First Mennonite Church (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)

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First Mennonite Church in the early 1950s.
Source: Canadian Mennonite photo
First Mennonite Church, August 2017.
Photo: Bert Friesen.

First Mennonite Church of Winnipeg can trace its beginnings to the itinerant ministry of Benjamin Ewert of the Bergthaler Mennonite Church, who paid regular visits to Mennonites in Winnipeg starting around 1917. In August 1921, Ewert moved to Winnipeg and arranged for monthly worship services in facilities rented from the Zion Reformed Church on Alexander Avenue at Ellen. By the mid-1920s, recent Mennonite immigrants from the Soviet Union outnumbered the earlier Mennonites in Winnipeg.

Mennonite girls worked as domestics in Winnipeg, prompting the establishment of a girls' home (Maedchenheim) in October 1926. The home was sponsored by the Home Mission of the General Conference, who assigned minister Gerhard A. Peters and his wife as house-parents. Gerhard Peters gave instruction to baptismal candidates, but it was assumed that they would be baptized by a bishop from their rural home. With more and more Russian Mennonite immigrants in Winnipeg, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada asked Ältester Johann P. Klassen, who lived in Starbuck, to provide communion and baptism services in Winnipeg.

First Mennonite Church in Winnipeg was known as the Winnipeg Schoenwieser Mennonite church until 1951, a name chosen in honour of the Russian home village of Ältester Johann P. Klassen. Sometimes First Mennonite Church is considered the mother church of the Schoenwiese Mennonite Church group, because of its size and prominence within the group. Klassen moved to Winnipeg in 1929. Johann H. Enns from Ste. Elisabeth, Manitoba, moved to Winnipeg in 1932 to work full-time as Aeltester Klassen’s assistant, since the number of Schoenwieser Mennonite Church branches had increased significantly.

Johann H. Enns, Aeltester from 1939-1964.
Source: Jubilate, p. 32

The First Mennonite Church of Winnipeg first met in and later purchased the Zion Reformed Church building on Alexander Avenue. They built their own church building on Notre Dame at Alverston in 1950. This building was further expanded in 1958 and 1983.

The language of worship was originally German. English was first used by some Sunday School teachers during the 1950s. Both English and German began to be used in the 1960s as the language of worship.

Music in the form of congregational and choir singing was seriously cultivated from the beginning. Much of the skill and interest in music can be attributed to early members such as Mennonite hymnologist, J. P. Claszen, violinist/conductor John Konrad, and later musicians such as conductors Ernest Enns, Henry Engbrecht, and Rudy Schellenberg. The congregation was involved with the establishment of Sunset House (1969), Arlington House (1974), and Autumn House (1979) for senior citizens. Sunset House is owned by the church. The congregation was also instrumental in founding the Concordia Hospital, the Mennonitische Religionschule von Winnipeg, the Bethania Personal Care Home, and Westgate Mennonite Collegiate.


Canadian Mennonite (20 May 1960): 20.

Ens, Anna. In Search of Unity: Story of the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba. Winnipeg: CMBC Publications, 1996.

Jubilate: 60 Years First Mennonite Church 1926-1986. Winnipeg: First Mennonite Church, 1991.

Klassen, Isaac. Dem Herrn die Ehre: Schoenwieser Mennoniten Gemeinde von Manitoba, 1924-1968. Altona: D.W. Friesen, 1969.

Mennonite Reporter (15 November 1976): 14; (15 September 1986): 14; (4 April 1994): 8; (20 March 1995): 10.

Unpublished congregational history, 1979, 20 pp. Mennonite Heritage Centre.

Archival Records:

Microfilmed records at Mennonite Heritage Centre.

Additional Information

Address: 922 Notre Dame Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R3E 0M9 (Co-ordinates 49.904167 -97.168611)

Phone: 204-772-2419

Website: First Mennonite Church (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)

Denominational Affliation:

Schoenwieser Mennonite Church group (1926-

Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba / Mennonite Church Manitoba (1936-1945, 1968-

Conference of Mennonites in Canada / Mennonite Church Canada (1926-1945, 1949-

General Conference Mennonite Church (1926-2002)

First Mennonite Church of Winnipeg Leading Ministers and some Associates *

Minister Years of
Gerhard A. Peters 1925-1930
Johann P. Klassen 1926-1943
Johann H. Enns 1939-1964
Jacob H. Wiebe 1965-1973
John H. Neufeld 1973-1983
Victor Kliewer 1984-1985
Franz Wiebe 1986-2008
John R. Friesen* 1991-1999
Mark von Kampen* 1990-2022
Kathy Koop 2002-2021
David Driedger 2010-
Erika Enns Rodine* 2010-

First Mennonite Church of Winnipeg Membership

Year Membership
1965 1,367
1975 1,211
1985 1,450
1995 1,331
2000 1,280
2020 738

Author(s) Marlene Epp
Alf Redekopp
Date Published December 2015

Cite This Article

MLA style

Epp, Marlene and Alf Redekopp. "First Mennonite Church (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2015. Web. 18 Aug 2022.,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=173977.

APA style

Epp, Marlene and Alf Redekopp. (December 2015). First Mennonite Church (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 August 2022, from,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=173977.

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