maximizing the rental/revenue-generating capacity of the facility. To that end we met on two occasions with commercial real estate specialists.

Congregational Survey Results

In September 2017, all staff, every core ministry and every user group as well as congregation were surveyed.  The information gathered was compiled and then shared with the congregation over seven Sundays.  We determined that the most helpful way to communicate this information was through the congregational values that emerged.  We were guided by two consistent comments:

  • building is unwelcoming/unsafe
  • building doesn’t reflect personality/culture of congregation


From the comments of the core ministries and the member surveys evolved a consensus on the values

and aspirations of the congregation which have informed the work of FirstUP!:


At First we value being a welcoming community.

Because of this we want to improve the accessibility of our sanctuary and hall so we can “grow” our welcome.


At First we value our historic presence in the heart of downtown Kelowna

Because of this we want to revitalize the building honouring its history and its tremendous asset to the congregation and the larger community.


At First we value the beauty of the sanctuary.

Because of this we want to enhance the comfort and function of the sanctuary for worship but also as a venue for concerts, theatre and lectures.


At First we value the tremendous energy and gifts of our leadership team and countless volunteers.

Because of this we want to enhance the programming space for children, families, youth and small groups by making it safer, energy efficient and accessible.


At First we value being God’s presence in the world.

Because of this we need a space that empowers us to offer sensitive, comfortable place for our current and future outreach and social justice programming.


At First we value the breadth of musical traditions:  choral, bells, instrumental, contemporary.

Because of this we need to develop rehearsal and performance space that sustains and nurtures all these musical programs.


At First we value making fiscally prudent decisions that won’t unfairly burden present and future members.

Because of this we want a long-range plan that addresses the significant needs of the building with an exhaustive search for funding within the congregation but, most especially, through outside grants.


Congregational Engagement


            FirstUP! became aware that many people in the congregation were not familiar with the hall and addition and, thus, the on-going issues that prompted this long redevelopment journey.  To enable all members to be fully informed, hall tours were held on November 5 and 12, 2017 immediately following worship.  For those unable to access the various upper levels, a virtual tour was shown in the hall.


The second initiative of FirstUP! was to host a cleanup and decluttering day on December 2, 2017.   A large dumpster and several trailer loads of unused items were cleared away.  This made it easier to see the space and assess the issues.


Turning Point – January 2018

Over the months we wrestled with lowering the floor in rooms 12 and 14 to create one main floor level.

We explored removing the 1949 addition and replacing it with a new structure that would align with two of the existing floor levels in the hall.  This allowed us to see how a new build would allow us to meet the expressed needs and values of the congregation.

We recommended moving the nursery to the SW entry to the sanctuary but were advised by the Property Core Ministry that this would not be feasible.

We were advised by a commercial real estate agent of the most rentable space within the current structure.  This raised issues around security, separation of church/rental space, and access.  Two potential long-term renters visited the space and both chose not to continue conversations because of deficiencies in the hall and addition.

We brainstormed using blank drawings of the hall/addition footprint to determine creative ways to address the congregation’s needs and wants.  Each time we found ourselves frustrated by the limitations imposed by the existing structure.

Throughout this process it became clear to FirstUP! that renovations costs would be high, hard to predict and unlikely to result in a satisfactory conclusion.

After a year exploring multiple options for working within the existing building envelop, FirstUP! concluded that working within the current structure would not serve the needs or values of the congregation.




            Moving forward, FirstUP! determined that it was time to invite the Official Board to establish a fund-raising component for the redevelopment.  The following terms were approved by Official Board June 25 2018:


  • Purpose: The Rising to the Challenge Capital Fund (the “Fund”) will be established for new construction and/or substantial renovation (the “Project”) of First United Church in Kelowna, BC. Ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the property is out-of-scope.


  • Term: The Fund will be active for an initial five-year period until April 2023, and may be extended by the Board of First United (the “Board”) beyond 2023 if the fundraising campaign has been successful and further funding is still required.


  • Administration: A fundraising committee, to be appointed by the Board, will promote and manage the Fund. Interest will be re-invested in the fund.  A separate deferred revenue account will be established in the general ledger of First United to track the balance of the fund.  The Trustees will invest the cash balance of the Fund.


  • Disbursements: The Project may be split into construction phases. The Board will consider approval for each phase of construction based on a recommended project budget, and at least 50% of the funding for each phase being received and/or committed.  The Board will approve all expenditures from the Fund in advance.


  • Termination: Should the substantial renovation and/or new construction not proceed by April 2023, the Board (which may call a special congregational meeting) will determine how to disperse the funds, close the Fund, and terminate the project. If the Fund generates more money than needed for the Project, surplus money will be invested for long-term maintenance of the church property.

Currently the Rising to the Challenge Fund has the following assets:

            $97,000  –   manse fund

            $  5,000  –   assigned from Official Board

            $             –   Marilyn Perry bequest

The Rising to the Challenge Fund team will coordinate with the City of Kelowna, The Journey Home Strategy implementation team as well as others who have expressed interest in becoming tenants in a new build.

Moving Forward

In June, 2018 FirstUP! determined that the time was now right to connect with architects and a structural engineer to assess the building and address the issues that had emerged from our work over the last 16 months.

We began this phase with two meetings held with Murray White to review condition of facility.  Mr. White has been involved in the upkeep of the facility for many decades and is best placed to identify concerns.  The following is a list of the deficiencies he provided:

Electrical:            main panel & subpanels are full

Random subpanels throughout building

Service not adequate

Lighting:                current system of fat flourescents/ballasts not efficient

Requires scaffolding to change bulbs

Plumbing:            inadequate slope in drains from kitchen to sewer = frequent plugging

Water is left running in winter to prevent drain from freezing

Heating:                current heating is inefficient due to high ceilings in hall

3 furnaces  (belfry, Rm 26, thrift shop) service areas of hall/addition

Duct work = inefficient/inadequate

Insulation:            NO insulation in exterior walls

Flooring:              Floor in hall cannot be re-sanded

Roof:                     Requires replacement now

Mould:                 substantial mould/damp in thrift store

SS Rooms:            NO scope for redevelopment because of roof trusses

Settling:                SE corner of hall/NE corner of addition have significant settling

Rental potential:  current hall serves as a passage to other spaces thus offers no flow/privacy for potential       renters

Washrooms:       access is limited to main floor

Access limited when hall is in use

Are not wheelchair accessible


Accessibility:      NO access to Richter and Bernard doors

Lane sanctuary access by key

NO access to belfry, room 26, chancel

Current access from parking lot not deep enough for power chair

NO access from Bernard to parking lot

Current ramp from sanctuary to hall too narrow

Limited access to office areas

NO access to thrift shop

Asbestos:            unknown how much asbestos is in building ie.  Tiles, pipe wrap, ceiling tiles, duct wrap

Contact was made with Trinity Baptist and St. Michael and All Angels Church to discuss their recent redevelopment projects.  We received very helpful advice about process, architects and contractors.


October 18 2018      FirstUP! reviewed the draft report of structural engineering firm, ROV Consulting Ltd, regarding the hall and addition.

We asked them to explore three items:

1)  lowering the floor of the addition to make it level with the hall,

2) the capacity of the second floor (SS area) to carry substantial weight, and

3) the viability of renovating the interior space of the hall.



Key findings:

  • 5 different floor heights in the hall/addition
  • Visible signs of mould & lack of air circulation in Thrift Store
  • HVAC, plumbing, fire & electrical upgrades required to meet current building codes
  • Redesign of stairwells to meet current codes (additional space would be required)
  • Elevator/lift would be difficult to install in current structure
  • Hazardous material abatement is required (asbestos & mold)
  • Hall floor has fallen up to 1.5” at north end & 1” at south end creating convex shape
  • Renovations would add approximately 30-40 years to the buildings’ lives whereas new construction has a lifespan of 100 years or more
  • The cost of demolition and the re-use or recycling of existing lumber, bricks and other building materials



Respecting the history of First United Church, mindful of the conclusions reached by the redevelopment committees in 1985, 1999 and 2009, seeking to meet the congregation’s needs now and into the future, preserving the significant presence of First United in downtown Kelowna, and acknowledging that we are acting with the same faith, courage and vision as the founders did when they imagined the building of First:


We recommend the removal of the church hall and the 1948 addition and their replacement with a suitable structure in continued consultation with the congregation.


It is our hope that a new structure will provide for the preservation of the sanctuary, allow for the construction of a two-storey structure that will be inviting, accessible and will empower the diversity of ministries and programs of First.  We want to see First as an invaluable and dynamic hub in the centre of the city where people gather to learn, share and grow.

We are not alone.  This is our conviction that calls us to dream with courage and trust.


Respectfully submitted:

Rev. Dr. Sharon Wilson

Ernie Park                   Janet Watson              Keith Watts

Chris Fabbi                  Peter Wilson               Murray White

Jocelyn Smith              Linda Gilmour             Martha King

Rob Riddle                   Nikki Attwell                Rev. Dr. Donald Schmidt