Schoenwiese Mennonite Church group (Manitoba)

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The Schoenwiese Mennonite Church (Schoenwieser Mennoniten Gemeinde von Manitoba) began in 1926 when the Elder Johann Peter Klassen, the former Elder (Ältester) of the Kronsweide Mennonite Church in the Soviet Union moved to Starbuck, Manitoba and helped organize the Mennonite worshiping group that had been meeting in various locations since 1924. The name was chosen in honour of Klassen’s home village, Schönwiese, in the Chortitza Mennonite Settlement. This church became a member of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada in 1926.

In 1927 Johann P. Klassen moved to Winnipeg. There a group of Mennonite immigrants soon also agreed to be part of the Schoenwieser Gemeinde (eventually named First Mennonite Church). The Schoenwiese Church grew and expanded in membership and geographic scope, as Aeltester Klassen, with support of the General Conference Mennonite Church, visited the widely scattered immigrant groups along the railway between Winnipeg and the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border. Klassen organized churches and groups as affiliate-congregations of the Schoenwiese Mennonite Church of Manitoba. By 1931 the church had 15 congregations and was led by Johann P. Klassen, who was assisted by 21 ministers. The church had 666 congregational members, a total of 1,470 members and adherents, and 298 families.

The entire area covered by the Schoenwiese church was divided into seven regions with up to 37 meeting places in a given year. Worship services took place in homes, schools, and rental spaces. As local groups grew in strength and numbers, they constructed their own church building and eventually become independent churches. As local groups diminished in strength and numbers, and as it became possible to travel greater distances with better roads and automobiles, worship services were discontinued and remaining members would join another worshiping group.

The worship groups in the southwest region became independent in 1939 as the Springstein Mennonite Church. In the near west region, the group at Pigeon Lake became independent in 1939 and chose the name Schoenfelder Mennonite Church. In the far west region, the Rivers group became an affiliate-congregation of the Whitewater Mennonite Church in 1939, and independent in the late 1960s when the Whitewater Church decentralized. In the southern region, Glenlea Mennonite Church chose independence in 1945 and the Graysville Mennonite Church joined the Bergthaler Mennonite Church of Manitoba in 1953. A group in the Morris, Stuartburn, and Gardenton areas, at their highest point, built a church in Morris during the 1940s, but by 1968 this group had dissolved. In the southeast region, there was a Schoenwiese group which led to the founding of Steinbach Mennonite Church in 1936, and the Niverville Mennonite Church which became independent from the Schoenwiese church in 1944. In the Winnipeg region, First Mennonite Church was the city’s first and largest General Conference church, and also the place where the Ältester resided. North Kildonan Mennonite Church, which lay on the outskirts of Winnipeg in 1929, was a Schoenwieser congregation until it became independent in 1956. The worshipping groups in the northern region, Stonewall and Petersfield eventually dwindled as people moved away or joined First Mennonite in Winnipeg. The Oak Lake Mennonite Church in western Manitoba was the last Schoenwiese congregation to become independent in 1974.

First Mennonite Church (Winnipeg) can be seen both as the successor to the Schoenwiese Mennonite Church of Manitoba, and as the "mother church" for the congregations which grew and became independent.


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

Klassen, Is. Dem Herrn die Ehre: Schoenwieser Mennoniten Gemeinde von Manitoba, 1924-1968. Altona, MB: The Conference, 1969.

Konferenz-Bericht der 26. Konferenz der Mennoniten im mittleren Canada, abgehalten in Rosthern, Sask., den 2., 3. end 4. Juli 1928.

Additional Information

Schoenwiese Mennonite Settlement groups (with the number of families in some of the locations)

Southwest region Starbuck 6; Springstein 25, Oak Bluff 13; Culross; Elm Creek; Fannystelle 31.
Near West region Pigeon Lake 19; Headingly 9; Elie 11; Meadows 7; Marquette; High Bluff; Westbourne 2.
Far West region Foxwarren 25; Birtle; McAuley 23; Willen; Manson; Fleming; Kirkella1 13; Kenton 35; Elkhorn; Virden; Routledge; Oak Lake; Griswold; Alexander 25; Rivers 13; Wheatland.
Southern region Sperling 18; Graysville 3; Glenlea; St. Adolphe 24; Morris 16; Stuartburn; Gardenton 8.
Southeast region Steinbach 61; Niverville 72; Ste. Anne 17; Lorette 7; Prairie Rose
Winnipeg region Winnipeg (First Mennonite) 280; North Kildonan 79; Brooklands; Kirkfield Park
Northern region Stonewall; Petersfield

Ältesten and Ministers that served the Schoenwiese Mennonte Church of Manitoba

Role Name Life Dates Service Dates Served in Year of Ordination or Election
Aeltester Klassen, Johann P. 1868-1947 1926-1939
Aeltester Loewen, Daniel 1872-1951 Winnipeg 1936
Minister Schulz, Jakob J. 1891-1958 Winnipeg 1936
Minister Rogalsky, Johann 1888-1961 Glenlea 1931
Minister Friesen, John 1889-1955 Glenlea 1931
Minister Braun, Johann 1882-1956 Niverville 1911
Minister Klassen, Jakob 1893-1964 Niverville 1931
Minister Olfert, Abraham 1872-1936 Sperling 1912
Minister Baerg, Jakob 1868-1949 McAuley 1900
Minister Wiens, Abraham 1890-1929 McAuley
Minister Pankratz, Jakob 1901-1962 Glenlea 1926
Minister Driedger, Johann 1872-1957 1925-1957 Pigeon Lake 1909
Minister Schroeder, Johannes 1872-1965 Winnipeg 1906
Aeltester Abrahams, David 1894-1966 Pigeon Lake 1928; 1942
Minister Reimer, Peter 1884-1962 Ste. Anne; Steinbach 1924
Aeltester Koop, Dietrich 1886-1944 Niverville 1930; 1941
Minister Penner, Peter 1885-1945 Oak Lake
Minister Thiessen, Johann 1883-1951 Rivers; Niverville 1930
Minister Schulz, Peter 1868-1944 Oak Lake 1908
Minister Niebuhr, Abram 1893-1949 Oak Lake
Minister Giesbrecht, Gerhard 1878-1940 Stonewall
Aeltester Wiebe, Jakob 1899- 1964- 1964
Aeltester Martens, Wilhelm 1892- 1963- Winnipeg 1919
Aeltester Enns, Johann Hermann 1889- 1932-1964 Winnipeg 1924
Minister Klassen, Isaak 1899- 1944- Winnipeg 1944
Minister Peters, Cornelius 1888- 1931- Glenlea 1921
Minister Sawatzky, Jakob 1924- 1955- Oak Lake 1955
Minister Schroeder, Alfred 1925- 1961 Winnipeg 1961
Minister Sawatzky, Jakob 1927- 1961 Winnipeg 1961
Minister Vogt, Reinhard "Roy" 1934- Winnipeg
Minister Janzen, Waldemar 1932- Winnipeg
Minister Neufeld, John Hermann 1933- 1969- Winnipeg

Ältesten and Ministers who Served and Went to Serve Another Church

Role Name Life Dates Service Dates Served in Year of Ordination or Election
Aeltester Enns, Wilhelm 1895-1974 Pigeon Lake; Springstein 1928; 1941
Minister Letkemann, Franz 1898-1986 Graysville; Bergthaler 1945
Minister Enns, Jakob 1914-2007 Oak Lake; Black Creek, BC 1955
Minister Goerz, Heinrich 1890-1972 Winnipeg; Vancouver 1921
Minister Dirks, Peter 1891-1970 Winnipeg; Niagara
Aeltester Schroeder, Victor 1897-1969 Winnipeg; Pigeon Lake; North Kildonan 1929
Minister Hausknecht, David 1898- Niverville; Greendale, BC 1931
Minister Penner, Isaak 1890-1972 Starbuck; Springstein; West Abbotsford 1936
Minister Tiessen, Isaak 1902-1983 Oak Lake; Blumenorter
Minister Baerg, Jakob 1890-1978 McAuley; BC 1929

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

The Schoenwiese Mennonite Church (Schönwiese Mennoniten Gemeinde) was part of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, and merged into the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba. When the Mennonite refugees from the Soviet Union came to Canada in 1923, Elder Johann Peter Klassen of Schönwiese in Ukraine gathered 22 new Mennonite settlements in Manitoba into one church, which was first called the Starbuck Mennonite Church, but changed to Schoenwiese in 1929.

In 1931 the church had 15 congregations and was led by Elder Johann P. Klassen, who was assisted by 21 ministers. The church had 666 congregational members, a total of 1,470 members and adherents, and 298 families.

The Schoenwiese congregation expanded to Springstein (1939), Schoenfeld (1939), Steinbach (1942, in part from other congregations), Niverville (1944), Glenlea (1945) and North Kildonan (1956).

In 1958 the Schoenwiese Mennonite Church consisted of First Mennonite Church (Winnipeg) (1,026 members); Oak Lake (75 members); Petersfield (17 members); Steinbach (24 members) and scattered membership of 135. The elder in 1958 was Johann Hermann Enns. -- John H. Enns, Vol. 4, p. 471.

Author(s) Alf Redekopp
Date Published November 2015

Cite This Article

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Redekopp, Alf. "Schoenwiese Mennonite Church group (Manitoba)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2015. Web. 22 May 2024.

APA style

Redekopp, Alf. (November 2015). Schoenwiese Mennonite Church group (Manitoba). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2024, from

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