First Mennonite Church, Greendale

First Mennonite Church Greendale is located in Chilliwack, British Columbia (BC). The first Conference of Mennonites church to be organized in British Columbia began here in 1928-29, when the first settlers came to the Sardis and Sumas areas from the prairie provinces of Canada and elsewhere. In April 1930 a large wooded area owned by the Northern Construction Company was subdivided into 28 lots of 18 to 25 acres each. The sale of this land was available only to Mennonites. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of Mennonite families in the area.

At first the various families met in a chicken barn and in the homes of Nicolai Bahnmann and Johann Reimer or outdoors, but eventually a meeting house was constructed in Sardis in 1931. On October 31, 1931 the congregation was formally organized with 80 members as the First Mennonite Church of Sardis under the leadership of Elder Nicolai Bahnmann, and all the settlers of Mennonite Church background from both Yarrow and the Sardis and Sumas areas joined the congregation.

In 1936 the Sardis congregation hosted the sessions that led to the formation of the Konferenz der Vereinigten Mennonitengemeinden in Britisch Columbien (Conference of United Mennonite Churches in British Columbia). The delegates asked the Sardis church to bring its constitution to the next gathering of the churches so delegates could consider it for the conference.

In 1938, Sardis was one of seven BC churches to join the General Conference Mennonite Church. For practical reasons each congregation in Yarrow and Sardis became independent in 1938. When boundary changes occurred, the Sardis church became Greendale in 1947.

The first meetinghouse was enlarged in 1941, and replaced in 1947 by a new church measuring 50 by 100 feet and seating 1,200. Greendale experienced the disastrous 1948 flood, when the waters rose to cover the floor of the church. The church building was destroyed by fire on December 13, 1955, most likely due to faulty wiring. On September 2, 1956 a new sanctuary, built on the same foundation but with a smaller sanctuary and the addition of classrooms, was dedicated. The building was renovated in 1986.

In 1947, together with the nearby Greendale Mennonite Brethren congregation, they purchased land for a cemetery that was given the name Greendale.

The congregation reached its highest membership in 1959 with 310 members. At that time 92 members were over the age of 60. The congregation had a strong Sunday school and youth work ministry from the early years of its existence. Services were conducted every Sunday in German; there was a Sunday school for the children, a choir, a young people’s organization and three women’s missionary societies. The congregation went through a difficult transition in language from German to English in the 1960s.

In 2006 the congregation left Mennonite Church Canada and became an Area Conference Only Member (ACOM). In May 2007 the congregation chose not to participate in the signing of a new covenant document drawn up by Mennonite Church British Columbia, and on November 18, 2007 the congregation voted to leave the area conference.  The congregation changed its name to River of Life Church in 2012.

 Picture Below:  First Mennonite Church Greendale, 1947

Picture Below:  First Mennonite Church Greendale, 1956


First MC Greendale Leading Ministers

Minister Years of Ministry

Nicolai Bahnmann 1930-1932

Bernhard B. Friesen 1932-1934

David J. Duerksen 1935-1936

David Hausknecht 1936-1937

Abram Warkentin 1938-1939

David Hausknecht 1939-1944

Wilhelm G. Martens 1945-1949

Abram Warkentin 1950-1951

Jacob W. Nickel 1951-1952

Isaac Harms 1953-1954

Bruno Enss 1954-1963

Willi Dirksen 1963

Henry H. Neufeld 1964-1967

Peter Froese 1967-1968

Jurgen Schoenwetter 1968-1973

Henry Esau 1974-1979

Helmut Isaak 1981-1987

George Hoeppner 1987-1996

Peter Neudorf 1996-2000

Philip Wheaton 2001-2003

George Hoeppner 2003-2013

Other ministers and elders have included Aron Jantzen, Henry H. Dueck,Johann J. Klassen, Gerhard Loewen, Abram Block, Jacob Penner,Gerhard I. Peters, Cornelius Matthies, Rudolph Froese, Julius Thiessen, and Rudolf Froese.


First United Mennonite Membership

Year Members

1937 11

1940 50

1945 75

1950 95

1955 243

1959 471

1965 568

1975 575

1979 602

1985 539

1990 454

1995 357

2000 324

2005 303

2010 270