Christian Fellowship Church (Birch River, Manitoba, Canada)

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Christmas choir practice led by Bernie Thiessen on 7 December 2007. Former pastors Ferlin Abrahamson (back row second from the left) and Harold Thiessen (third from the left).
Photo taken by Terry Smith.

The Christian Fellowship Church in Birch River, Manitoba began in 1970, when the Mafeking Evangelical Mennonite Church, located 20 miles farther north, decided to meet in Birch River because of its more central location. The church was first known as the Christian Fellowship Centre but changed its name to Christian Fellowship Church in 1988. The language of worship was English.

Services were first held in Birch River in the United Church building. The congregation formally organized in 1971 under the Evangelical Mennonite Conference when Andrew Friesen was the pastor.

Ralph and Mary Lynn Unger took over the pastorate in 1972. When Ralph Unger returned Steinbach Bible Institute for further training in 1980-1981, Leroy Friesen filled in the pastorate role. Financially supported by Christian Fellowship Church and the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, Ralph Unger, a trained teacher, supplemented his income by driving a school bus and substitute teaching. Ben Kroeker, who had been a deacon in the Rosenort Evangelical Mennonite Church, moved to the area in 1971 with his wife Helen, and began to serve as a deacon in Birch River.

Building construction was started in 1975 and the building was occupied in June 1976. For a time, the church had a manse a mile out of town.

John and Becky Hiebert served as the pastoral couple from 1986-1989. Ferlin Abrahamson, a graduate of Nipawin Bible Institute and raised in Pelly Fellowship Chapel, served as pastor for many years. He was partly self-supporting, working as a farm hand.

Glen and Betty Koop served as an interim pastoral couple from January to December 2008. Harold Thiessen, a local farmer who had studied at Steinbach Bible Institute, served as pastor from 2009-2012.

When Harold Thiessen moved to Kleefeld after 2012, the congregation continued without a formal pastor. Ferlin Abrahamson informally functioned as the pastor. Ferlin and Elizabeth Abrahamson’s daughter Bethany Matejka, a graduate of Canadian Mennonite University, served as congregational chair.

The area’s population decline has resulted in fewer farms and less people attending Christian Fellowship Church in Birch River, but in 2017 the church still held weekly services – often with guest speakers or a video series. A key ministry was still the Steeprock Bay Bible Camp, supported by a thrift store in Birch River. Christian Fellowship Church served as an evangelical church for the area.


Schellenberg, Dave. “Church Profile: Birch River, Manitoba, Christian Fellowship Center.” The Messenger (27 July 1984): 2-4.

Smith, Terry. “Christian Fellowship Church: More Strengths than Challenges.” The Messenger (19 December 2007): 17-18.

Additional Information

Address: 202 Third St., Birch River, Manitoba

Phone: 204-236-4370

Website: Christian Fellowship Church 

Denominational Affiliation: Evangelical Mennonite Conference

Christian Fellowship Church Pastors

Minister Years
Andrew Friesen 1970-1972
Ralph and Mary Lynn Unger 1972-1980, 1981-1985
Leroy Friesen 1980-1981
John and Becky Hiebert 1986-1989
Ferlin and Elizabeth Abrahamson 1990-2006
Glen and Betty Koop 2008
Harold and Laura Thiessen 2009-2012

Christian Fellowship Church Membership

Year Members
1970 13
1975 29
1980 32
1985 34
1990 40
1995 48
2000 62
2005 60
2010 53
2015 53


Map:Christian Fellowship Church (Birch River, Manitoba)

Author(s) Terry Smith
Date Published June 2017

Cite This Article

MLA style

Smith, Terry. "Christian Fellowship Church (Birch River, Manitoba, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. June 2017. Web. 22 Sep 2021.,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=156043.

APA style

Smith, Terry. (June 2017). Christian Fellowship Church (Birch River, Manitoba, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 September 2021, from,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=156043.

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