Rural church celebrates 70 years of God’s presence

November 19, 2018 | Web First
Gladys Terichow | Special to Canadian Mennonite
Pastor Erin Morash, left, and artist/quilter Esther Hildebrand stand in front of the banner that was designed and quilted by Hildebrand to commemorate the church’s 70th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Jill Hildebrand)

About 160 people gathered in Crystal City Mennonite Church, Man., on Nov. 4, 2018, to celebrate 70 years of God’s faithfulness and guidance.The theme “In God’s Hands” was reflected in the stories and memories that were shared of the church’s past and present experiences, says Pastor Erin Morash. “God’s presence is constant and eternal, even when we are unaware of it. During good times and hard times, God does not let go.”Guest speakers at the celebration were retired Canadian Mennonite University professor Harry Huebner, who grew up in the church; Joyce Kehler, daughter of Susan Harms and the late Peter Harms, who was a pastor in the church; and Abe Buhler and Erwin Kroeker, who were both former pastors. 

Morash says their stories and memories celebrated the founding of the church in 1948 by two groups of Mennonite families who met in homes before deciding to worship together and build a church. Both groups had emigrated from what is now Ukraine. One group had emigrated in the 1870s and the other group in the 1920s. The church was overseen by the bishop of the Whitewater Mennonite Church in Boissevain. By 1958, the congregation had outgrown the building and built the church that is still being using today. More expansions to the building took place over the years.

Theological differences resulted in a significant number of people leaving the church in the mid-1990s. Morash, who has been the pastor the past 12 years, says the anniversary celebrations showed that the wounds from this division have healed. 

“Everyone was welcomed back,” she says. “There was no residual sorrow or grief, just pure joy. We enjoy being together and making a difference in our community and world.”

Last year, the congregation of about 50 to 60 members sewed 170 blankets for Mennonite Central Committee. “For a church our size, that is impressive,” she says. 

In recent years, the church has organized three volunteer work groups for Mennonite Disaster Service projects. The church also collaborates with other churches to raise funds for charitable projects.

One of the current challenges is the trend for older people to relocate to larger urban centres, where medical and transportation services are more accessible.

“We are a healthy church now, but even congregations have mortality,” she says. “Regardless where we find ourselves, we are in God’s hands. Those hands are always beneath us, even on the threshold of death.”

Pastor Erin Morash, left, and artist/quilter Esther Hildebrand stand in front of the banner that was designed and quilted by Hildebrand to commemorate the church’s 70th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Jill Hildebrand)

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