Aylmer Bible School (Aylmer, Ontario, Canada)

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In the mid 1960s many Mennonite families seeking better economic opportunities in farming returned to Canada from Mexico and settled in southwestern Ontario. John D. Friesen and other evangelical workers from the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC) began church planting efforts in these communities. Their efforts discovered that improved Bible education was a critical need. As early as 1969 short Bible courses for those Low German speaking migrants eager to improve their Bible knowledge were held by Ben Hoeppner and Harvey Plett from the Steinbach Bible Institute. Delegates to the 1975 EMMC annual convention held in Aylmer, Ontario, adopted a motion to establish a Bible School.

On 5 January 1976 Ben W. Sawatsky began the first instruction at the Aylmer Bible School. The following year the school moved into rented quarters in the former Orwell Public School, and in 1979 the EMMC purchased the facility. Orwell is a small Ontario village about 3.2 km. (2 miles) directly west of Aylmer. The Aylmer Bible School motto was: ...to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up ... Ephesians 4:12.

The education program at Aylmer tried to meet the needs of students of all ages, with classes provided in English, High German and Mennonite Low German, which was the first language of most of the students. In 1980 Sawatsky left and Abe Harms interrupted his studies at Eastern Mennonite Seminary to serve one year as principal. He was followed by the experienced Mexican General Conference teacher, Jake Heinrichs, who served for two years. Abe Harms then returned, when the enrolment was 10 full time students plus a number of part time students. 

On 20 July 1983 construction began on a small dormitory called "Sawatsky House" to accommodate 24 single students and two couples. The school used a variety of part time instructors and relied on one or two full time teachers including Neil Friesen, Frank and Mary Anne Zacharias, Dave Penner, Dave Dyck and Calvin Dueck. The school also attracted students from Low German speaking communities outside of southwestern Ontario. In the summers of 1994-1997 the school conducted five-week-long Summer Bible School in Blue Creek, Belize.

Enrolment at Aylmer remained low; the 1990-91 school year saw the highest full time enrolment of 20 students. By 1996 enrolment had dropped to seven full-time and 13 part time students. Two decades after its founding it was apparent that the school was no longer the prime choice of the then better educated community who were seeking seminary and post secondary level Bible instruction. In 1998 the EMMC conference made the painful decision to close the school and two years later sold the property to a developer.


Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference. Convention reports (1995-2000).

“Meeting an urgent need: the story of the Aylmer Bible School.” EMMC Recorder 35, no. 8 (November 1998):1-3.

Author(s) Victor G Wiebe
Date Published April 2013

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MLA style

Wiebe, Victor G. "Aylmer Bible School (Aylmer, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2013. Web. 22 Jan 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Aylmer_Bible_School_(Aylmer,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=113009.

APA style

Wiebe, Victor G. (April 2013). Aylmer Bible School (Aylmer, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 January 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Aylmer_Bible_School_(Aylmer,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=113009.

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