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Yarrow, British Columbia

Edited by
Esther Epp Harder, Edwin Lenzmann, and Elmer Wiens

Yarrow United Mennonite Church

The General Conference Mennonite Church developed as an accord among diverse groups of Anabaptist Protestants in the U.S.A. and Canada. This remarkable coming together of independent churches respected the ethnic and cultural diversity of its members, striving for a unity of Christians provided by God's saving grace through belief in Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, this same spirit of unity in Jesus Christ existed among the ethnically Dutch-Prussian Mennonite people of Imperial Russia and Prussia. When they relocated to North America, this group of Mennonites joined established churches, or founded churches some of which after a time affiliated with the General Conference Mennonite Church.

Mennonites began immigrating to Canada from the U.S.A. after the American Revolution in the late 18th century. This exodus of Swiss-Pennsylvania Mennonites continued, increasing well into the 19th century. Meanwhile, many Dutch-Prussian Mennonites immigrated to the Ukraine of Imperial Russia from their enclaves in Prussia around Dantzig and the Vistula River Delta. In 1870, Mennonites from northern Europe and the Ukraine began immigrating to the Prairie Provinces, particularly southern Manitoba. Following the Russian Revolution in the early 20th century, Dutch-Prussian Mennonites in large numbers emigrated from Russia, eventually spreading across the Western Provinces of Canada. Following the 2nd World War, many more East European Mennonites emigrated. While many of these people immigrated directly to Canada, others arrived after a period of time by way of Mexico, or Latin American countries.

In the early years of Yarrow until the summer of 1928, Yarrow's Mennonites gathered together for religious services in homes, at the park on Eckert Road near Vedder Mountain, or at the Vedder River close to the B.C. Electric railway bridge. The last site was especially favourable because Mennonites from Greendale on the north side of the Vedder River could easily meet and gather with Mennonites from Yarrow on the river's south side. However, it soon became evident that the expanding population needed a more permanent place of worship, and a more stable church organization.

In the fall of 1928, all of Yarrow's Mennonites began worshiping as a group in the newly constructed one-room Yarrow Elementary School on Central Road in downtown Yarrow. In 1930 when the Chilliwack School Board built a second one-room school next to the first one, however, the Mennonite Brethren and United Mennonite denominations chose to use separate rooms for their church services. On October 31st, 1930, settlers from Yarrow and Greendale with a General Conference background organized the first Mennonite Church in this province, and erected the First Mennonite Church building in Greendale.

First Mennonite Church, Greendale - August 2, 2009
First Mennonite Church, Greendale - August 2, 2009

Elder Nicolai Bahnmann and John Braun led the Yarrow United Mennonite parishioners that to begin with consisted of from fifteen to nineteen families. At first, the Yarrow United Mennonite Church was a daughter church of the First Mennonite Church of Greendale. The Yarrow congregation held church services in the Yarrow Elementary School until 1938, when they built a new sanctuary on Eckert Road (Thiessen 46).

In early 1938 with the leadership and counsel of Elder Bahnmann, the Yarrow United Mennonite congregation completed plans to build their own Church building. In October 1938, the building was dedicated. On October 25th, 1938 with 31 members, the Yarrow Mennonite Church was officially organized as an independent church and joined the Conference of Mennonites, British Columbia.

Conference of Mennonites, Yarrow, British Columbia
United Mennonite Church - October 1938
United Mennonite Church Congreation — circa 1950

That same year on December 26, Johann Julius Klassen was ordained, and concurrently he became the resident minister. Elder Nicolai Bahnmann officiated at the dedication service (Thiessen 46). Pastor Klassen capably served in this capacity for nineteen years until 1957.

United Mennonite Church - 1940s
United Mennonite Church — Built in 1938
United Mennonite Church - 1940s

Today's United Mennonite Church,   4336 Eckert Street, Yarrow
Photograph Courtesy of Barry Lesser, Pastor Yarrow United Mennonite Church
The Church was built in 1958


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