Historical Sketch: Yarrow United Mennonite Church

The Yarrow United Mennonite Church in Yarrow (now a part of Chilliwack), British Columbia began services in 1928 when the first Mennonites moved to the area. The initial group of 21 individuals gathered for worship in various homes. In the early years Yarrow United Mennonite was a branch of the First Mennonite Church Greendale congregation. Yarrow and Sardis formed one church though the groups met separately.

The congregation formally organized on October 25, 1938 with the assistance of N. W. Bahnmann from Coghlan.

J. J. Klassen became the first pastor of the church. The first building was occupied in 1938. The congregation grew rapidly in the late 1940s and early 1950s due to a major influx of Mennonites and others from Russia and West Prussia after World War II.

When the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of British Columbia organized in 1936 and incorporated in 1940, Yarrow sent delegates. They joined the General Conference of North America in 1938 and in 1939 Yarrow officially applied for membership in the provincial conference. Yarrow hosted the formation of the BC Mennonite Women’s Conference in 1939 and in 1940 held a Bible school in the church. In 1941 records show that they had a deacon on the Ministers and Deacons committee of the BC Conference. By all accounts the congregation was quite active in the late 30s and 1940s.

Yarrow United Mennonite Church continued to grow in worship attendance, and in 1940 the church building was expanded. By the early 1950’s membership stood at 210 and plans were made to build a new sanctuary. The new church was dedicated on 21 June 1959 and in October 1963, while celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the mortgage papers for the ten year mortgage were ceremonially burned.

The first language used in worship and Sunday school was German. The transition began in the 1960s, when Sunday school teachers began using English because students no longer understood the German language. The final transition to exclusive use of English in worship came due to the very small number of worshippers who spoke the German Language.

While a number of Yarrow families moved away to larger cities after a few years, in September 1988 the congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary with 113 official members. In the congregation’s 50 years of existence there occurred 165 marriages, 275 baptisms and 150 deaths. The lack of work opportunities in more recent years has resulted in a reduction of members from a high of 201 members in 1956 to 63 in 2010.

The congregation has been served by the following deacons since 1974: Ike and Veronica Thiessen, 1974-1984; Linda Neufeld Klassen, 1981-1983; Gerald and Marlene Janzen, 1981-1985; Dieter and Mary Niedermeiser, 1985-1997; John and Shirley Finstra, 1998-2000; Jake and Janette Toews, 1998-2007; Carter and Ruby Waugh, 2000-2003; Gotthard and Marie Rehsler, 2000-2005; Len and Toby Peters, 2003-present; and Bert and Elisabete Isaak, 2005-2006. The following served as Choir Leaders: John Baerg, 1960-1990; Linda Rempel, 1990-2000; and Marion Braun, 2000- 2007.

The generous heart of the congregation continues to this day. Not only have they contributed to the building of a place of worship, members of the congregation have contributed faithfully to Mennonite Church British Columbia, Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Church Canada Witness programs over the years. The members of the congregation continue contributing their talents in Mennonite Disaster Service projects.

Yarrow United Mennonite Church continues to worship in the more traditional style. Praise and Worship on Sunday morning is led by a variety of people who lead in the singing of hymns as well as older and more contemporary chorus arrangements. Singing is done with piano accompaniment and also a cappella. In addition to the pastor, lay people also lead the worship services. The present pastor is Barry Lesser.


Picture Below:  Yarrow United Mennonite Church, early years

Picture Below:  Yarrow United Mennonite Church, 1959

Picture Below:  Yarrow United Mennonite Church, 2018


United MC Yarrow Leading Ministers

Minister Years of Ministry

Nicholai Bahnmann 1938-1943

John J. Klassen 1938-1957

Peter W. Dyck 1957-1970

Henry Claassen 1970-1979

Henry T. Klassen (interim) 1979

Henry H. Epp 1979-1982

Arnold Fast 1982-1986

John Unrau 1986-1989

Dan Rempel 1989-2000

Ron Braun 2000-2007

Barry Lesser 2007- 2018

 Darnell Barkman  2018 - present

United MC Yarrow Membership

Year Members

1938 31

1939 44

1945 63

1950 152

1955 193

1959 174

1965 189

1975 110

1985 103

1995 96

2006 77

2010 63