First Mennonite Church (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

Jump to navigation Jump to search
First Mennonite Church Calgary
Source: Facebook

First Mennonite Church had its beginning during the 1930s when young Mennonite women came to Calgary to find employment as domestic workers in some of the well-to-to-homes. They gathered together wherever they could for fellowship. Eventually the women were joined by a number of families. The congregation began services in July 1944 under the auspices of the Conference of Mennonites in Alberta. The work was taken over by the General Conference in 1945 with John J. Sawatsky from Carstairs as leader. The former Scarboro United Church building was purchased in 1945 and Scarboro Mennonite Mission was formally organized on 29 May 1946 with 27 founding members.

Between 1948 and 1952 there was a great surge of growth as immigrants came after the war, young couples moved into the city, and retired farmers came to make their homes here. In 1948 a Mädchenheim was established in the home of the pastor, which continued to operate until 1955. The building in which the congregation worshiped became too small and a new one was built on Richmond Road. The Sunday School developed and grew, large choirs filled the front of the sanctuary every Sunday, and three women's groups were active. It was a vibrant congregation.

In 1955 the congregation became independent and in 1957 it changed its name to First Mennonite Church. The 1950s and 1960s were times of internal power struggles and conflict over the language issue. The older, original residents were interested in making a transition to English whereas recent post-World War II immigrants wanted to retain the German. Consequently First Mennonite lost members to Foothills Mennonite in 1963-64 over the language issue.

In 1965, Jacob Wiebe became the first hired pastor, but a large contingent of lay pastors were included in the ministerial team. Ministerial candidates were chosen from the congregation, one of whom, Peter Heidebrecht, was later ordained as Ältester. The congregation experienced some cycles of growth and decline as conflicts and differences arose.

In 1969 the church decided to hold two services each Sunday, the first in German and the second in English.

In 1997, Ken Bechtel led the congregation through a period of evaluation, reassessment, and transition to ultimate new growth.

After 68 years, the congregation held its last German service on 9 November 2014.


Canadian Mennonite (25 June 1968); (25 May 2009): 14; (12 July 2010).

Dick, C. L. The Mennonite Conference of Alberta: A History of its Churches and Institutions. Edmonton: The Mennonite Conference of Alberta, 1981: 147 pp.

Klassen, Irene. "Calgary First Mennonite Church: History." 2001. (accessed 23 September 2009).

Mennonite Reporter (25 November 1996): 11.

Wiebe-Neufeld, Donita. "German Services Come to an End at Alberta Church." Mennonite World Review. 5 January 2015. Web. 19 January 2015.

Additional Information

Address: 2600 Richmond Rd. SW, Calgary, AB T3E 4M3

Phone: 403-249-8784

Website: First Mennonite Church Calgary

Denominational Affiliations:

Mennonite Church Alberta (1950-present)

Conference of Mennonites in Canada / Mennonite Church Canada (1946-present)

General Conference Mennonite Church (1947-1999)

First Mennonite Church Calgary Leading Ministers

Minister Years
John J. Sawatzky 1944-1958
Peter Heidebrecht 1958-1960
John J. Sawatzky 1961-1962
Peter Heidebrecht 1963-1966
Hans Kroeger 1967-1968
Peter Heidebrecht 1969
Jacob Wiebe 1970-1993
Herman Walde 1993-1994
George Janzen 1995-1997
Ken Bechtel 1997-2000
Marvin Thiessen 2000-2010
Ed Kaufman 2010-2018
Caleb Kowalko 2018-present

First Mennonite Church Calgary Membership

Year Members
1947 28
1950 37
1955 166
1957 188
1965 206
1975 260
1985 324
1986 339
1995 288
2000 244
2020 156

Author(s) John J. Sawatzky
Marlene Epp
Date Published February 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Sawatzky, John J. and Marlene Epp. "First Mennonite Church (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 1989. Web. 27 May 2022.,_Alberta,_Canada)&oldid=171775.

APA style

Sawatzky, John J. and Marlene Epp. (February 1989). First Mennonite Church (Calgary, Alberta, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 May 2022, from,_Alberta,_Canada)&oldid=171775.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 437. All rights reserved.

©1996-2022 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.