The Mennonite Brethren church in Virgil, Ontario has had three names: the Niagara Mennonite Brethren Church from 1937 until 1953, the Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church from 1953 until 1994 and Cornerstone Community Church from 1994 until the present.
In the early to mid 1930s, Mennonite descendants began moving to the Niagara-on-the-Lake area where they initially worshiped together at the Wilhelm Andres farm on Niven Road. By 1937 the first Mennonite Brethren congregation was formed and called the Niagara Mennonite Brethren Church. Meeting in private homes for four years, the building at the Virgil site was completed and occupied in the fall of 1941.
The church leaders who served were Johann F. Dick, Dietrich J. Klassen, Johann D. Penner and Jacob P. Dyck who served during the period when, in 1953, the name of the church was changed to the Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church. Then, in 1958, John G. Baerg was called as the first full-time pastor and served for eighteen years until 1976.
The church building has a long and interesting history. In 1961, a two-story Christian Education wing was added to the side of the original building while a second addition was completed in 1972 which consisted of a large kitchen and washrooms in the basement area, as well as a library, pastor's study and hallway on the main level.
While the early post-war period was a time of growth with the arrival of immigrants from Russia, Germany and South America, as well as the re-settlement of Mennonites from Canada's western provinces, that trend would change in the late 1970s. There were 436 members in 1950 and 473 in 1965, which resulted in two church plantings—the Niagara Fellowship Chapel on Concession 2 in 1957 and Orchard Park Bible Church on Hunter Road in 1971.
However, after the mid 1970s, membership numbers declined. As a result, in 1994, the Niagara Fellowship Chapel, the Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church and several families from other Mennonite Brethren congregations throughout the Niagara Region, joined together to form a new entity called Cornerstone Community Church. Still located on the original Virgil site, the Cornerstone church building was updated in the mid-1990s, at which time the roof line was lengthened over the second addition.
While the primary language of worship up to the 1960s was German, in 2003 it is English and represents individuals from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Mennonites. While all of the church's programs and worship services are in English, such as the Christian Education program for children and adults, and the main Sunday worship service, Cornerstone continues to provide a German Bible study on Wednesday afternoons during the winter months. The last German worship service was held on Sunday, 30 January 2005. Clearly, although some traditions remain, and many of the members still come from a Mennonite ancestry, that is changing due to a changing demographic.
"A Photo History and Recollections of Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church." A gift from Walter and Helen Bergmann to commemorate their 45th wedding anniversary, the history is a photo and anecdotal record from 1937 until 1998.
Bergmann, Helen Reimer, ed. Ebenezer, Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church, 1937-1987. Virgil, ON : The Church, 1987.
Bergmann, Helen Reimer. "Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church." 1974, 6 pp. Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies.
Friesen, C. Alfred. Memoirs of the Virgil-Niagara Mennonites. 1984: 44-48.
Mennonite Brethren Herald (2 October 1987): 20; (27 May 1988): 52; (18 March 1994); (10 June 1994): 15.
When Your Children Shall Ask: A History of the Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches 1957-1982. 1982: 50-52.
Address: Box 112, 1570 Niagara Stone Rd., Virgil, ON, L0S 1T0.
Phone: (905) 468-7155
Website: Cornerstone Community Church website
Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1937-present)
Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1937-present)
General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1939-2002)
Cornerstone Community Church Leading Ministers
|Johann F. Dick||1937-1943|
|Dietrich J. Klassen||1943-1945|
|Johann D. Penner||1945-1951|
|Jacob P. Dyck||1951-1957|
|John G. Baerg||1958-1976|
|Victor Loewen (interim)||2000-2003|
Cornerstone Membership Statistics
|Author(s)||Sandra C Crux|
|Date Published||July 2003|
Cite This Article
Crux, Sandra C. "Cornerstone Community Church (Virgil, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2003. Web. 31 Jan 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Cornerstone_Community_Church_(Virgil,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=112538.
Crux, Sandra C. (July 2003). Cornerstone Community Church (Virgil, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 31 January 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Cornerstone_Community_Church_(Virgil,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=112538.
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