The Preston, Ontario area (now part of the city of Cambridge) was the oldest Mennonite community in the Waterloo Region, tracing its origin to the first Caucasian settlers to arrive in this part of Ontario. In 1800 four family groups immigrated here from Pennsylvania and included an ordained deacon, Jacob Bechtel. Joseph Bechtel arrived in 1802 and was ordained as the first minister in 1804. This group of Anabaptists met in homes or barns until 1814 when they built a union or free house meetinghouse. Religious groups other than the Church of England were not allowed to build places of worship in Upper Canada until 1828 or later, thus before this time community meetinghouses were available to everyone. Because of disagreements in the early 1820's, the Anabaptists were locked out of this building by another church group using the same facility. In 1824 the Bechtel group relocated and built a new union meetinghouse. It was known as the Bechtel Appointment because of the surnames of its leadership. In 1842 this group became formally organized when a red brick meetinghouse was built just up the road beside the already established cemetery. By 1848 this congregation became known as Hageys, since two of its spiritual leaders were Jacob and Joseph Hagey.
In 1840 the first Mennonite Sunday School in North America was organized at Hagey Mennonite, but it closed after a few years due to conservative opposition. In 1891 a permanent Sunday School was organized and classes were taught in German and English. The first English sermon was preached at Hageys in 1890 and German was not used after the 1890's.
The Hagey church was extensively renovated in 1896, and after a fire in 1950. In 1954, after a second disastrous fire, a new church was built at the present location and it was renamed Preston Mennonite Church. The congregation joined the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada in 1988, and in 1995 it also became part of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.
The Preston congregation has been active in local outreach for many years. In 1943 its members were instrumental in opening Braeside Home, a senior's residence, which was described as the first of its kind in Canada and the fourth in North America. This institution relocated next door to Preston Mennonite Church in 1956 and was renamed Fairview Mennonite Home. Residents are able to attend functions at Preston Church or listen to worship services over a public address system. Many of the church members have been employed there, and many of the church's seniors reside there.
In 1974 a nursery school was begun in Preston Church basement, primarily to serve the high density area know as Lang's Farm Village located just east of the church property. It continued until 1995. In 2003 the church's mission involvement continued in Lang's Farm Village, and many church members volunteered in this part of the community.
The Preston congregation has experienced four name changes and four site changes. In 2000 it celebrated 200 years as a faithful Mennonite presence in this community.
Bergey, Lorna. "Hagey Mennonite Church 1842-1953." Waterloo Historical Society 58 (1970): 33-34.
"From the Files of Leslie D. Witmer." Hespeler, Ontario, 1967, 89 pp.
Groh, Anson. "The Sunday Schools of Hagey and Wanner Congregations." 1915, 8 pp.
Mennonite Reporter (25 June 1979): 4; (June, 1989): 13.
Mennonites in Canada Collection, "MC (1800-Preston)", Mennonite Archives of Ontario.
Steinman, Carol M. Refined by Fire - The Story of Hagey/Preston Mennonite Church 1800-2000. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2000.
Witmer, Leslie D. Pioneers of Christendom in Waterloo County, 1800-1967: History of the Hagey-Preston Mennonite Church. Preston, ON: The Church, 1967, 64 pp.
Archival RecordsChurch archival records in Mennonite Archives of Ontario. Other records, documents and artifacts are maintained in the offices at Preston Mennonite Church.
Preston Mennonite Church Pastoral Leaders
|Abraham L. Clemens||Deacon||1815-1845|
|David Sherk||Deacon Minister||1837-1838 1838-1882|
|Joseph Hagey||Minister Bishop||1842-1851 1851-1870|
|Jacob B. Gingrich||Minister||1878-1908|
|Benjamin Shantz||Minister Bishop||1908-1939 1939-1961|
|Howard L. Good||Minister||1948-1961|
|Gerry Vandeworp||Minister (Interim)||2001-2002|
|Marianne Mellinger||Minister (Interim)||2001-2003|
Preston Mennonite Church Membership
|Author(s)||Carol M Steinman|
|Date Published||August 2003|
Cite This Article
Steinman, Carol M. "Preston Mennonite Church (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2003. Web. 31 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Preston_Mennonite_Church_(Cambridge,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=103429.
Steinman, Carol M. (August 2003). Preston Mennonite Church (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 31 March 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Preston_Mennonite_Church_(Cambridge,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=103429.
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