Annie Girard became responsible for the building at 823 Jackson Avenue in 1969 based on the decision of the Presiding Elder of the Afican Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Seattle. With that decision, the presence of the AME in Vancouver effectively ended, although the title transfer was not finalized until 1974.
Girard (pictured above in front of 823 Jackson Avenue) was born Annie Lluella Barry in 1922 in Stonybrook Alberta. She grew up on a farm with her three siblings and 10 half-siblings. In 1936 she moved to Kelowna and lived there for two years before moving to Vancouver in 1938 at the age of 16. Girard’s first husband was Herman Cecil Walker and they had three children; she was known as Annie Walker when she first took over the building.
Girard describes in an interview from 1977 (Opening Doors unpublished interview, Marlatt and Itter) how she had a life changing vision in June 1969 in which she was visited by an angelic being who instructed her to “Go and claim the old cloured people’s church for the glory of God.” It wasn’t easy but she worked hard to make this a reality. She worked at cleaning up the church, started preaching in her own non-denominational worship services at the church and eventually was able to purchase the property.
Girard established a ministry in the name of the “Cry in the Wilderness Church”, which is how the listing of 823 Jackson Avenue appears on city directories from 1975 to 1985, although she still referred to the building as the Fountain Chapel during this time. Ms. Girard hosted people associated with the Jesus Movement at the Fountain Chapel for a period of time in the early 1970s and eventually broke with them, while continuing her own sanctuary for youth. She recounts in her 1977 interview how she would drive her red station wagon to Jericho Beach and talk to young people and offer them a place to stay at the church.
Girard’s third husband was Pierre Girard, and they established a landscaping business in the church, “P.G.’s Pruning and Gardening Co. Ltd.,” and for many years Annie and Pierre operated the business together. Girard was injured in an accident and could no longer work in the landscaping business. Pierre subsequently returned to Montreal and without a source of income Ms. Girard was forced to give up the church in 1985. Annie Girard died in 2007 and is buried in Abbostford, BC.