A Brief History of SMBC
The Mennonite Brethren Church had its beginning as a movement of spiritual renewal in the Molotschna Mennonite settlement in Russia on January 6, 1860. From there, it spread to other Mennonite colonies in what is today called the Ukraine.
Among the Mennonites that migrated from Russia to Canada between 1922 and 1930 were many Mennonite Brethren, who either joined already established Mennonite Brethren (MB) congregations or formed new ones.
A number of Mennonite Brethren families made Steinbach their new home, where they initially worshipped with the Brudertaler (Evangelical Mennonite Brethren) congregation. In spite of their similarities, the MBs eventually terminated their association with the EMBs and formed their own church. On January 3, 1927, “38 brethren and seven sisters” met, electing Gerhard Unruh as their leader and H.K. Siemens as their assistant leader. Thus began the Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church.
At first the small group met in the EMB church, but after a few months they purchased an old schoolhouse, which they remodelled. Then in 1943, near the end of the second World War, the church began construction of a facility on the present site. The project was finally completed in 1947 (below, top-left). The need for Sunday school space led to construction of the three-storey addition at the front of the church in 1957 (below, top-right). In 1970 a side foyer, gym, and education wing were added (below, bottom-left).
The membership decided in June 1986 to begin construction of the present sanctuary (above, bottom-right), which was built at a cost of $720,000. The completed facility was dedicated in the following spring. Five years later (1992), the mortgage was paid off.
In 2004, construction of a new Christian Ed. wing, multi-functional gym, and an office area was completed. The new facilities were built where the old sanctuary and Christian education wing once stood (below).
Lay preachers led the congregation until 1967. John D. Reimer (1967–1974) was the church’s first full-time pastor. He was followed by Jake Falk (1974–1984), Bill Lehman (1985–1990) and John Block (1990–1995). Keith Poysti served as interim pastor from October 1995 to July 1996. Norm Neufeld, who joined the church in 1998, died in February 2000. Walter Reimer was half-time interim pastor during part of Pastor Norm’s illness. Scott Koop, the church’s first salaried youth pastor, served 1997–2001.
Abe Klassen assumed the senior pastor role on September 1, 2000 and faithfully served until July 2008. He was joined on July 1, 2002, by Gary St. Amand, who led the youth program until September 30, 2003. Mike Kehler (January 2004 – April 2013) assumed the position of Pastor of Youth and Family Life shortly after. Mike’s responsibilities shifted to small groups and family life when Charlie Peronto came on board as the Pastor of Student Ministries (August 2008 – July 2011). Walter Fast came from Germany in August of 2009 to assume the role of lead pastor. He and his wife, Anne, were formally commissioned on September 13, 2009. When Charlie completed his service, Bobby Klassen stepped into his position. He was commissioned as Pastor of Student Ministries on September 18, 2011, and served in that role until August 31, 2018. Kelby Friesen joined the staff in the new role of Pastor of Community Life on August 15, 2018. His commissioning service took place on September 16th of that year.
Other ministers to the congregation were H.A. Regehr, Cornelius Rempel, and Daryl Busby. Les Riediger, Dan Stobbe, Dan Warkentin, Dan Thiessen, and Dan Berger have been full-time or part-time associate pastors.
Church membership today stands at about 450.
- Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online
- Harder, Leland. Steinbach and Its Churches. Elkhart, Ind.: Mennonite Biblical Seminary, 1970. Pp. 49–51.
- Mennonite Brethren Herald (27 May 1988): 41.
- Mennonites in Canada Collection, “70-Steinbach,” Mennonite Archives of Ontario.
- Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church records at the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies.
- Süss, Lenora. “A Short History of the Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church, from 1927 to March, 1985.” Unpublished typescript, 1985, 9 pp. Mennonite Historical Society of Canada coll., Mennonite Archives of Ontario.
Revised September 2018