St. Jacobs Mennonite Church (St. Jacobs, Ontario, Canada)

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St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, 2003

The St. Jacobs Mennonite Church (SJMC) is located in the village of St. Jacobs, Ontario, a significant tourist area, bordering the city of Waterloo. However, its story begins over 150 years earlier, two miles northwest of the village where much of the land was being cleared for the first time by pioneering families.

On 29 October 1844, just over 1 ¼ acres of land was bought from one John Brubacher for five shillings by John S. Brubacher, John W. Brubacher and Peter Eby on behalf of those in the area wishing to form a Mennonite congregation. The land bought was to be used for a church, school and cemetery. A log school house was built immediately which doubled as a meeting house until a frame meeting house was built in the early 1850s. Ludwig Koch was ordained in 1845 and served as minister of this new Conestoga congregation as well as at Elmira and Martin’s. John W. Brubacher, one of the original trustees was ordained as a deacon in 1847. His daughter Esther was the first burial in 1856.

The congregation met in what was known as the Conestoga Mennonite Meetinghouse. In 1889 there was a split in the Ontario Mennonite Conference between what became known as the “conference group” and the more conservative “Old Order” group. At the Conestoga congregation, the Old Orders outnumbered the conference group and thus continued to meet in the frame building while the other group met in homes. However, in the years that followed, many families who had joined the Old Order movement returned to the conference group, creating pressure on the Old Order group to return the building. In 1892, the Old Order group built a new meetinghouse one half mile to the south which itself became known as the Conestoga Mennonite Meetinghouse as it is today.

In 1915 the original Conestoga congregation (conference group) built a new red brick building in the village of St. Jacobs on land donated by Samuel Good with subsequent building projects in 1936, 1949, 1977 and 1990. The original meetinghouse was torn down but the site remains the SJMC cemetery. In the 1910s the language of worship changed from German to English. In 1935 a Community Summer Bible School was held. This has continued to the present, now known as Vacation Bible School and is a joint effort of the village’s three churches, Mennonite, Evangelical Lutheran and United.

Over the years (particularly in the late 19th and early 20th century) the congregation at St. Jacobs experienced a significant influx of people who wanted to leave the somewhat restrictive lifestyle of the Old Order community yet maintain a Mennonite faith perspective. The St. Jacobs congregation, with its largely rural farming community “fit the bill” for many families.

In 1979 the SJMC began sponsoring refugees from Laos. By the late1980s this group began meeting on their own for worship services at the St. Jacobs Church. They soon formed their own MCEC congregation (Grace Lao) and in 1999 bought their own church building on Lancaster Street in Kitchener.

Through the late 1970s and 1980s there was a deliberate effort made to provide opportunities for young people within the congregation to explore and test their gifts and interest in pastoral ministry. This resulted in a number of young people who went on to study at church schools and then became pastors in various North American settings.

In the late 1980s and 1990s a number of young adults left to study both music and theology at what was then known as the Canadian Mennonite Bible College, a predominately Russian Mennonite school in Winnipeg. This resulted in a many friendships made across the Mennonite cultural perspective - some even choosing to marry people of Russian Mennonite descent. In a way this should not be surprising as the three former conferences in Ontario were very interactive long before formal talks of church integration began.

The village of St. Jacobs has become a very popular tourist destination. In order to give this growing tourist population a complete and accurate portrayal of who Mennonites are, the Meetingplace was formed in 1979. Today this building is known as the Visitor Centre and features a multimedia presentation of Mennonite history, culture and religious beliefs, while also serving as a tourist information center.

In the past many SJMC members were part of farm families, attending church in a rural village. Today, very few are farmers and the rural village is on the doorstep of the City of Waterloo. Its rural roots have been replaced by a more suburban atmosphere. Music has always been a focus of worship, especially congregational singing which is sung unaccompanied and in four-part harmony.

The congregation has always been a strong financial supporter of its conferences, particularly the local conference, now known as Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.


Brubacher, David. "A History of the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church." Research paper, Canadian Mennonite Bible College, 1978, 32 pp. Mennonite Heritage Centre.

Burkholder, L. J. A Brief History of the Mennonites in Ontario. Kitchener, ON: Mennonite Conference of Ontario, 1935: 90-92.

Feick, Magdalena. <em">I Will Build My Church: Conestogo/St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, 1844-1986. St. Jacobs: St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, 1986, 47 pp.

Martin, Almeda S. "Steps into History." Unpublished paper, 1977.

Martin, Simeon E. "A History of the St. Jacobs-Conestoga Congregation." Unpublished paper, 1965.

Martin, Virgil Emerson. The Early History of Jakobstettel. St. Jacobs, Ont. : V.E. Martin, c1979.

Mennonite Reporter (20 March 1989): 11.

Sauder, Ben. "History of the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church." Unpublished paper, 1960.

Archival Records

Church records at Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Additional Information

Address: 1310 King Street North, St. Jacobs ON N0B 2N0

Phone: 519-664-2268

Website: St. Jacobs Mennonite Church

St. Jacobs Mennonite Church Pastoral Leaders

Minister Years
Ludwig Koch 1845-1889
Abraham Martin (Bishop, 1867) 1861-1902
Samuel Weber 1864-1885
Daniel M. Brubacher 1876-1917
Enoch S. Bauman 1894-1918
Moses M. Brubacher (Bishop, 1931) 1918-1936
Roy S. Koch (Bishop, 1951) 1936-1958
Raymond Kramer 1958-1962
Glenn Brubacher 1962-1976
Orland Gingerich (Interim) 1973/74
Eva Martin (Christian Ed) 1975-1986
Gloria Martin Eby (Youth) 1975-1977
Clare Wideman (Interim) 1976/77
Richard Yordy 1977-1989
David Brubacher (Youth) 1978-1981
Gordon Martin (Youth) 1983-1986
Sue C. Steiner 1987-1995
Arnold Cressman (Interim) 1990/91
Harold Hildebrand Schlegel 1991-2003
Phyllis Tribby (Interim) 1996/97
Anna Hemmendinger 1997-1999
Barb Smith Morrison 1997-2009
Winston Martin (Interim) 2001/02
Wendy Janzen 2002-2020
Glenn Zehr (Interim) 2003-2005
Mark Diller Harder  2005-present 
Lisa Carr Pries (Interim)  2006/07 
Kevin Derksen  2009-present 
Sue Shantz (Interim)  2010/11 
Janet Bauman  April 2021-present 

St. Jacobs Mennonite Church Membership

Year Members*
1892 30-40
1915 92
1925 149
1930 218
1936 296
1950 364
1960 424
1965 412
1977 397
1985 425
1995 346
2000 378
2005 377
2010  374
2015  315
2020  220
  • Includes both active and non active members


Map:St. Jacobs Mennonite Church (St. Jacobs, Ontario, Canada)

Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia

By Roy S. Koch. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 402. All rights reserved.

St. Jacobs (Ontario) Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church), a member of the Ontario Conference, built its first log meetinghouse two miles west of St. Jacobs in 1844-45, to serve also as a school; it was called the Conestoga Church. The congregation was divided by the Wisler split that affected a large part of Ontario in 1889. The Wisler (Old Order Mennonite) group used the meetinghouse until the fall of 1892. The present congregation started using the building on 1 January 1893. In 1915 a new church was built in St. Jacobs, its present location, and the congregation adopted the name St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. The meetinghouse was enlarged twice, in 1936 and in 1949. Roy S. Koch (ordained as minister in 1936 and as bishop in 1950) served the congregation until 1957. He was succeeded by Raymond Kramer. The membership in 1958 was 415.

Author(s) Janet Bauman
Trevor Bauman
Date Published September 2011

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bauman, Janet and Trevor Bauman. "St. Jacobs Mennonite Church (St. Jacobs, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2011. Web. 17 Aug 2022.,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=171695.

APA style

Bauman, Janet and Trevor Bauman. (September 2011). St. Jacobs Mennonite Church (St. Jacobs, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 August 2022, from,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=171695.

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