Historical Updates after 1985

After 1985 . . .

Photo of construction underway in 1986
A crane hoists the cupola to the top of the new church.

The SMBC membership decided in June 1986 to begin construction of the present sanctuary (above), which was built at a cost of $720,000. The completed facility was dedicated in the following spring. Five years later, in 1992, the mortgage was paid off.

Lay preachers had led the congregation until 1967, when John D. Reimer (1967–1974) became the church’s first full-time pastor. (At some point during his tenure, German ceased to be heard from worship leaders.) He was succeeded by Jake Falk (1974–1984), Bill Lehman (1985–1990) and John Block (1990–1995). It would be three years before the church would have another full-time pastor, and five years before they would have one who could serve for more than a year and a half.

Keith Poysti served as interim pastor from October 1995 to July 1996. He was instrumental in helping the church articulate a clear set of values and a vision for the future. The much-loved Norm Neufeld began his pastoral ministry to the church in 1998, but he died in February 2000 after a short illness. Walter Reimer was half-time interim pastor during part of Pastor Norm’s medical leave. Scott Koop, the church’s first salaried youth pastor, served from 1997 to 2001.

After five years without a long-term pastor, the church called Abe Klassen to lead them. He began his service on September 1, 2000, and served faithfully until July 2008. Construction of a new Christian education wing, multi-functional gym, library, and office area was completed during his time. The new facilities were built where the old sanctuary and Christian education wing once stood.

Photo of SMBC as it stands today
Steinbach MB Church building — winter 2008

Pastor Abe was joined on July 1, 2002, by Gary St. Amand, who led the youth program for barely a year. Mike Kehler (served January 2004 to April 2013) assumed the position of Pastor of Youth and Family Life shortly after Gary left. Mike’s responsibilities shifted to small groups and family life when Charlie Peronto came on board as the Pastor of Student Ministries in August 2008. Charlie resigned in July 2011.

Walter Fast was called from Germany in August of 2009 to fill the lead pastor position vacated by Abe Klassen in the previous July. He and his wife Anne were formally commissioned on September 13, 2009.

When Charlie ended his service, Bobby Klassen stepped into the Pastor of Student Ministries role. Beginning his service on September 18, 2011, Bobby served there until August 31, 2018. Kelby Friesen joined the staff in the new role of Pastor of Community Life on August 15, 2018. Ray Klassen worked as an outreach consultant from December 2018 to April 2020. In the summer of 2019, with Pastor of Student Ministries position still vacant, Erika Schulz was offered the temporary position of Coordinator of Student Ministries, beginning in August 2019. Late in 2019, Stefan Klassen accepted the church’s offer to be their Pastor of Student Ministries; he began that ministry in the summer of 2020, when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was receding.

Since that time, the church met numerous challenges from provincial government regulations aimed at containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including restrictions on the number of people allowed to be physically present at Sunday worship services. For a time, no one was permitted to attend. It was fortuitous that services had been live streamed well before the pandemic began. That technology moved to centre-stage as almost every aspect of worship services was pre-recorded (music, children’s features, Scripture reading, and sermons) and then streamed to cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers of SMBC adherents and friends near and far. Ministries like Sunday school, small groups, prayer groups, Bible studies, and student ministries used Zoom conference technology as a way to gather and continue the work while observing provincial restrictions on face-to-face meetings.

At present (April 2021), Manitoba churches are permitted to let a limited number of people into their sanctuaries on Sunday mornings, provided that family units remain a safe two meters from others. Congregational singing is allowed, but masks must be worn. A growing number of people are already vaccinated against the virus; many more are not. A “third wave” of the pandemic, now driven by more contagious and aggressive COVID-19 “variants,” is hitting Ontario, Quebec, and BC. It would be naive to think that Manitoba will be spared. So, many are bracing for a return to tighter restrictions once again.

Earlier ministers to the congregation were H.A. Regehr, Cornelius Rempel, and Daryl Busby. Full-time or part-time associate pastors in the late decades of the 20th century included Les Riediger, Dan Stobbe, Dan Warkentin, Dan Thiessen, and Dan Berger.

Church membership today stands at about 450. 

Sources

  1. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online
  2. Harder, Leland. Steinbach and Its Churches. Elkhart, Ind.: Mennonite Biblical Seminary, 1970. Pages 49–51.
  3. Mennonite Brethren Herald (27 May 1988): 41.
  4. Mennonites in Canada Collection, “70-Steinbach,” Mennonite Archives of
    Ontario
    .
  5. Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church records at the Centre for Mennonite
    Brethren Studies
    .
  6. Süss, Lenora. “A Short History of the Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church, from 1927 to March, 1985.” Unpublished typescript, 1985. 9 pages. Mennonite Historical Society of Canada coll., Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Revised April 11, 2021