The small congregation which later became Steinbach Mennonite Church held its first service on July 17, 1938. In 1942 the 53 member church was accepted into the General Conference.
SMC has enjoyed the services of nine leading ministers:
Rev. Isaac Warkentin was the first minister of the Steinbach Mennonite Church. He helped organize the congregation and held the first service on July 17, 1938.
In the spring of 1942 Rev. Peter Reimer of the Schoenwieser Church in Winnipeg came to take over the leadership of the church. He helped the church through its trials to become independent and served as leader until 1957.
In the meantime several other ministers had come into the church to share the duties. Rev. Wilhelm Peters came to the SMC to serve as minister in 1943. In 1948 two more ministers arrived from Russia, namely, Rev. Franz Froese and Jacob Wiebe, but the latter remained only until 1951 when he moved to Ontario. Rev. Froese had been elected as minister in Russia and served in Germany, but due to the war had not been ordained. He was, therefore, ordained in Steinbach in 1950 by Aeltester Benjamin Ewert. In 1953 Rev. David Fast came to SMC from Grunthal because his children already attended this church and were active in its youth work.
The ministers were all aging and so in 1954 the resolution was passed to elect two younger ministers. Henry P. Friesen and Frank K. Isaac were elected on June 15, 1956 and ordained by Aelt. William Enns on October 14, 1956. Rev. Reimer's health was failing and so on May 8, 1957 he resigned as leader of SMC and also retired from the ministry. Rev. Wm. Peters had already resigned on December 16, 1956. With the resignation of Rev. Reimer, Rev. Isaac Warkentin was asked to assume the leadership for the remainder of the year. On December 9, 1957 Rev. H. P. Friesen was chosen as leading minister with Rev. Frank Isaac as his assistant.
Until this time the church had always had elders (Aelteste) come in to perform baptisms, ordinations and to serve communion. At a membership meeting on December 31, 1961 a resolution was passed to elect an elder in the church in 1962. However, when Rev. H.P. Friesen resigned on April 30, 1962, the congregation dropped the election and decided to give the leading minister the authority to perform the functions of an elder. When Rev. Friesen left the church in June, 1962, Rev. Frank K. Isaac was given that right. Bishops who had served the church up to this time were Benjamin Ewert, Bruno Enns, Isaak Friesen, Johann Enns, Wilhelm Enns, Gerhard Lohrenz and Ernest Wiebe.
Rev. Isaac was also the first minister of the church to be paid a salary, so he gave up his teaching profession to become a full time minister. In 1966 a second election for ministers was held, but this election resulted in failure. However, Rev. Peter Fehr from Elm Creek joined the SMC and also became a minister of the church.
In 1969 Rev. Isaac took a sabbatical to take a year of studies at Mennonite Biblical Seminary, in Elkhart, Indiana. During this time the Church Board introduced ten minute English sermonettes into the regular worship service. This was one big step toward the use of English in the worship services. After many years of faithful service, Rev. Isaac tendered his resignation in January, 1975 to take effect July 1, 1975.
From July, 1975 til August, 1976 the church was without a leading minister. The congregational chairman and the Personnel Committee ran the affairs of the church with the help of many lay people. This was a time of reflection on what type of minister was needed for SMC and it was also a time when the congregation gained more appreciation for the work to which their leaders had committed themselves. Rev. Abe Neufeld from Saskatoon was called and became the new leader on August 1, 1976.
Even during Rev. Isaac's ministry the idea to elect lay ministers had surfaced and so in September, 1975 the church elected Peter Harms and Peter Kroeker as lay ministers. Both were ordained by Abe Neufeld on October 10, 1976.
These three ministers functioned very well together, but it was not meant to remain that way. Peter Kroeker, after completing his education at Canadian Mennonite Bible College, decided to serve the churches in Germany. Here he also met and married Ruthilde Scheffler. At present they are serving a church in Germany. Peter Harms, besides his regular job at a local lumber-yard, serves the church faithfully with preaching, leading Bible Studies and visitation.
The church was aware of other persons in the congregation who were qualified to serve as lay ministers. When, in 1979, an election was held, Abe Wiebe received a substantial majority vote. He was ordained on April 13, 1980 by Abe Neufeld. He, too, serves with preaching, teaching and committee work. Abe and Susan Wiebe's greatest contribution lies in the field of visitation: to the sick, the lonely and the newcomers. In the 1980's Rev. Cornelius Froese moved to Steinbach and served SMC regularly in the German Service.
The congregation has always had a vision for the future. Since the church membership had increased to about 450, the membership decided to hire a second pastor, namely Paul Dyck, who was installed in September, 1985. He served as Youth Pastor, Assistant Pastor and on September 1, 1989, after Abe Neufeld resigned, Paul became the leading pastor of Steinbach Mennonite Church.
It was again necessary to draw in more lay ministers. The congregation became much aware of the leadership qualities of Isbrand Hiebert whom they elected in June, 1989. Besides his daily work with the Mennonitische Post, he serves faithfully with preaching, Bible Studies (mainly in German) and visitation. Isbrand was ordained on June 23, 1991.
In 1989, shortly before Abe Neufeld retired, it was necessary to hire another minister who, in a special way, would minister to the youth. That young man was Craig Friesen, a graduate of CMBC. He was ordained in the Steinbach Mennonite Church on June 23, 1991 and served in the Youth and Club Programs with preaching and in many other ways.
The Lord has been faithful in always providing the church with the necessary leadership at the right time. After Paul Dyck's departure, Norm Voth served for a time as interim leader of the church. Then in the summer of 2001 Gary and Carol Martens agreed to lead us. Over the next eleven years Gary served the congregation. In the spring of 2012 both Gary and Ewald Goetz, our German pastor, announced their resignations.
Where will God lead us in the future? Hopefully, the church will never lose its vision.
Randy began his ministry at SMC in August 1995 and was ordained in 1997. For years he was our Youth Pastor. When Gary Martens resigned Randy became our lead pastor. He resigned in the Summer of 2016.
Randy is married to Leona and together they have two young adult children, Selenna and Mackenzie.
The youth have always been an integral part of congregational life at Steinbach Mennonite. In 1951 the Youth Group was organized and Frank K. Isaac was one of its first leaders. The position of Youth pastor began in 1985 with Paul Dyck, then Craig Friesen, and then Randy Hildebrand. From 2000 to 2005 Marvin and Tanell Wirzba served as Pastors of Family Life. Sunny Friesen served as Pastor of Young Families from October 2006 to mid-2010. Isbrand Hiebert was lead Pastor of the German service from 2006 to 2009; in September 2009 Ewald Goetz was hired as his replacement. Then in 2012 Ronald Wiebe took over as Pastor of German Ministeries when Ewald Goetz resigned.
SMC has also been blessed by the services of many lay ministers who have served in both English and German services. There has been a strong emphasis on Christian education for all who attend Steinbach Mennonite. The aims and goals of SMC have been to obey the words of Jesus to proclaim the gospel and to make disciples at home and abroad. Many have heard the call and have gone to serve in an MCC assignment or term of mission outreach.
by Evelyn Peters-Rojas & Nettle Neufeld
(Text and photos from our 1992 Anniversary book)
“Steinbach Mennonite Church is striving to faithfully follow Christ in worship and service by making disciples, building community and reaching out to the world.”