church stories

Hope and faith . . . even when things don’t go as planned

Prairie Mennonite Fellowship gathered for the first time at an outdoor worship service on June 28. (Photo by Jill Hildebrand)

Pastor Erin Morash speaks to Prairie Mennonite Fellowship at its first gathering. (Photo by Jill Hildebrand)

Prairie Mennonite Fellowship is located in the church building of former congregation Crystal City (Man.) Mennonite Church. Congregants and leaders are easily able to physically distance appropriately and are fine-tuning their worship to work during COVID-19. (Photo by Jill Hildebrand)

There is a new church among the farmlands of southwestern Manitoba, but it has more than a hundred years of history.

This spring, Crystal City Mennonite Church and Trinity Mennonite Fellowship in Mather merged to create the new Prairie Mennonite Fellowship congregation.

‘House church with a building’

Northgate Anabaptist Fellowship members meet in their church building on the second Sunday of Lent, shortly before the pandemic forced them to worship from home. Ernie and Eileen Klassen, facing the front of the church, listen as Wayne Plenert leads worship, with Delores Plenert at the piano. (Photo by Esther Klassen)

With eight members, Northgate Anabaptist Fellowship of Dawson Creek is the smallest congregation in Mennonite Church British Columbia. It is also the most remote, located about 1,880 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, near the Alberta border.

From days gone by to ‘Richer Days’

Hilda Epp stands beside the Pleasant Point Mennonite Church cemetery gate. A portion of the cemetery houses the graves of early Moravian settlers. (Photo by Lorne Epp)

Pleasant Point Mennonite Church is the only MC Saskatchewan church building to boast a steeple and a bell. (Photo by Lorne Epp)

Like many rural congregations, Pleasant Point Mennonite Church isn’t as large as it once was. But, although small in number, the church enjoys a rich and interesting congregational life.

Pleasant Point also has an intriguing history. It’s the only Mennonite Church Saskatchewan congregation with a building that boasts a steeple and a church bell.

Riverton Fellowship Circle closes its doors

Visitors to Riverton Fellowship Circle receive a mug “full of love.” Church leader Barb Daniels, centre, presents church mugs to translator Ed Toews, left; Brigido Loewen of Paraguay; Alina Itucama of Panama; and translator Liz Drewnisz. (CM 2010 file photo)

Riverton (Man.) Fellowship Circle decided on June 24 to close its doors, passing a motion to dissolve the church corporation and its assets.

Getting into the Christmas spirit across Canada

The Menno Simons Christian School Junior-high band, conducted by Christina Carpenter, performs at a seniors lunch at Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary on Nov. 28. (Photo by Mackenzie Miller)

In keeping with the season, Canadian Mennonite has wrapped up four Christmas events—from Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia—into one package for your festive reading.

 

175 years by faith

Three generations of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church share a readers theatre called ‘175 Years by Faith’ during a worship service celebrating its 175th anniversary. Pictured from left to right: Jonah Willms, Doris Kramer and Micah Jarvis sit on a bench from the 1851 meetinghouse at the church’s original location in the unmarked hamlet of Three Bridges. (Photo by Marcia Shantz)

A display celebrating 175 years of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church shows a key to the first meetinghouse, the first English songbook, and a baptism pitcher. (Photo courtesy of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church)

In 1844, just under a half-hectare of land near the east bank of the Conestoga River was purchased from John Brubacher for the sum of five shillings.

Money for missions

Baked goods sell quickly at St. Catharines United Mennonite Church’s annual Mennonite Food and Craft Bazaar. (Photo by Maria H. Klassen)

In 1989, a group of women from St. Catharines United Mennonite Church decided to sell their crafts and baking to raise money for missions. This “making and baking” was something the women did well, and their efforts became known as the Mennonite Food and Craft Bazaar.

Arnaud Mennonite Church celebrates 75 years

Church members brought back the circle games they used to play at weddings and church events when they were young. (Photo by Rick Friesen)

Over 150 people gathered to celebrate Arnaud Mennonite Church’s 75th anniversary. (Photo by Rick Friesen)

Past and present members of Arnaud Mennonite Church revived the church choir, a feature that was a regular part of weekly worship in the past. (Photo by Rick Friesen)

The old circle games reminded participants of their youth. (Photo by Rick Friesen)

Young and old participated in church picnic activities after lunch. (Photo by Rick Friesen)

Arnaud Mennonite Church was built in 1944. It has outlived the Arnaud Mennonite Brethren and Lichtenau Mennonite congregations, which closed in the late 1990s. (Photo by Rick Friesen)

While many churches in rural Canada face closure, Arnaud Mennonite Church recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. Located in the prairie town of Arnaud, Man., the church is home to a wide range of ages, from young families with children to seniors.

Calgary church offers space for community events

The group Hymn performs at the Bright Lights Festival at Theatre 1308 in Calgary on Feb. 24. (Theatre 1308 photo)

Dale Taylor, Calgary Inter-Mennonite Church’s congregational chair, is pictured in the basement reception area of Theatre 1308. (Photo by John Longhurst)

“Light up the church.”

That’s what members of Calgary Inter-Mennonite decided they wanted to do when asked about ways to engage with their local community.

What that meant for the congregation of about 40 households was making their building, located in the northeast part of the city, available for use by others during the week—not only on Sunday mornings by congregants.

Tuesdays at Faith

Tuesday’s Book Club at Faith Mennonite Church includes, from left to right: Sonja Kuli, Joan Enns, Anne Reimer, Nancy Hogendyk and Rita Unrau.

Tuesday’s Book Club at Faith Mennonite Church includes, from left to right: Anne Reimer, Nancy Hogendyk, Rita Unrau and Linda Thiessen-Belch.

Rita Unrau shows off one of the many ‘encouragement cards’ that have been distributed in Faith Mennonite Church’s pews.

McKayla and her grandma, Marianne Dyck, pose for a shot while making vegetarian chili in Faith Mennonite Church’s kitchen.

Like at many Mennonite churches, the back of any given pew at Faith Mennonite in Leamington includes a blue hymnal, an offering envelope, and, for the lucky few, a small, colourful, hand-made encouragement card. These one-of-a-kind cards are something new and they point to a wily group of seniors who are helping to bring new energy into the life of the congregation.

Two centuries of worship, a century of service

Rainham Mennonite Church has been worshipping for more than two centuries. (Rainham Mennonite Church file photo)

For more than a century, the women of Rainham Mennonite Church—a tiny congregation just off of Highway 3 near the north shore of Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario—have continued a sewing circle, one that is now augmented by women from the community. The group still quilts regularly during the fall and winter. 

Mennonite organizations help Montreal church with renovations

Peter Kroeker, a Mennonite Disaster Service volunteer from Vineland (Ont.) United Mennonite Church, works on the exit stairs during renovations at Hochma Mennonite Church to bring its basement homeless shelter up to code. (Photos by Nicholas Hamm)

Silvain L’hereault, Hochma Mennonite Church’s shelter coordinator, gives a thumbs-up in thanks for the 30 quilts from Mennonite Central Committee Ontario that will be enough to carry the ministry through the season and allow it to discard some of its threadbare bedding. (Photo by Nicholas Hamm)

Every night, from November to April, volunteers from Hochma Mennonite Church in Montreal open its doors as a warming centre for some 40 people who are experiencing homelessness. The church wants to become a licenced shelter operating year-round, but its building needs roughly $200,000 worth of renovations to bring it up to code. 

‘A place to belong’

Members of the Sherbrooke Mennonite Church’s food-bank outreach ministry enjoy a Christmas celebration together. Participants say the gatherings help them feel like a family. (Photo by Yohan Sanchez)

Food may be what draws people to the basement of Sherbrooke Mennonite Church every Thursday morning, but it’s not what keeps them coming. It’s a feeling of family, a place to call home.

Going solar

Wayne MacDonald sees installing solar panels on the roof of Wildwood Mennonite as “an expression of what we value as a congregation.” The 20 panels are expected to cover 60 percent of the church’s energy costs. (Drone photo by Les Klassen Hamm)

Wildwood Mennonite Church recently became the first Mennonite Church Saskatchewan congregation to go solar. But, as with all major spending decisions, this one wasn’t made overnight.

‘How can I help?’

Chris Steingart, as Joseph, shows off his amazing Technicolor dreamcoat while his brothers look on with disgust from the background. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Narrator and musical director Stacey VanderMeer, far right, takes a selfie with the whole family of Jacob in Breslau Mennonite Church’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Joseph, played by Chris Steingart, accuses Benjamin, played by Jonathan Klassen, of stealing his cup. Narrator Stacey VanderMeer, in red, registers shock while the chorus joins in the blame. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Matthew Rappolt, left, Karl Braun, Brent Schmidt and Nick Martin, as some of Joseph’s brothers facing famine, long for ‘Those Canaan Days’ when they had plenty to eat. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Janice Klassen, left, Amanda Snyder and Karl Braun dance and sing, ‘Go, Go, Go Joseph,’ to assure him that he’s not beaten yet, and his fortunes will change. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Justin Martin, right, who played Issachar and served as production manager, explains to his father Jacob, played by Phil Martin, left, what happened to Joseph, and why there will be ‘one less place at the table, while one of the brothers look on. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Chris Steingart, Joseph and artistic director, and Stacey VanderMeer, narrator and musical director, begin to tell the children the story of Joseph and his dreams. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Driving to the cottage while listening to a recording of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Justin Martin had an idea. Could Breslau Mennonite Church stage it? More than a year-and-a-half later, that dream came true. 

Church steps up to help local food bank

Pictured from left to right, Elaine Lepp, Pastor Karen Sheil, Margaret Wieler and Elma Lepp pack Christmas hampers for the local food bank in a Sunday school classroom at Harrow Mennonite Church. (Photo by Zach Charbonneau)

In December, Essex County was preparing to rest. The land had done its work, providing crops for farmers to harvest and get to market. The temperature dropped and the workload followed suit. Tractors were in the sheds and off the roads. Farmers and rural folk became shoppers and headed to urban centres to hunt down that perfect gift for Christmas.

Church members come through with ‘unexpected Christmas challenge’

ABBOTSFORD, B.C.—Christmas 2018 was a little merrier for residents of Kinghaven Treatment Centre, a 62-bed treatment centre helping men recover from substance abuse and addiction, and the George Schmidt Centre, a second-stage housing facility for men wishing to continue their recovery journey, thanks to members of Level Ground Mennonite Church.

‘Much is expected’

Roberson Mbayamvula, left, lead pastor of Hagerman Mennonite; Paul Mo, Markham Chinese Mennonite’s pastor; and Joseph Savarimuthu, pastor of Markham Christian Worship Centre, a Tamil congregation, cut the ribbon on their renovated church building on Oct. 14, 2018. (Photo by Godfrey Cheng)

After more than three years and with a budget of $1.4 million, Hagerman Mennonite Church in Markham, Ont., has completed a significant building renovation. But more than efficient space and a sleek exterior, the project represents the power of this church, a diverse partnership of different congregations, to work together as the body of Christ to accomplish big things as a community.

Eigenheim Mennonite fills MCC Buckets of Thanks

When Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Saskatchewan put out the call for churches and other groups to participate in its Buckets of Thanks challenge, Eigenheim Mennonite Church, near Rosthern, answered the call. Buckets of Thanks is an opportunity for young and old alike to assemble relief kits for MCC. When Eigenheim Mennonite decided to participate, it aimed to raise $1,750 to offset the cost of 35 kits. The event was held on Oct. 14, 2018, following the church’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Rural church celebrates 70 years of God’s presence

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.

Emmaus Mennonite closes after 90 years

This well-kept building has been home to Emmaus Mennonite Church since it was moved on to the property in 1937. Now that the congregation has closed, the building is for sale. (Photo by Lorna Wiens)

Marvin Wiens, Emmaus Mennonite’s congregational chair, leads worship during the church’s closing worship service. Also pictured are Lorna Wiens, Susan Peters and Gaylia Wiens. (Photo by Ryan Siemens)

Fred Heese, who served as Emmaus Mennonite’s pastor for over 20 years, shares the congregation’s history at its closing service, held in Wymark on Oct. 28. (Photo by Ryan Siemens)

“There’s not one of us that isn’t grieving,” said Lorna Wiens. “We’re all unhappy to lose our church building, our congregation, our friends.” Wiens was reflecting on the decision to close Emmaus Mennonite Church in Wymark, Sask.

Dying well

Within Mennonite denominations, the closure of churches is also a reality that requires acknowledgement and careful planning, so that their legacy might be a blessing. (Photo: © istock.com/hal990)

In Alberta, Faith Mennonite Church and Vauxhall Mennonite Church closed their doors in 1996 and 2000, respectively. Both congregations gave some funds to Camp Valaqua, a ministry of Mennonite Church Alberta. The contributions enabled the construction of the Faith Retreat Centre, above, and the Vauxhall Cabin, increasing the usability and accessibility of the camp for all. (Camp Valaqua photo)

Camp Valaqua received funds from two Alberta churches when they closed their doors. (Camp Valaqua photo)

After 71 years of faithful service, Riverdale Mennonite Church in Millbank, Ont., closed its doors on Aug. 31, 2017. The building was sold to the Berean Community Church for a dollar the next day. (Photo by Sheryl Frey)

Every living thing eventually dies, including churches. Just as people who do not plan for death may complicate things for their families, churches that do not plan for eventual closure can leave a mess for congregants and their surrounding communities.

Mennonites in Montreal aid refugees

Hochma’s worshipping space was repurposed as a donation centre for refugees. (Photo by Michel Monette)

Michel Monette

Not feeling safe in the United States, a young woman climbed on a plane and flew to Montreal with her children. But the U.S. is considered a safe country for refugees, so she was forced to return. Still afraid, she crossed the border into Quebec and ended up at Coalition d’aide aux réfugiés à Montréal (Coalition to aid refugees in Montreal), housed in the Hochma church building.

Best practices begin with prayer

Louise Campbell poses with the New International Version Student Bible and a copy of the most recent ‘Season of reading guide’ used by Leamington (Ont.) United Mennonite Church to increase biblical literacy in the congregation for the past two years. (Photo by Dave Rogaslky)

While many congregations are shuttering or repurposing their education wings, Leamington United Mennonite Church built a whole new addition in 2011, replacing a 1959 building that had been linked to their new worshipping and office space when they were built in 1984.

No longer alone

Ottawa Mennonite Church is located at 1830 Kilborn Avenue in the nation’s capital.

Pastor Anthony Siegrist is pictured in the worship space at Ottawa Mennonite Church.

In past years, there were only two Anabaptist congregations in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, one Mennonite Brethren and the other, Ottawa Mennonite Church, a member of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.

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