Erb Street Mennonite Church (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
The Erb Street Mennonite Church, located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, was first named the David Eby Congregation when early Pennsylvania Mennonite settlers began meeting in the home of David and Elizabeth (Bechtel) Eby. A few of the other families were Jacob C. and Elizabeth (Cressman) Snider, Joseph and Rebecca (Rosenberger) Stauffer and Samuel and Susannah (Erb) Shantz.
Beginning at least in the mid-1830s the place of worship was near what is now the Beechwood Plaza on the northwest corner of Fisher-Hallman Road and Erb Street West in Waterloo. In about 1851, a brick meetinghouse was built and a cemetery established across the road on land donated by David Eby and his son David B. Eby.
When the 1889 division in the Mennonite Conference of Ontario resulted in the formation of the Ontario Old Order Mennonites, the David Eby congregation had families which were divided. It lost its leader, Bishop Elias Snider. His son Jonas remained and was ordained to this congregation three years later.
A decision was made to move closer to town and in 1902 the congregation completed a new church building at 131 Erb Street West. Driving sheds for horses, built in 1890, were taken to the new property and used for years after horses were no longer the mode of transportation – for events like Summer Bible School. In 1902 the name was changed to Waterloo Mennonite Church. Later, in mid-century, the name was changed to Erb Street Mennonite Church. The cemetery remains active in its original location. Part of the cemetery property has been made available for community gardens.
Mary Snider is thought to be the first person from the David Eby congregation to perform a social service when she took a paid position to manage the Berlin (later Kitchener) Orphanage in 1896. From that time members, men and women, served within and outside Waterloo: at the Toronto Mission, the Waterloo Charity Circle, Mennonite Orphanage in Ohio, Argentina, House of Friendship in Kitchener, Mennonite Central Committee in many capacities and countries, India, Brazil, Germany, Africa, Central and South America, Canada, the Caribbean and Kitchener-Waterloo. Since the 1990s, young adults served with Global Youth Network, Mennonite Board of Missions, Mennonite Voluntary Service, Mennonite Central Committee and numerous non-Mennonite organizations. In 2015 Luke and Leah Reesor-Keller were working for Mennonite Central Committee in Nepal and Karen and Andrew Suderman were in South Africa. Erb Street congregation and individual members support local Mennonite-related and non-Mennonite organizations.
What is now Women of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (WMCEC) and often referred to as “sewing circle” was founded in 1908 by the women of Waterloo Mennonite Church. The Waterloo Charity Circle was the first Mennonite women’s group organized in Ontario and in 2015 it continues at Erb Street as WMCEC meeting monthly to quilt and knot comforters for the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale and disadvantaged people, to support each other and local organizations.
On 19 July 1924 over 800 Mennonite immigrants from the Soviet Union walked from the nearby train station to the Waterloo Mennonite Church. Here they were welcomed and billets arranged; some were temporary until the families continued their journey to western Canada. Others made their home in Waterloo and adjoining counties.
The era of pastor Jesse B. Martin and his wife Naomi (Collier) at Erb Street Mennonite church, which covered 35 years, was a long and storied one. Particularly dear to him was a program that allowed Canadian conscientious objectors to perform civilian alternative service in lieu of military training during World War II. He was one of several Mennonite leaders in Canada who spent the war years promoting the Mennonite peace position both to the federal government and the church itself. His was a grueling schedule as he traveled in Canada and the United States and visited the men in work camps.
In 1976 Project H. E. A. R. (Help Erb Street Area Residents) was begun as an outreach program to provide transportation, visiting and phoning services for seniors. It continued as Volunteer Service for Seniors until 1993 when it was integrated into Waterloo Home Support Services. Also in 1976, Erb Street joined three (later four) nearby Waterloo churches to prepare and serve weekly meals and provide social time at Erb Street for seniors from September to June. Transportation and programs were provided for and enjoyed by 50–70 seniors each week.
Shalom Counselling Services began at Erb Street Mennonite Church in 1983. Originally housed within the church building, Shalom moved in 2002 to the church house across the parking lot at 9 Avondale Avenue South. In 2015 the agreement between Shalom and Erb Street was expanded so that the church house space could be doubled for Shalom’s expanded needs.
In 2001 Erb Street Mennonite Church celebrated and marked its 150th anniversary (counted from when the first meetinghouse was built) by publishing two books: an in-depth and detailed history by Karl Kessler, Path of a People: Erb Street Mennonite Church 1851–2001; and Be Present at our Table, an illustrated compilation of members’ recipes and stories. To highlight past members and make the cemetery more familiar, a cemetery walk booklet was produced.
Changes to the building were made in 1950 and 1980 -- the latter included an enclosed ramp. In 2002 further renovations and an addition to the building were completed.
In 2010 the congregation celebrated its 160th year with the production of “Cantata 160” by member-composer Joanne Bender. Erb Street’s love of education, fun and music come through in events and programs like “Noah, The Ark and the Rainbow” (by Bender), Erb Street Idol, choirs, Earth Day, Vacation Bible Camp, and the Church Fun Weekend.
The vision statement for Erb Street Mennonite is: Rooted ~ Branching ~ Growing: Erb Street Mennonite church is a welcoming and inclusive community of diverse persons each contributing uniquely to our common purpose of following Jesus Christ. Erb Street Mennonite Church is identified on Spectrum (Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Space) and in its booklet under Faith and Spiritual Groups indicating that Erb Street is a welcoming congregation for gender and sexually diverse people of all ages in Waterloo Region. The rainbow flag is included on Erb Street’s web site to indicate this association.
Ambrose, Rosemary Willard. Waterloo County Churches: a Research Guide to Churches established before 1900. Region of Waterloo Museums. Web. 22 July 2015. http://www.waterlooregionmuseum.com/collections-and-research/churches-in-waterloo-region-to-1900/
Burkholder, L. J. A Brief History of the Mennonites in Ontario. Kitchener, Ontario: Mennonite Conference of Ontario, 1935: 95-98.
Hunsberger, Albert and Greta. A Brief History of the David Eby Church and Erb Street Mennonite at Waterloo, Ontario from 1851-1976. The Church, 1976.
Kessler, Karl. Path of a People: Erb Street Mennonite Church 1851-2001. Waterloo, Ontario: Erb Street Mennonite Church, 2001.
Roes, Marion. Cemetery Walk. Waterloo, Ont.: The Church, 2001. Web. 22 July 2015. http://erbstchurch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Erb-Street-Cemetery-Walk-Booklet.pdf.
Waterloo Region Generations. Web. 22 July 2015. http://generations.regionofwaterloo.ca/searchform.php [For further information on persons mentioned in the article search this database.]
Church records at Mennonite Archives of Ontario.
Address: 131 Erb Street West, Waterloo, ON N2L 1T7
Cemetery Address: 407 Erb Street West, Waterloo, Ontario
Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec (1851-1988)
Mennonite Church (1898-1999)
Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (1988-present)
Erb St. Mennonite Church Pastors
|Jacob M. Oberholtzer||ca. 1840-ca. 1870|
|Jesse B. Martin
|Tanya Dyck Steinman
|Glenda Ribey Rozomiak
(Christian Education Coordinator)
|Jodie Boyer Hatlem
|Doug Johnson Hatlem
Erb St. Mennonite Church Membership
Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article
By Jesse B. Martin. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 241. All rights reserved.
Erb Street Mennonite Church (MC), located in Waterloo, Ontario, a member of the Ontario Conference, was organized by settlers who came from Pennsylvania in 1810-1825--David Eby, Jonas Bingeman, and Samuel Schantz. The meetinghouse was built about two miles (3.2 km) west of Waterloo and was known as the David Eby Church. In 1902 a new church was built in town, which was rebuilt and enlarged in 1950. Among the earlier leaders were the ministers Elias Schneider, Jonas Snider, and Noah Hunsberger, and the deacons Abram Hunsberger and Noah Weber. In more recent years the leaders have been Newton Weber, Jesse B. Martin, and Clare Shantz. It was within the Waterloo congregation that the first evangelistic meetings were held in private homes, about 1885. In 1886 a Sunday school was held in a schoolhouse, and later in the David Eby Church. Also in 1890 "Edification meetings" began in private homes. Foreign missionaries from the congregation were L. S. Weber and his wife, and Edna Good, in South America. The present minister and bishop of the congregation is Jesse B. Martin, and the membership is 281.
|Date Published||July 2015|
Cite This Article
Roes, Marion. "Erb Street Mennonite Church (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2015. Web. 21 May 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Erb_Street_Mennonite_Church_(Waterloo,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=143146.
Roes, Marion. (July 2015). Erb Street Mennonite Church (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Erb_Street_Mennonite_Church_(Waterloo,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=143146.
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