January 1982 · Vol. 11 No. 1 · p. 60 

Historical Endnotes

Ken Reddig

The Historical Committee of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches has commissioned Rev. William Neufeld, of Winnipeg, to write a history of the Mennonite Brethren Church in Manitoba. In his manuscript, scheduled for publication in 1983, Brother Neufeld describes the baptisms resulting in the organization of the first Mennonite Brethren Congregation in Canada:

It was a warm afternoon, May 30, 1886. At a shady turn of the tortuous Dead Horse Creek in Southern Manitoba, two Mennonite couples, Mr. and Mrs. John Nickel and Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Banman, publicly testified to a new life in Jesus Christ by immersion baptism. A number of believers, a few sympathizers, and some curious onlookers had gathered to witness their act of faith. This was the very first baptism in Canada by a Mennonite Brethren minister, Heinrich Voth, of Mountain Lake, Minnesota. On June 13, 1886, at the same place two more were baptized: Mrs. Heinrich Hoeppner and Peter Hoeppner. In 1887 several more confessed their faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized.

It was not until April, 1888, after a few Mennonite Brethren families had immigrated to the Winkler area from Russia (among them a minister, Gerhard Wiebe), that the first Mennonite Brethren Church was organized with sixteen members at Burwalde, Manitoba.

The Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Fresno has recently published Die Mennoniten Bruedergemeinde in Russland, 1925-1980. Written by Heinrich Woelk and Gerhard Woelk, presently residing in Germany, this book was produced with the assistance of Dr. J. B. Toews of Fresno. In commenting on this book he notes:

The story of the suffering and triumph of the Mennonite Brethren Church in Russia has never before been available in the framework of chronological historical events. At a time when the profession of the Christian faith has become a matter of convenient spiritual security, a benefit of “cheap grace” (Bonhoeffer), this publication reminds us that the true faith of discipleship is one of self-denial, suffering and even death for the honor of Christ. The example of our Brethren in Russia is a call for an examination of our life style as those who claim to be disciples of Christ.

This publication will later appear in an English edition. The first printing of 1200 copies was sold out within three months.

“Historical Endnotes,” as a feature, appears for the first time in this issue of Direction. It will continue under the authorship of Ken Reddig, Archivist of the Mennonite Brethren Archives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.