Historical Sketch: Chilliwack Mennonite Church*

Mennonites had come into the Chilliwack area of British Columbia from the prairies in the 1940s. A congregation, initially known as the Westheimer Mennoniten Gemeinde, had been formed in 1945 but a division of opinion on many matters due to the influence of revivalism caused a split in 1947. The group that remained became East Chilliwack Mennonite Church and the new congregation was named First Mennonite Church.

The new congregation held its organizational meeting on May 18, 1947 in the Strathcona School, led by Elder Wilhelm Martens from First Mennonite Church Greendale. There were 40 charter members. Gerhard D. Loewen is considered the founding leader of the group. On August 30, 1947 the congregation was able to purchase the church building formerly owned by the Zion Evangelical Church. It was located at 428 Wellington Avenue, four blocks from the city center.

In 1959 a group desiring to worship in the English language began its own services and formed the Chilliwack Mennonite Mission Church. A new sanctuary was constructed in 1965. In 1969 the Chilliwack Mennonite Mission Church merged back with the First Mennonite congregation and the name was changed to Chilliwack Mennonite Church.

The congregation dissolved in 1978 due to declining membership, and differences in theology. Long standing internal struggle and deep tensions between the “charismatic” and “traditional” led to the decay of the congregation. Eventually the congregation accepted a resolution to dissolve and turn over the church property and assets to the Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia with the view to establishing a new congregation under the leadership of the conference. The formal closing and thanksgiving service was held on December 10, 1978. The building was subsequently sold to a Baptist congregation in Chilliwack.