Coaldale Bible School (Coaldale, Alberta, Canada)

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Coaldale Bible School and Church buildings, 1942

The Coaldale Bible School (CBS) was established in 1929, the largest and most enduring of the three Bible schools established by the Alberta Mennonite Brethren between 1929 and 1933.

B. B. Janz, a prominent member of the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church, was one of the leaders instrumental in the founding of the Coaldale Bible School. There were two main reasons for the school. Church leaders were determined to give young people the opportunity to deepen themselves in the Word and in their faith, and the school was to equip workers for the local church.

Over its 36-year history, nine principals provided leadership for Coaldale Bible School. Abram J. Schierling (1929-1936) served as the first principal and was in fact the only teacher in the school's inaugural year. The school's other principals were Bernhard W. Sawatzky (1936-1944, 1946-1948, 1953-1954), John A. Toews (1944-1946), David Ewert (1948-1952), Abe P. Regier (1954-1958), Abram Konrad (1958-1961), Henry Derksen (1961-1962), Henry P. Neufeldt (1962-1963) and Jacob Thielmann (1963-1965). In all, 27 teachers served at the school over its history.

Although a local church institution, the Coaldale Bible School attracted students from other Alberta congregations and from congregations outside the province and it eventually peaked at an enrollment of 101 in 1949—remarkable growth from the original class of 12.

In the years that followed the enrollment faltered, however, dropping to 40 in 1955-56. Hoping to attract more students, the school elected to offer the equivalent of a two-year program in the space of one long year (8 months) divided into two semesters (1957-58). Only 7 students enrolled in the second semester of that year.

Enrolment figures from the late 1950s indicate that something had to be done about the situation. By 1959-60 the total student count was down to 11. One option was to try to salvage the school by placing it under provincial jurisdiction. Therefore at the June 1961 convention the Alberta Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches easily voted to accept the Coaldale Bible School as its school, and thus the school became the Alberta Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute (AMBBI).

Several reasons have been cited to explain the demise of CBS. Historian J. A. Toews notes that the Coaldale church could not carry the financial burden. Both the Coaldale Bible School and the Alberta Mennonite High School, located adjacent to each other, competed for the support dollars of local donors. Support became polarized. But shortage of money was only one problem. There was also a shortage of students. A shifting post-war mentality was siphoning more and more young people into secular training and pursuits. Finally, for many young people, the Coaldale location was not an attraction and other schools like Bethany Bible Institute became a more attractive alternative. The adoption of CBS as a provincial school seemed to have immediate positive results, as seen in the enrolment figures. In its first year as a provincial school the enrollment jumped to 29 (from 11) and the next year it reached 43. But in the end, the move to provincialize the school extended its life by a mere four years. The conference formally closed the school at the end of the 1964-65 school year. Eventually the Alberta and Saskatchewan Mennonite Brethren conferences joined forces in the support of the Bethany Bible Institute.


Bethany Bible Institute - Celebrating God's Faithfulness. Hepburn, SK: Bethany Bible Institute, 2002: 15.

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church, May 23, 1976. 1976, 52 pp.

Gedenk- und Dankfeier des 25-jaehrigen Bestehens der Coaldale Mennoniten Brueder Gemeinde am 27. Mai 1951. Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church, 1951.

Regeher, T. D. Mennonites in Canada, 1939-1970: A People Transformed, Mennonites in Canada, Vol. 3. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.

Additional Information

Coaldale Bible School Teachers

Teacher Years
Abram Schierling 1929-1936
Johann A. Toews 1930-1935


Daniel Fast 1931-1933
George D. Pries 1933-1936
Johann P. Braun 1935-1936
Jacob H. Quiring 1936-1941
Bernhard W. Sawatzky 1936-1944


Johann Unger 1937-1943
John A. Toews 1940-1946
Jacob H. Franz 1943-1944
Alex Neumann 1944-1945


Sam Epp 1945-1947
David Ewert 1948-1952
Aaron Warkentin 1948-1953
Peter R. Toews 1949-1952
David Balzer 1952-1953
Abe Regier 1952-1958
Bernard P. Epp 1953-1955
Abram Konrad 1953-1961
Victor Pankratz 1955-1956


Jacob P. Dueck 1958-1964
Benjamin Klassen 1960-1962
Henry Derksen 1961-1962
Henry P. Neufeldt 1961-1965
George Dirks 1962-1965
Allen Guenther 1962-1965
Jake Thielmann 1963-1965

Names of principles are in bold.

Author(s) George Dirks
Date Published January 2010

Cite This Article

MLA style

Dirks, George. "Coaldale Bible School (Coaldale, Alberta, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2010. Web. 1 Oct 2023.,_Alberta,_Canada)&oldid=167867.

APA style

Dirks, George. (January 2010). Coaldale Bible School (Coaldale, Alberta, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 October 2023, from,_Alberta,_Canada)&oldid=167867.

©1996-2023 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.