Historical Sketch: Olivet Mennonite Church

Olivet Mennonite Church began in late 1959 as a daughter congregation of Clearbrook Mennonite Church. Members from Clearbrook Mennonite Church wanted an English-speaking church for themselves, their children and community. On January 17, 1960, Olivet had their first gathering with 75 attendees.

Henry D. Penner was the first pastor. For the following 17 months Olivet members worshipped at the Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute (now Columbia Bible College). On September 11,1960 the Olivet Mennonite Mission (the original name of the church) was officially organized as a church with 52 charter members.

The congregation purchased property on Langdon Street in central Clearbrook (now Abbotsford). The basement for Sunday school work was finished first and work progressed rapidly with the upper floor completed in 1963. By 1967 the church was self-supporting and changed its name to Olivet Mennonite Church. As families with young children joined the congregation the education facilities were found to be inadequate and in 1972 an education wing was added. In 1980 the sanctuary was widened to provide more room for the growing church family. Again, most of the work was done by voluntary labour. By 1985 the membership had increased to 349.

An active membership saw a variety of programs, events and trends. Numerous volunteers served in service and missionary projects. Solid Bible study happened in sermons and care groups, especially in the Bethel Bible study series and in Wee College (preschoolers). There were youth programs, various worship styles, choir and even an attempt at an early Sunday morning worship service. The Church Board consisted of the deacons, an elected executive and the department heads.

The 1990s into the 2000s were difficult years for the church. For a variety of reasons, the unity and good will that existed during the period of growth was weakened, and the church was unable to maintain its forward momentum.

On December 11, 2004 the 40 year-old sanctuary of Olivet Mennonite Church was ravaged by fire. The church suffered enough damage that it needed to be demolished and rebuilt. During this transition period, Olivet Mennonite Church held its services at Columbia Bible College just as it did when the first church building was under construction. The church offices and youth programs were located in empty portables at the local Dormick Park Elementary School. Olivet completed their new building in 2007 on the same site as their previous sanctuary.

The church board and several pastors had for some time expressed concern about the perceived failure of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church BC to clearly state their position on homosexual related questions that were raised at regional conferences. In the absence of satisfactory answers to these concerns, the Olivet Mennonite Church decided to withdraw from Mennonite Church Canada in 2006 and from Mennonite Church BC on November 12, 2007.

In an open letter to Mennonite Church BC and the congregation, the pastor and associate pastor stated that they could no longer support or accept the Mennonite position on nonresistance. The placing of the Israeli national flag in a prominent position in the church as evidence of congregational support for the current nation of Israel was done without congregational discussion or approval. These events and decisions were of great concern to many members as they were now separated from the Mennonite family. Many members quietly left to join other churches in the community.

The current congregation is called Olivet Church and is not affiliated with any specific denomination. After several years of discussion between the conference and the church, the MCBC conference, at a special delegate session on November 5, 2011, voted to transfer title of the church property from the conference to the congregation.

 

 Picture Below:  Olivet Mennonite Church, ca. 1968

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Picture Below:  Olivet Mennonite Church, 2007

 
 

Olivet MC Leading Ministers

Minister Years of Ministry

Henry D. Penner 1960-1966

Abe Buhler 1967-1975

Henry C. Born (interim) 1975-1977

David P. Neufeld 1977-1981

Lowell Gerber (interim) 1981-1983

Art Willms 1983-1985

Lowell Gerber 1985-1987

Henry C. Born (interim) 1988-1989

Peter Penner 1990-1994

Jim Ratzlaff 1995-2005

Herb Neufeld (interim) 2005-2006

Randy Thompson 2006-2009

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Olivet MC Membership

Year Members

1960 52

1965 90

1970 162

1975 230

1980 277

1985 349

1990 334

1995 281

2000 215

2005 192