Historical Sketch: Abbotsford Mennonite Fellowship*

In the fall of 1996 Walter and Mabel Paetkau met with Mel and Anita Penner to discuss the formation of a house church. Other couples included were Dan and Elaine Zehr and Peter and Rose Adrian. Meetings were held in each other’s houses. They followed the church liturgical year, and used the Mennonite Hymnal in addition to other worship resources.

The group was eventually joined by a number of other couples and individuals, and a group of young couples with families from West Abbotsford Mennonite Church. As the group grew beyond the size of a house church the decision was made in the fall of 1997 to start meeting in the Old Courthouse (Community Services Building) in Abbotsford. One room was used for the worship service and another for children’s activities and the serving of refreshments. The children were an integral part of all aspects of the inter-generational fellowship.

Abbotsford Mennonite Fellowship (AMF) was a self-professed “intentionally small congregation created to be open and accepting of all who wish to join us for worship and exploration, fellowship, and mutual support.” They believed that everyone who participated, regardless of age, was a member, not by virtue of belief or ritual but by the voluntary choice of wishing to be part of a relational, lay-led small fellowship. The congregation enjoyed seasonal events such as an annual picnic, an Easter sunrise service, and Christmas dinners hosted by families. They also sponsored an interfaith potluck meal for a number of years with up to 100 people attending, including members of various groups from Sikh, Muslim, Bahai, and Hindu faiths.

The congregation held an annual fundraising auction for International Projects, where up to $3,500 dollars were raised. Project examples included: a peace project with Alan Harder in Indonesia; a mothers centre in the Ukraine; church development in Thailand under a church missions board; and a Mel & Anita Penner project in Mongolia, where they provided accounting and office administration.

As AMF had no staff and facility budget, except for modest rent, the large majority of their budget was designated to Conference and Mennonite Central Committee projects and local causes. Abbotsford Mennonite Fellowship was a member of Mennonite Church British Columbia, and had representation at the monthly pastors meetings. The congregation was active in the Conference, participating in discussions and discernment. The group hosted an event for Gays and Lesbians during the Mennonite Church Canada Gathering 2009 held in BC.

Membership over the years varied from the low twenties to over 30, with the latter years averaging 21. For special events there would be over forty participants. The fellowship voted to disband in 2010 and held their last meeting on February 7, 2010. Reasons given for the closure included fatigue with demands on church responsibilities, people moving out of the area, and some no longer as committed to the continuity of the Fellowship as they had once been and withdrawing from the Fellowship.