The Schoenwiese Mennonite Church (Schoenwieser Mennoniten Gemeinde von Manitoba) began in 1926 when the Elder Johann Peter Klassen, the former Elder (Ältester) of the Kronsweide Mennonite Church in the Soviet Union moved to Starbuck, Manitoba and helped organize the Mennonite worshiping group that had been meeting in various locations since 1924. The name was chosen in honour of Klassen’s home village, Schönwiese, in the Chortitza Mennonite Settlement. This church became a member of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada in 1926.
In 1927 Johann P. Klassen moved to Winnipeg. There a group of Mennonite immigrants soon also agreed to be part of the Schoenwieser Gemeinde (eventually named First Mennonite Church). The Schoenwiese Church grew and expanded in membership and geographic scope, as Aeltester Klassen, with support of the General Conference Mennonite Church, visited the widely scattered immigrant groups along the railway between Winnipeg and the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border. Klassen organized churches and groups as affiliate-congregations of the Schoenwiese Mennonite Church of Manitoba. By 1931 the church had 15 congregations and was led by Johann P. Klassen, who was assisted by 21 ministers. The church had 666 congregational members, a total of 1,470 members and adherents, and 298 families.
The entire area covered by the Schoenwiese church was divided into seven regions with up to 37 meeting places in a given year. Worship services took place in homes, schools, and rental spaces. As local groups grew in strength and numbers, they constructed their own church building and eventually become independent churches. As local groups diminished in strength and numbers, and as it became possible to travel greater distances with better roads and automobiles, worship services were discontinued and remaining members would join another worshiping group.
The worship groups in the southwest region became independent in 1939 as the Springstein Mennonite Church. In the near west region, the group at Pigeon Lake became independent in 1939 and chose the name Schoenfelder Mennonite Church. In the far west region, the Rivers group became an affiliate-congregation of the Whitewater Mennonite Church in 1939, and independent in the late 1960s when the Whitewater Church decentralized. In the southern region, Glenlea Mennonite Church chose independence in 1945 and the Graysville Mennonite Church joined the Bergthaler Mennonite Church of Manitoba in 1953. A group in the Morris, Stuartburn, and Gardenton areas, at their highest point, built a church in Morris during the 1940s, but by 1968 this group had dissolved. In the southeast region, there was a Schoenwiese group which led to the founding of Steinbach Mennonite Church in 1936, and the Niverville Mennonite Church which became independent from the Schoenwiese church in 1944. In the Winnipeg region, First Mennonite Church was the city’s first and largest General Conference church, and also the place where the bishop resided. North Kildonan Mennonite Church, which lay on the outskirts of Winnipeg in 1929, was a Schoenwieser congregation until it became independent in 1956. The worshipping groups in the northern region, Stonewall and Petersfield eventually dwindled as people moved away or joined First Mennonite in Winnipeg. The Oak Lake Mennonite Church in western Manitoba was the last Schoenwiese congregation to become independent in 1974.
First Mennonite Church (Winnipeg) can be seen both as the successor to the Schoenwiese Mennonite Church of Manitoba, and as the "mother church" for the congregations which grew and became independent.
Ens, Anna. In Search of Unity: Story of the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba. Winnipeg: CMBC Publications, 1996.
Klassen, Is. Dem Herrn die Ehre: Schoenwieser Mennoniten Gemeinde von Manitoba, 1924-1968. Altona, MB: The Conference, 1969.
Konferenz-Bericht der 26. Konferenz der Mennoniten im mittleren Canada, abgehalten in Rosthern, Sask., den 2., 3. end 4. Juli 1928.
 Additional Information
 Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article
The Schoenwiese Mennonite Church (Schönwiese Mennoniten Gemeinde) was part of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, and merged into the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba. When the Mennonite refugees from the Soviet Union came to Canada in 1923, Elder Johann Peter Klassen of Schönwiese in Ukraine gathered 22 new Mennonite settlements in Manitoba into one church, which was first called the Starbuck Mennonite Church, but changed to Schoenwiese in 1929.
In 1931 the church had 15 congregations and was led by Elder Johann P. Klassen, who was assisted by 21 ministers. The church had 666 congregational members, a total of 1,470 members and adherents, and 298 families.
In 1958 the Schoenwiese Mennonite Church consisted of First Mennonite Church (Winnipeg) (1,026 members); Oak Lake (75 members); Petersfield (17 members); Steinbach (24 members) and scattered membership of 135. The elder in 1958 was Johann Hermann Enns. -- John H. Enns, Vol. 4, p. 471.
|Date Published||November 2015|
 Cite This Article
Redekopp, Alf. "Schoenwiese Mennonite Church group (Manitoba)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2015. Web. 3 May 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Schoenwiese_Mennonite_Church_group_(Manitoba)&oldid=132947.
Redekopp, Alf. (November 2015). Schoenwiese Mennonite Church group (Manitoba). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 May 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Schoenwiese_Mennonite_Church_group_(Manitoba)&oldid=132947.
©1996-2016 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.