Members of Kelowna First Mennonite Church are selling their church building, but that doesn’t mean they are closing their doors. As of May, the small congregation is meeting in a nearby seniors residence.
With fewer than a dozen seniors attending Sunday morning services, maintaining a church building was no longer manageable. Last year, the congregation began looking for a purchaser, and accepted the offer of Willow Park Church, a Mennonite Brethren congregation whose south campus had been meeting in a school.
With Willow Park South taking possession on May 1, First Mennonite members were busy during April cleaning out files, music, books and other items significant to the congregation.
Just last year, First Mennonite celebrated its 75th anniversary. Membership has fluctuated over the years, reaching its peak of 89 in 1995, and it has gradually declined since then.
The retirement of the last resident pastor, combined with the pandemic three years ago, led the congregation to begin hiring virtual pastors. Lisa Martens Bartel first filled that role, and Ken Dueck is the current virtual pastor, preaching regularly by Zoom.
The congregation has a “strong desire to remain a worshipping community,” Dueck says. “We could continue worshipping in the church building, but would have to work around Willow Park’s schedule, and the time available wasn’t suitable for us.”
When First Mennonite explored options to hold worship services elsewhere, it found an ideal location just next door at the Northwood Retirement Resort. Northwood has offered its theatre room for Sunday morning services, including projector, sound system and theatre seating. First Mennonite’s worship services will be open to all residents of Northwood.
Kevin Barkowsky, Mennonite Church B.C.’s interim executive minister, who pastored First Mennonite from 2011 to 2015, says, “Mennonite Church B.C. would like to wish First Mennonite Church Kelowna God’s richest blessings as they transition to a new building and new opportunities for ministry at Northwood.”
Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in B.C.? Send it to Amy Rinner Waddell at email@example.com.
Add new comment
Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.