Peace Mennonite Church (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada)
Prince of Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond, British Columbia was approached in 1977 by Sherbrooke Mennonite Church, Vancouver, with the suggestion that these two churches co-operate in building a new church in Richmond. Erwin Cornelsen, pastor of Sherbrooke Mennonite, with a burgeoning membership, and John Sawatzky from Prince of Peace, with a good children’s work but a very limited membership, met with pastors from the Vancouver churches to explore creating a new church. John Hiebert was elected the first congregational chair of the new church, Peace Mennonite Church. In 1979, Palmer Becker was called to pastor and guide the formation of this new church.
Land that was previously held by individuals from Sherbrooke Mennonite Church became the site of the new church. The proceeds from the sale of Prince of Peace Mennonite Church and the generous donations from the two churches and individuals made it possible to build the church facilities which were completed in 1980. On 7 September 1980 the new church was dedicated. It included a sanctuary seating 250 people, an education wing, a fireside room, library and offices. A full sized gymnasium was built and owned jointly by Peace and Sherbrooke Churches. Peace Mennonite Church was officially constituted on 30 November 1980 with 135 charter members. The congregation joined the Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia (now Mennonite Church British Columbia) and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada (now Mennonite Church Canada) in 1981.
A strength of Peace Mennonite has been its flexibility to be a transitional community. Styles of worship, leadership and diversity have added to the flavor. The earlier years saw a focus on the tensions of the day: marriage, divorce and remarriage, abortion, pubs in the neighborhood, modes of baptism. Much thought was given to the organization of ministries: worship, especially the role of the Arts/Music, education, missions, youth, fellowship and stewardship. More recently the church’s role in the changing neighborhood has been a greater focus.
Although the initial membership was primarily of European descent, it also included those of Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Indonesian, Laotian, Ethiopian and Punjabi ancestry. The diversity of the community in 1988 led to the launch of Peace Chinese Mennonite Church that continues to share the facilities to this day, worshiping in Chinese on Sundays following the English service.
The demographics of Richmond have changed dramatically from 1981 to 2011. The once-rural community became a large urban city, with a population growth from under 100,000 to 200,000. The greatest increase has been through immigration, primarily from South-East Asia. The sharp increase in land values in the neighborhood impacted Peace Mennonite Church negatively. Membership in Peace Mennonite Church rose from 135 to over 200 members in a few years and leveled off at just below 200 for most of the following years.
The Sunday morning worship service has always been the primary focus for the congregation. Sunday morning services usually run from 9:30 to 10:55 with about 20 minutes of singing. There has been a conscious effort to include hymns from the Hymnal as well as more contemporary songs. Worship teams have used various instruments such as piano, guitars, violins, drums, winds, etc. Throughout its history the church has maintained a choir to enhance the worship on special occasions.
Programs initiated by Peace Mennonite Church include regular Sunday school for children, youth meetings, pot lucks and Christmas banquets, an MCC SALT (Serving and Learning Together) program, support groups for refugees, a program for mothers of young children (MOPS), and volunteering at the MCC thrift store and Ten Thousand Villages. Peace has provided space and volunteers for the Richmond Food Bank. Members also support and volunteer at a variety of community organizations, working with children, the homeless, elderly and disabled. Youth have made short-term mission trips to Latin America. Since 2004 Peace has provided ESL classes for new immigrants.
Other programs that have been organized for longer or shorter durations have been Women in Mission, Men’s Prayer Breakfast, blanket sewing groups, Vacation Bible School, Fresh Waves, gym events and many others.
Peace Mennonite Church has always tried to do its share in supporting denominational programs. Members have served on boards and committees related to Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Church BC, MCC or MEDA and a number of local organizations. In 2006 an agreement was made with Mennonite Church Canada to co-sponsor a peace-making mission project in the Philippines. Dan and Joji Pantoja were sent to the Mindanao area and two other couples from Peace Mennonite have since become involved there as well.
Lehn, Cornelia. Frontier Challenge: A Story of the Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia. Clearbrook, BC: The Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia, 1990: 135-137.
Mennonite Reporter (22 June 1987): 16; (26 November 1979): 4; (26 May 1980): 14; (13 October 1980): 4; (5 January 1981): 11.
Wiens, John R. "The Development of Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond, B.C." Research paper, Canadian Mennonite Bible College, 1982, 35 pp. Mennonite Heritage Centre.
Address: 11571 Daniels Rd., Richmond, BC V6X 1M7
Conference of Mennonites in Canada / Mennonite Church Canada (1981-present)
General Conference Mennonite Church (1981-1999)
Peace Mennonite Church Leading Ministers
|Donovan Smucker (interim)||1988|
|Mark Fox (transitional)||2015-2016|
Peace Mennonite Church Membership
|Date Published||November 2016|
Cite This Article
Sawatzky, John. "Peace Mennonite Church (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2016. Web. 15 Jun 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Peace_Mennonite_Church_(Richmond,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=142068.
Sawatzky, John. (November 2016). Peace Mennonite Church (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 15 June 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Peace_Mennonite_Church_(Richmond,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=142068.
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