Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)

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Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church

The Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church is, in a sense, a granddaughter church. Its forebears were the Gospel Light Mission on Logan Avenue and the Fort Rouge Mennonite Brethren Church on the corner of Arbuthnot and MacMillan. In 1953 a group of Mennonite Brethren Bible College students began an inner city Sunday school ministry on Logan Avenue, which grew to the point where in 1956 they established the Gospel Light Mission, with a charter membership of 30, under the founding leadership of John M. Schmidt. Cosponsoring the church was the South End Mennonite Brethren Church. This group soon outgrew its facilities and began to look for a larger sanctuary. On 9 August 1959 this young congregation began services in an old vacated church building on the corner of Arbuthnot and MacMillan, in the Fort Rouge area, and became the Fort Rouge Mennonite Brethren Church. Pastoral leaders during this period were David Nickel (1959-1960), Jacob J. Toews (1960-1962) and John M. Schmidt (1962-1963). The years at Fort Rouge were preoccupied with finding a location on which to build a new church and recruiting a permanent pastor. In 1963 a site was selected at 1771 Pembina Highway, near the University of Manitoba, and John Wall was called as the founding pastor. The name of the church then changed again to the Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church. Construction began on 12 June 1963 and the church was dedicated on 8 December 1963.

In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s most Mennonite churches in Winnipeg were struggling with the transition from the German to the English language in their ministries. Divisions on this issue also ran deep in many Mennonite Brethren churches. A primary feature of the Fort Rouge, and later the Fort Garry MB church, was that only English would be the language of discourse. Language was not to be a divisive issue in the church. In the eyes of many this was a radical move, if not indeed touching on theological unfaithfulness, assuming, as some did, that God strongly favored the German language. Hence, in earlier years this congregation was viewed by some as innovative, if not marginal, when compared with the established Mennonite Brethren community.

The rationale for locating the church on Pembina Highway was twofold. First was accessibility. Increasingly people no longer walked but traveled to church by car, and therefore locating it on a main thoroughfare would be an attractive feature, as has been the case. Second, the lot on South Pembina Highway was close to the University of Manitoba. This feature offered students in general and youth from southern Manitoba a convenient place for fellowship and worship.

Since its inception the Fort Garry MB Church has held a special attraction for youth and students. Hence College and Career and youth ministries have always been a high priority. In later years, many of these men and women have served at home and abroad in Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Brethren Missions and Service International and other church-related ministries.

Although the congregation was spared the language struggles of earlier years, it did not escape the divisive issues related to worship style, especially the traditional versus contemporary approaches to church music. Over time a generally accepted compromise was found, without serious damage to church harmony and fellowship.

Since its inception the church has been affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba, the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Its pastors and members have been active on many of the committees and boards of all three conferences.

Currently the congregation is well advanced in a consultative process to determine the best approach to expanding its ministries, either through enlargement of present facilities or daughtering one or more churches or a combination of both. The process continues.

On two occasions the congregation celebrated significant anniversaries with banquets and special services: on 26 November 1988 after 25 years of ministry and on 15 and 16 November 2003 following 40 years of God’s faithfulness.

The Fort Garry MB Church participated in the establishment of three other MB churches in Winnipeg. In 1979 several members from western Winnipeg joined the group that founded the Westwood Community MB Church; in 1978 Fort Garry daughtered the St. Vital MB Church and in 2003 the senior and associate pastors left Fort Garry with a sizeable group of members to establish the Faithworks MB Church in the River Heights area of the city.


Canadian Mennonite (9 December 1955): 1,3; (20 May 1960): 16; (10 December 1963): 4.

Klassen, Bill (William). “Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church: A Portrait.” Unpublished. 1984.

Mennonite Brethren Herald (27 May 1988): 45.

Mennonite Observer (24 July 1959): 12; (11 September 1959): 3.

Siemens, Leonard. “Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church: Celebrating its 25 th Anniversary on 20 November, 1988: A Historical Sketch.” Unpublished.

Archival Records

Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Winnipeg MB: Vols. 481-482, Reels 81-82.

Additional Information

Address: 1771 Pembina Highway, Winnipeg MB R3T 2G6

Phone: 204-269-5940

Website: Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church

John Wall

Denominational Affiliations:

Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba

Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches

General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches

Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church Pastoral Leaders

Minister Years
John M. Schmidt 1956-1959
Dave Nikkel 1959-1960
Jacob J. Toews 1960-1962
John M. Schmidt 1962-1963
John Wall 1963-1973
Hugo Jantz 1974-1977
Herb Kopp 1979-1984
Dan Unrau 1984-1992
Gordon Stewert 1992-1994
Calvin Bergen 1993-2002
V. George Shillington (interim) 2002-2003
John Unger 2004-2013
Carl Heppner 2013-present

Fort Garry Mennonite Mennonite Church Membership*

Year Members
1965 198
1985 293
1995 321
2000 296
2004 310
2010 349
  • Official membership numbers for various years are cited above. In some respects the generally low, static, numbers do not reflect reality. Through the years hundreds of young people made Fort Garry their temporary church home during their university years and then moved on. It was a highly transient membership and many attendees never became members. However, the official membership numbers appear above.

Author(s) Leonard Siemens
Date Published January 2014

Cite This Article

MLA style

Siemens, Leonard. "Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2014. Web. 24 Feb 2024.,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=170118.

APA style

Siemens, Leonard. (January 2014). Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 February 2024, from,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=170118.

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