The meetinghouse, 10.7 x 12.2 metres (35' x 40'), was built in 1854, when 0.8 hectares (2 acres) of land was purchased for 5 shillings. At that time, the congregation was known as West Woolwich. Peter Martin was ordained in 1854 as the congregation's first minister. David Good from the Martins congregation served as deacon when the meetinghouse was first built, and then Moses W. Martin was ordained as deacon in 1867.
In 1888, the frame building was extended 3.7 metres (12'), and in 1908 another 5.5 metres (18') was added so that the building comfortably seated 450 adults. A completely new building, 14.6 x 23.2 metres (48' x 76'), was constructed in 1976. Around this time (1975), the name of the meetinghouse was changed from West Woolwich to Elmira in the Old Order Mennonite Church calendar. The meetinghouse has been shared with a Markham Mennonite group since 1939, when the Markham and Old Order groups divided from each other.
The cemetery has also been expanded over the years. In 1962, it was extended by 0.4 hectares (1 acre). In 1989, another 1.1 hectares (2.71 acres) of land was purchased to expand the parking lot and the cemetery before the town of Elmira developed the land. The Elmira Old Order congregation shares the cemetery with three other Mennonite churches: the Markham Mennonite group, the Elmira Mennonite Church and the Zion Mennonite Church. Cemetery maintenance is shared among the four congregations.
World War I touched this Elmira congregation as it did the rest of Canadian society. In 1918, 84 boys and 27 girls applied for church baptism, making up an unusually large baptismal class. One day, a military officer came to the meetinghouse to investigate the class. The young men were called outside and the officer asked them for their exemption papers. He left when he was satisfied that the young Mennonite men were not trying to avoid conscription.
In 2003 there were approximately 78 families in the Elmira church district. No accurate count of members is available for most of the history of the congregation because Old Order Mennonites think of themselves as members of the church at large and not just the immediate congregation. The Old Order also do not see the quantity of members as indicative of the congregation's importance. When people move from one geographical area to another, they automatically “belong to” the congregation whose meetinghouse is closest to their home. No membership transfer takes place from the former location.
Mennonite Reporter (23 June 1975): 1.
Information from the church.
Table 1: Elmira Old Order Meetinghouse Ordained Leaders*
|Peter Martin||1854-1890||Moses W. Martin||1867-1887|
|David B. Martin1||1890-1917||David Cressman4||1891-1926|
|Amos Gingrich||1901-1923||Aaron Brubacher||1925-1954|
|Jesse Bauman2||1923-1939||Clarence B. Martin5||1954-1997|
|Edward G. Martin||1940-19693||Joseph Martin||1994-|
|Daniel R. Martin||1970-|
|Urias W. Martin||2000-|
1David B. Martin transferred to the Peel Old Order Mennonite congregation when that meetinghouse was built in 1901.
3Edward G. Martin served as minister until 1969, and he came back as a member in 1980.
4David Cressman was ordained in 1872 for the Biehn church and then moved to West Woowich and become part of the Old Order Mennonites.
5Clarence B. Martin was ordained transferred to Winterbourne in 1966.
Table 2: Elmira Old Order Mennonite Meetinghouse Membership
|Year||Membership (in families)|
Cite This Article
Streicher, Anita. "West Woolwich Mennonite Meetinghouse (Elmira, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2005. Web. 25 May 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=West_Woolwich_Mennonite_Meetinghouse_(Elmira,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=78784.
Streicher, Anita. (2005). West Woolwich Mennonite Meetinghouse (Elmira, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=West_Woolwich_Mennonite_Meetinghouse_(Elmira,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=78784.
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