After World War II, the Hoffnungsfeld Mennonite Church discontinued services in Wembley near Grande Prairie, Alberta, leaving several Mennonite families without a church home. Over the next several years, ministers from southern Alberta traveled to the Grande Prairie area to conduct services. By the mid-1950s an appeal was made to Conference of Mennonites in Alberta delegates to establish a permanent work in the area. John Friesen arrived in 1957 and began working in both Lymburn and Grande Prairie, organizing a Bible study. The Alberta and Canadian conferences were approached in December 1957 for assistance in acquiring land for a church, and by March 1959 a lot was purchased. The church building was completed within a year and dedicated on 31 January 1960.
At first the church was a mission church funded by both the Alberta and Canadian conferences. The congregation became independent on 1 April 1963 with 23 charter members. Friesen resigned at the end of 1963 and was succeeded by John P. Loewen, who served until 1966. By 1965 the average Sunday school attendance was between 65 and 85. Ken Buller became pastor in 1967 but the same tensions and animosities that plagued both Friesen and Loewen continued under Buller, and he resigned in less than a year. A vote was held to close the church, but members elected to continue under the direct control of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada Board of Missions. The Board asked C. G. Neufeld to serve, and his personal warmth and stability helped the church to regroup. Neufeld visited families in Wembley, La Glace, Beaverlodge, Lymburn, Sexsmith, Spirit River, and Silver Valley, and weekly Sunday morning attendance grew to 40-60.
After Neufeld's resignation in 1970, Ken Buller resumed leadership responsibilities. In 1973 the church celebrated the baptism of six persons, the first time a baptism had been held since 1965. In 1975, Dennis Epp replaced Buller as pastor of the congregation, but his tenure ended in early 1976. "Since 1978 the Holy Spirit has lead Hillcrest into great unity and a multi-faceted ministry including daycare, school, counselling, bookstore, and residence for those needing mental, emotional, spiritual help. Over half of the congregation during the 1980s had no Mennonite background."
The congregation in 1989 was the location of the Hillcrest Mennonite Centre, sponsoring a grade 1-12 Christian school, a day-care center, a counseling program, and residence facilities for up to ten persons with special needs.
In February 2005, Mennonite Church Alberta announced the Hillcrest Mennonite Church had withdrawn from the conference, citing geographical distance and diverging theological paths.
Canadian Mennonite (18 March 1960): 9; (21 March 2005).
Dick, C. L. The Mennonite Conference of Alberta: A History of its Churches and Institutions. Edmonton: The Mennonite Conference of Alberta, 1981, 147 pp.
Janzen, Herb and John P. Loewen. "Hillcrest Mennonite Church, Grande Prairie." In The Mennonite Sojourn in the Peace River Area: A Companion to Our Reunion, June 15, 16, 17, 2001, David Friesen, gen. ed. 2001: 67-70.
Mennonite Reporter (15 September 1980): 4; (30 October 1989): 15.
Unpublished cong. history, 1960, 2 pp. Mennonite Heritage Centre.
Archival RecordsMennonite Heritage Centre Archives, Winnipeg, MB: Volumes 95, 3818.
Address: 10306 - 102 Street, Grande Prairie, AB T8V 2W3
Mennonite Church Alberta (1965-2005)
General Conference Mennonite Church (1965-1999)
Hillcrest Mennonite Church Membership
|Richard D. Thiessen|
|Date Published||June 2013|
Cite This Article
Epp, Marlene and Richard D. Thiessen. "Hillcrest Mennonite Church (Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. June 2013. Web. 22 Sep 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hillcrest_Mennonite_Church_(Grand_Prairie,_Alberta,_Canada)&oldid=92018.
Epp, Marlene and Richard D. Thiessen. (June 2013). Hillcrest Mennonite Church (Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 September 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hillcrest_Mennonite_Church_(Grand_Prairie,_Alberta,_Canada)&oldid=92018.
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