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First United Mennonite Church, Vancouver BC
Source: Belinda Rempel

By the early 1930s, Mennonites were moving from rural areas in British Columbia (BC) and western Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia. The leadership of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada decided to send Elder Jacob H. Janzen from Ontario to Vancouver in 1935 to help organize a Mennonite congregation in the city. Jacob and his wife Elisabeth also helped to establish the Mary Martha Girls' Home to assist young Mennonite women who had in many cases been sent by their families to the city to earn income for the family. Services began in 1935, and the First United Mennonite Church (FUMC) was formally organized in 1937 with 11 charter members, the first Mennonite Church in Vancouver.

By the end of the 1940s circumstances produced a total change. World War II had ended and jobs were plentiful. Hundreds of Mennonite immigrants came to BC and many worked in Vancouver and the church filled up. In the summer of 1955 the congregation sold their church building on 49th Avenue and purchased a larger church building on 659 East 52nd Avenue. The congregation continues to worship at the same location, with the building have endured a couple of smaller renovations and one major renovation in the early 1980s.

During the early 1950s, the Mountainview Mennonite Church (formerly Vancouver Mennonite Mission) was built and a number of members who preferred English services transferred there. The Sunday school started a missionary project in Richmond and eventually a church was built -- Prince of Peace Mennonite Church. Membership in the church continued to grow and by 1965 Sherbrooke Mennonite Church was built and a new church body was organized in 1967. All three daughter congregations received both members and financial support from FUMC. First United Mennonite and Sherbrooke operated as one until 1968 when the latter became fully independent.

From 95 members in 1950 the membership grew to exceed 500 members in the 1960s and 1970s and into much of the 1980s. The 25th anniversary (1962) records 550 members and a 50th anniversary in 1987 saw some 500 members. In 2010 membership was 270. During the 1960s there were many growing families involved in the congregation. The Sunday school numbered in the hundreds and there was a vibrant Boys Club running as well. In 1986 a Spanish congregation was established; in May 1992 this congregation became a member of the Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia as the First United Spanish Mennonite Church.

With many young people leaving the city for the suburbs, the membership has declined in recent years. The makeup of the church has also changed. There is still a core group that has been at the church since the early 1950s and there are a number of young adults and new immigrants to Canada who also attend. Current ministries include a partnership with six other South Hill churches to provide ESL classes and an ESL "ALPHA" class through Kingcrest International Neighbours. FUMC also partnered with a number of local churches to establish and run the Place of Refuge, a transition house for persons with addictions.

[edit] Bibliography

Canadian Mennonite (24 November 1961): 26.

Churches in Profile. Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia, 1978: 99-103.

Harder, Henry. "A Short History of the Origins of the First United Mennonite Church, Vancouver, British Columbia." Research paper, Canadian Mennonite Bible College, 1976, 12 pp. Mennonite Heritage Centre.

Information bezueglich der Vereinigten Mennoniten Gemeinden in British Columbien: Gelegentlich der Konferenz der Mennoniten in Kanada, 1959. Abbotsford, BC: The Conference, 1959: 7.

Mennonite Reporter (24 June 1996): 12.

Archival Records

Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives, Winnipeg, MB: Volumes 109, 1010, 2780, 2928, 3390, 3539, 4441.

[edit] Additional Information

Address: 659 East 52nd Avenue, Vancouver, BC  V5X 1G8

Phone: 604-321-2131

Website: First United Mennonite Church

Denominational Affiliations:

Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia / Mennonite Church British Columbia (1936-present)

Conference of Mennonites in Canada / Mennonite Church Canada (1937-present)

General Conference Mennonite Church (1938-1999)

First United Mennonite Church Ministers

Minister Years
Jacob H. Janzen 1935-1937
Jacob B. Wiens 1937-1975
David J. Duerksen 1937-1952
Johann Goertz 1937-1947
Bernhard B. Friesen 1946-1966
Heinrich Goerz 1951-1972
Peter Letkemann 1951-1967
Erwin Cornelsen 1961-1967
Heinz Braun 1968-1974
David Nickel 1969-1983
Peter Neufeld 1972-1990
Henry Unrau 1975-1976
Ken Kehler 1976-1980
Abram Harder 1976-1987
Gene Klassen 1977-1980
Hans Federau 1980-1992
Larry Schram 1982-1989
Hans Krueger 1986-1988
Hans Fast 1986-1997
Paul Boschman 1989
Elden Wiebe 1990-1993
Jacob Tilitzky 1992-1993
Helmut Isaak 1993-2002
Pye Chew 1996-1999
Ingrid Schulz 2000-2012
Lydia Cruttwell 2012-present

First United Mennonite Church Membership

Year Members
1937 11
1940 50
1945 75
1950 95
1955 243
1959 471
1965 568
1975 575
1979 602
1985 539
1990 454
1995 357
2000 324
2005 303
2010 270

[edit] Maps

First United Mennonite Church, Vancouver, BC


Author(s) John Goossen
Date Published March 2013


[edit] Cite This Article

MLA style

Goossen, John. "First United Mennonite Church (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2013. Web. 29 Aug 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=First_United_Mennonite_Church_(Vancouver,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=104012.

APA style

Goossen, John. (March 2013). First United Mennonite Church (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 August 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=First_United_Mennonite_Church_(Vancouver,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=104012.




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