Our StaffJudy Epp
History of Rosthern Mennonite Church
Rosthern was only a plate stuck on a telegraph pole and a water reservoir for refilling the steam engines, when the first Mennonite settlers arrived in 1891. Families with familiar surnames were in that first group – Andres, Ens, Neudorf, Friesen, Hamm, Regier, Dyck, Siemens and Klassen. Some of these families have descendants worshipping with us today. Upon arrival in Rosthern, the railway coaches were shunted onto a siding and these settlers lived in them for five weeks while deciding just where they would settle.
A formal church organization of settlers in the area was formed in 1894, and a church building for the whole area was built of logs at Eigenheim, six miles west of the Rosthern settlement, in 1896. This congregation was called Rosenort.
A number of the members of the Rosenort Church lived in Rosthern, and met in homes, which had become too small to accommodate the growing group. A small church building was constructed in 1903, and still stands in its original spot today. It is the meeting place of the Church of New Jerusalem. However, the church continued to grow rapidly, through baptisms as well as the arrival of new settlers, and a new building was erected in 1912, on approximately the site of the present church. One of the earliest leaders of this church was Rev. David Toews, who served the congregation from 1913-1946.
During the 1920’s, word came to Canada of the extreme hardships that Mennonites in Russia were suffering. Rev. Toews had a dream of resettling many of these Mennonites in Canada. Although government policies, both in Canada and Russia, were against this possibility, David Toews began to work toward making his dream come true. He spent much time and effort talking to everyone from government officials to railroad executives, and eventually over 20,000 Mennonites from Russia came to Canada. A number of these people settled in the Rosthern area, and brought considerable new energy and gifts to the congregation here.
Other pastors who served the church included Rev. Johann G. Rempel, from 1946 – 1955, Rev. J.C. Schmidt, from 1954 – 1963, Rev. Paul Schroeder, 1964-68, Rev. Waldemar Regier, 1970-78, Rev. Died Gerbrandt, 1979-85, Rev. Rudy Froese, 1985 – 1997, Rev. Craig Friesen, 1997 – 2005, Wilmer & Barb Froese, 2006 - 2010, and our current pastor, Rev. Craig Neufeld, who began his ministry here in 2010.
Lay leadership was always part of the church in the earlier years, taking some of the burden of ministry of the large congregation from the senior pastor. In 1988, a second pastor was hired, when Michael Peak became the associate/youth pastor. Since then, Chester Wiebe, Mark & Candace Wurtz, Marco Funk, Lucas Plett, Wendy Luitjens, Tiffany Crouch, and Craig Neufeld have held this position. More recently, a community youth group, led by Jon Epp and a group of volunteers, has met in our church.
The church building constructed in 1912 served for many years, but by the early 1960’s was showing signs of being much too small for the congregation. It was decided to build a new church, so the lot beside the church building was purchased, and in 1963-64 a new brick building was constructed. This building featured a much larger sanctuary, as well as a number of classrooms for Sunday School, a large library area, a large and well-equipped kitchen, and a lower hall that could accommodate the congregation for wedding meals, banquets, etc. With some renovations, this building has now served as our place of worship for more than 50 years.
The Rosenort congregation began to be divided into smaller autonomous congregations beginning in 1929, and in 1954 Rosthern became part of the United Mennonite Church of Saskatchewan, which also included congregations at Laird, Osler and Horse Lake. In 1962 this was again decentralized, and the Rosthern Mennonite Church became a completely separate congregation.
Over the years it has been our privilege to be connected with many Mennonite institutions in the Rosthern area. People working at these institutions often became a part of the congregation, and they offered people in our congregation many chances to serve God and the church. Rosthern Junior College, the Mennonite Youth Farm, including its various homes, the Home for the Aged, and more recently the Clothes Basket, have all been places in the community where our faith could be demonstrated in practical ways. In earlier years, the Mennonite Board of Colonization, the German-language newspaper Der Bote, and the Mennonite bookstore were also important institutions to the church and community.
The Rosthern Mennonite Church celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003, and continues as an active congregation today.
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