When Mennonite families began to arrive in Kelowna, British Columbia in 1940 by way of immigration from the Canadian Prairies and Soviet Union, most of them decided to attend Grace Baptist Church. Soon, however, these families desired a church of their own. In 1947, meetings were held to discuss the possibility of starting a new church, and a leadership team was elected for Sunday worship services. On 6 June 1947, those gathered at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Siemens officially established Kelowna Mennonite Brethren Church with Rev. John J. Unger as their pastor -- 32 of the 37 people present were confirmed as members. The congregation joined the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches in the same year. Services were initially held at Herman Goerzen's home and later at various rented halls throughout the city.
Soon, a lot was purchased on the corner of Ethel Street and Stockwell Avenue for the construction of a new church building of their own. Construction began in September 1947, and by 18 January 1948 services were held in the basement; worship services were held in the sanctuary for the first time by Christmas of that year. Initially, services were conducted in German, but switched to German and English in 1963.
In 1966, the congregation outgrew their building, and a new building, which was able to seat 430 people, was built on the corner of Vineland and Bernard. This building served the congregation for 21½ years until they again needed a larger structure to accommodate the projected growth of the church. Construction commenced in November 1987 at their current location on Highway 33, and dedication of the new completed building able to seat 500 people was held in October 1988. It was also at this time that the church changed its name to Willow Park Church.
The congregation continued to grow to the extent that in 1992 it required two services to accommodate the 550-600 people who attended. In September 1995, Willow Park planted a church locally called Garden Valley Community Church.
After 1997 the church established two additional services on Saturday night. Instead of expanding the sanctuary or relocating, the church identified where church members resided in Kelowna and where there were few or no nearby evangelical churches. The southern area of the city was identified as the potential location of a satellite campus, and 130 congregational members agreed to move to the new site. On Thanksgiving Sunday of 2003, the congregation launched the first satellite church campus, Willow Park South.
Easter 2007 saw the opening of two additional campuses. The Willow Park Lake Country Campus held services on Sunday morning in the Creekside Community Theatre, and the Willow Park Metro Campus was located in downtown Kelowna.
In 2008 a fifth location was established in the Glenmore area and called The Abbey.
In 2008 membership totaled 1,140 with an average Sunday attendance of 1,541. In 2010 membership was 1,030 with an average Sunday attendance of 1,435.
Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies. "Willow Park Church." http://www.mbconf.ca/home/products_and_services/resources/published_genealogies/mb_provincial_conferences_and_church_congregation_records/british_columbia_archives/willow_park_church_archives/ (accessed 11 November 2009).
Menard, Bobbi-Sue. "Willow Park Sites Share 'DNA.'" CanadianChristianity.com. http://www.canadianchristianity.com/bc/bccn/0108/o05willow.html (accessed 12 December 2009).
Mennonite Brethren Herald (27 May 1988): 31; (19 Novembef 1999): http://old.mbherald.com/38-22/personalia.html (accessed 6 December 2009).
Stewart, Liz. Personal e-mail (24 July 2007).
Address: 439 Highway 33 West, Kelowna, BC V1X 1Y2
Website: Willow Park Church
British Columbia Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church (1947-present)
Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1947-present)
General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1947-2002)
Willow Park Church Leading Ministers
|John J. Unger||1947-1953|
|John J. Wiebe||1953-1956|
|Ed J. Lautermilch||1962-1966|
|John D. Stoesz||1966-1974|
|Jacob H. Quiring (interim)||1980|
|Herbert J. Brandt||1984-1989|
|Arnie Peters (interim)||2008-2010|
Willow Park Church Membership
|Date Published||May 2011|
Cite This Article
Klager, Andrew. "Willow Park Church (Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2011. Web. 16 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Willow_Park_Church_(Kelowna,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=78844.
Klager, Andrew. (May 2011). Willow Park Church (Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Willow_Park_Church_(Kelowna,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=78844.
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