Community Mennonite celebrates 25 years

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“Amalgamating churches like a new marriage . . .”

Dave Rogalsky, Eastern Canada Correspondent
<p>Mike Martin (second from right) and his siblings (from left), Steve, Ron, Willard, Gloria and Terry Martin sang at the 25th anniversary celebration for Community Mennonite Fellowship in Drayton, Ont., on May 23, 2015. Mike, who is the chair of church council, wrote a special song for the event.&nbsp;(Photo courtesy of Community Mennonite Fellowship, Drayton)</p>

The roots ran deep in both the Berea and Moorefield Mennonite Churches, north of Kitchener-Waterloo. Berea, first known as the Parker Mission, was founded in 1941 and joined the Ontario Mennonite Conference in 1947. That same year a congregation was founded less than 10 miles away at Moorefield, using a disused Anglican church building.

In 1967 the two congregations started sharing a pastor. They also had a combined Mennonite Youth Fellowship, adult fellowship, Christmas and evening services, as well as sports teams.

By 1989 conversations had begun to amalgamate the two congregations. This was a difficult process, according to Vernon Cressman, because founding members had spent much time and energy building or renovating their respective buildings. But with only 30 members between two congregations, and many young adults having moved away, the conversation became more about where to locate the congregation—in one of the existing buildings or in an entirely new location.

Eventually they decided to relocate to Drayton, a village between their two churches, and to build something brand new. The old Berea building was purchased by an Old Colony Mennonite group and the Moorefield building was eventually converted into a dwelling.

Ruth Shantz, a former member of the Berea congregation, felt that for the first few years the new congregation was like a marriage, with the need for much give and take. They had many decisions to make, including which pulpit and communion table to use and how the annual picnic would be organized.

To the delight of the congregation, some young families returned, enlivening the mood. Shantz feels that after 25 years the older identifications have slipped away, especially as new folk have joined.

Today about 50 people gather on Sundays to worship, with the largest demographic being youth/young adult and the next largest group being the parents of those youth. This gives the congregation great joy. They have few seniors and few school-age children. When the nearby Glen Allen Mennonite Church closed in 1999, some of its members began to attend at Community as well.

Janet Weber, the congregation’s administrative assistant, recently told the church council how much the building is used, with many community groups on the list. Wellington County Public Health and the Upper Grand School Board run many programs for the growing Low German Mennonites in the area.

On the weekend of May 22 to 24 the congregation celebrated their 25th anniversary under the theme, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever” (Psalms 136:1). A community fair ran most of Saturday, including food and live music. Inside the building were quilts and historical displays. Sunday saw a worship service, in which previous pastors shared, followed by a potluck meal.

As the congregation looks forward, they hope to capitalize on their rich mission history to continue to reach out near and far. Members in the past have served in a variety of locations, and part of the celebration weekend included a fundraiser for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

Elder Darlene Wideman notes that the congregation hopes to continue to build relationships within the community so that people will see Christ through them, and will join their congregation. Even with seven other churches in Drayton there are folk without a church home in the community. She notes that it is a “challenge to always be listening and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.” The congregation is currently seeking a pastor.

Mike Martin (second from right) and his siblings (from left), Steve, Ron, Willard, Gloria and Terry Martin sang at the 25th anniversary celebration for Community Mennonite Fellowship in Drayton, Ont., on May 23, 2015. Mike, who is the chair of church council, wrote a special song for the event. (Photo courtesy of Community Mennonite Fellowship, Drayton)

Part of the anniversary event was a large quilt display at Community Mennonite Fellowship in Drayton, Ont., on the weekend of May 22-24, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Community Mennonite Fellowship, Drayton)

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