Rosthern Bible School (Rosthern, Saskatchewan, Canada)

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The Rosthern Bible School Building in 1947 showing the flat roofed 1946 addition to the original "Immigrantenhaus" building both with black unfinished creosoted exterior and an outdoor well, the building’s water supply. The building has been demolished.

Rosthern Bible School was located in the town of Rosthern, Saskatchewan, and affiliated with the Conference of Mennonites of Saskatchewan. It functioned from 1932 to 1957, during which 491 students and at least 23 instructors studied and taught. The school positively influenced the spiritual lives of many Saskatchewan youth and led many to become congregation leaders, Sunday School teachers, Daily Vacation Bible School instructors, choir leaders, pastors and missionaries. Over half of the students were women and the school empowered them to take leading role in many congregations and to engage in full time church work.

In 1931 Rev. Jacob J. Nickel pointed out to Ältester Jacob H. Janzen the need in the Saskatchewan Conference churches for a Bible School. Ältester David Toews responded by appointing Nickel as organizer and instructor. On 1 November 1932 the Rosthern Bible School opened its doors for the first time, with nine students and Nickel as teacher. From its beginning it was closely affiliated with the German English Academy (GEA), now known as Rosthern Junior College, the Rosthern-based Mennonite high school. It used an upstairs classroom in the north side of the German English Academy's red brick building. All subjects were taught in the German language, except for the Book of Job which Alvin Thiessen of the GEA taught in English. Some students had received their education in the German-speaking villages in Russia and were fluent in German. For others, however, it was a language heard only during church services, and they found it difficult. Grade nine and 10 students from GEA joined the Bible School students for Bible and catechism studies, and grade 11 and 12 materials came from Mennonite or church history lessons.

The Bible School term lasted five months, October to March, to accommodate rural youth who were needed as farm help for seeding and harvest but could arrange a few months of winter study. Near the end of the spring term the Bible School students visited area churches to present programs. That became an annual event which left an indelible mark on many students as well as the congregations who heard them.

Rosthern Bible School Faculty, 1945/46.
L-R: Jacob C. Schmidt, Benno Toews, Johann G. Rempel, principal.

The second year, 1933-34, two subjects were taught in English, "Personal Work" by J. C. Schmidt and "Missions" by Benno Toews. As the years went by, almost all instruction changed to English. The first three years J. J. Nickel was the main teacher, with Rev. John G. Rempel taking leadership in 1935 and continuing for the next 16 years until 1951. In addition to the devotional times and singing periods, the main subjects of instruction were Bible, Old Testament prophecy, ethics, German literature and grammar, catechism, hymnology, Glaubenslehre (Bible doctrine), church (and Mennonite) history and Christian education. The faculty of GEA often assisted in teaching specific courses, particularly in music. For practical experience the students took turns teaching a Bible lesson every Saturday morning at the German school for public school children. On Monday morning fellow classmates and teachers critiqued that lesson.

In the 1930s enrollment increased in both the Bible School and GEA. This lead the Bible School in 1939 to purchase the unused two-story Immigrantenhaus (Mennonite Immigration Building) located at the northeast corner of Rosthern, east of the railway tracks. Renovations and additions were made over many summers to this Bible School building for it had become rather derelict. It also had inadequate dormitory space, so most male students lived in town or at the nearby Youth Farm. A sizable 1946 addition provided space for a male dormitory, library, classroom and office. In 1948 the building was stuccoed. All students were expected to assist with general housekeeping and maintenance tasks.

In the 1939-40 school year a second teacher, Rev. Jacob C. Schmidt, was added. In 1940-41 the third teacher, Isaac Epp with his wife Gladys, also acted as house parents for the girl’s dormitory. In 1942-43 the alumni organized their first project to raise funds for needy students. The Bible School’s yearbook, The Torch, first published that year. Previously the GEA’s yearbook, The Link, included information on the Bible School. Henry T. Klaassen, who began teaching in 1946 for eleven years, was the first permanent teacher at the Bible School who was not first a teacher in Russia.

Rosthern Bible School's objectives were  to impart a deeper understanding of the Holy Scriptures and Christian life; to provide a more adequate knowledge of church and Mennonite and Anabaptist history; to foster good singing and cultivate an appreciation for church hymns and chorales in German as well as in English; to prepare young people for work in their home churches where they could be active in the Sunday School, Christian Endeavor programs and in the preaching ministry and to have a vision for home and foreign missions.

World War II brought many changes to the prairie communities which included a need for new directions in religious education. By the 1940s the Rosthern Bible School was well established, with independence from the German English Academy. It had ambitious plans. It purchased its building from the Canadian Mennonite Board of Immigration in 1945, maintained its own treasury, fund drives, promotions and its own student, alumni and graduation organizations. The Bible School began sponsoring Sunday school teacher’s conferences and many of its students worked through the Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization at local summer Bible schools. In 1945 the Conference of Mennonites in Saskatchewan decided to found a höhere Bibleschule (a higher Bible School) for post-high school graduates in Rosthern. Unfortunately the decision's implementation was delayed by budgetary constraints and the unwillingness of the German English Academy Board to allow its property to become Conference of Mennonites in Canada property. In 1947 when faculty and facilities became available through Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Canadian Mennonite Bible College was founded thus ending the ambitions of the Rosthern Bible School. Improved transportation, a stronger desire from congregations for university and seminary trained pastors and a movement of many Mennonites from rural to urban habitation led to a decrease in enrollment at the Rosthern Bible School. The Canadian Mennonite Bible College also contributed to a lessened need for a Bible School education. After the Bible School closed in 1957, the GEA maintained a separate Bible Department for a number of years.


Patkau, Esther. Ministry of Rosthern Bible School Alumni 1932-1994. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Published by the author, 1994. 115 pp.

Additional Information

Rosthern Bible School Faculty, 1932-1957

Teachers Years of Service
Rev. Jacob J. Nickel 1932–1935
Rev. John G. Rempel 1935–1951
Rev. Benno Toews 1936-37, 1944-1946
Rev. Jacob C. Schmidt 1939-48, 1953-1954
Rev. Isaac Epp 1940–1941
Mr. Otto Unger 1941–1942
Rev. H. H. Janzen 1942–1944
Rev. Cornelius Boldt 1945–1947
Rev. Jacob P. Penner 1945–1947
Rev. H. T. Klaassen 1946–1957
Mr. David Paetkau 1945, 1948-1951
Mr. Kornelius G. Toews  
Mr. Henry W. Friesen  
Rev. Henry T. Klassen 1946–1957
Miss Sara Lehn 1947–1951
Mr. Bruno Epp 1948–1952
Mr. Henry Epp 1948–1949
Rev. John P. Loewen 1949–1953
Miss Dorothy Peters 1951–1952
Miss Hedy Sawadsky 1953–1956
Mr. Arthur Wiens 1953–1957
Mrs. Leila Wiens 1956–1957
Mr. Norman Bergen 1955–1956

Rosthern Bible School Kitchen Staff

Staff, Home Community Years of Service
Liese Fast, Rosthern, Sask.  1939-40
Bertha Schmidt, Swift Current, Sask.  
Anne Toews, Waldheim, Sask. 1955-57
Justina Friesen, Rosthern, Sask.  
Marie Klaassen, Rosthern, Sask. 1943-44
Mrs. Helena Neufeld, Madison, Sask. 1944-49
Tina Neufeld, Madison, Sask. 1944-49
Mrs. Boldt, Rosthern, Sask. 1949-51
Tina Neufeld, Hague, Sask. 1951-52
Mary Neufeld, Hague, Sask. 1951-52
John & Mrs Block, Waldheim, Sask.  
Hilda Thiessen, Waldheim, Sask. 1954
Selma Block, Waldheim, Sask. 1954
Leona Epp, Eigenheim, Sask.  
Alice Epp  
Mrs. Mary (Bill) Schmidt, Drake, Sask. 1956-57

Rosthern Bible School Alumni who Served as Missionaries

Staff, Home Community Years of Service
Liese Fast, Rosthern, Sask.  1939-40
Bertha Schmidt, Swift Current, Sask.  
Anne Toews, Waldheim, Sask. 1955-57
Justina Friesen, Rosthern, Sask.  
Marie Klaassen, Rosthern, Sask. 1943-44
Mrs. Helena Neufeld, Madison, Sask. 1944-49
Tina Neufeld, Madison, Sask. 1944-49
Mrs. Boldt, Rosthern, Sask. 1949-51
Tina Neufeld, Hague, Sask. 1951-52
Mary Neufeld, Hague, Sask. 1951-52
John & Mrs Block, Waldheim, Sask.  
Hilda Thiessen, Waldheim, Sask. 1954
Selma Block, Waldheim, Sask. 1954
Leona Epp, Eigenheim, Sask.  
Alice Epp  
Mrs. Mary (Bill) Schmidt, Drake, Sask. 1956-57

Rosthern Bible School Alumni Called to Pastoral Ministry

Name Place served Years as Student
Rev. Norman Bergen   1948
John Bueckert Eyebrow, Sask. 1943-1948
Rev. Erwin Dyck & Dorothy (Epp) Dyck   1952-1953
Rev. John Dyck Langley Prairie, BC 1945-1946
Rev. Frank Ens    1946
Rev. Isaac Enns   1952-1953
Rev. Jacob Esau Compass, Sask. 1947
Rev. Leonard Ewert   1944-1945
Rev. Cornelius Fast Glidden, Sask. 1942-1945
Rev. David P. Friesen Dorintosh, Sask. 1947-1949
Rev. Peter Froese & Nellie (Ens) Froese   1939-1940
Corny Isaac & Martha (Driediger) Isaac Medstead 1947-1948
Rev. Dan Jantz   1942-1945
Rev. Ramon Jantz   1942-1944
Rev. Walter Jantzen  & Esther (Dyck) Janzen Horse Lake, Sask. 1954-1957
Rev. John J. Janzen Neuanlage, Sask. 1950-1951
Rev. Benno Klassen & Frances (Sawatzky) Klassen Waldheim, Sask. 1953-1954
Rev. Henry T. Klassen & Clara (Epp) Klassen   1935-1936
Rev. Jacob Klassen & Johanna (Friesen) Klassen   1944, 1947, 1949
Jake Klaassen   1949
Rev. Frank Koop   1950
Rev. Henry Koop* & Norma (Epp) Koop   1954
Rev. John Kroeker Rev* & Frieda (Epp) Kroeker   1936-1937
Rev. Bill Kruger    1951
Rev. Jacob Loewen  & Theresa (Siemens) Loewen   1950-1951
Rev. Korny Martens  & Anne (Thiessen) Martens Fiske, Sask. 1952-1953
Jake Mierau & Linda (Giesbrecht) Mierau   1945-1945
Rev. Abram Neufeld   1941-1943
Rev. Dave Neufeld & Helena (Neufeld) Neufeld   1936-1937
Rev. Henry H. Patkau   1946-1947
Rev. Jacob Pauls   1936, 1945
Rev. Dave Peters & Marguerite Peters   1934
Rev. Henry Peters & Frieda (Patkau) Peters   1943-1944
Rev. Peter Peters    1942
Rev. David Quiring  & Lieschen (Dyck) Quiring   1938-1941
Rev. Abe Regier & Marie (Ediger) Regier   1944-1946
Rev. Peter Sawatzky & Margaret (Reimer) Sawatzky   1943
Rev. Arthur Regier   1947-1949
Rev. Paul Schroeder   1934-1936
Rev. Ruben Siemens  & Tina (Neufeld) Siemens   1940-1941
Rev. John C. Siemens & Mary (Penner) Siemens   1942-1943
Rev. Roy Stuart  & Irene (Epp) Stuart   1945
Rev. Frank E. Wiebe   1951-1952

(The blanks in: “Years as student” notes that they were not RBS alumni but spouse was.

The blanks in: “Place served” indicates pastor served in many different congregations.)

Rosthern Bible School Enrollment

Year Number of Students
1932-33 9
1935-36 16
1939-40 26
1942-43 41
1943-44 37
1945-46 39
1949-50 35
1955-56 25
1956-57 25

Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia

Vol. 4, p. 362 by John G. Rempel

Rosthern Bible School dates back to 1932, when it was established as a supplement to the Rosthern Junior College, then called the German-English Academy. For the first three years Jacob J. Nickel of Aberdeen taught this school, which had a term of about 5 months (November-March). In later years a month was added. In 1935-49 John G. Rempel served as principal of the Bible School. The number of students rose from about a dozen to over 50. In 1939 the Bible School moved into a separate house. H. T. Klassen was the principal of the Rosthern Bible School in the late 1950s. In 1956 it had 25 students.

Author(s) Esther Patkau
Victor Wiebe
Date Published August 2011

Cite This Article

MLA style

Patkau, Esther and Victor Wiebe. "Rosthern Bible School (Rosthern, Saskatchewan, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2011. Web. 16 Aug 2022.,_Saskatchewan,_Canada)&oldid=167180.

APA style

Patkau, Esther and Victor Wiebe. (August 2011). Rosthern Bible School (Rosthern, Saskatchewan, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 August 2022, from,_Saskatchewan,_Canada)&oldid=167180.

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