Yarrow, British Columbia
Esther Epp Harder, Edwin Lenzmann, and Elmer Wiens
Mennonite Brethren Church, 1957 Yarrow Conference
The 1957 Yarrow Mennonite Brethren Conference
by Edwin Lenzmann
Beginning with their arrival in the 1870's from Russia, Mennonite Brethren churches in the United States created a conference that met on a regular basis in order to maintain a confessional unity and work together on common projects. The largest of these common undertakings was foreign missions. After a few years churches came into existence in Canada, and the gatherings became bi-national. This conference became known as the Mennonite Brethren General (or North American) Conference, not to be confused with another Mennonite denomination called the General Conference Mennonite Church. Eventually, churches composed of Mennonite Brethren who had emigrated from Russia to South America joined as well. A pattern emerged that saw conventions being held every three years and alternating between Canada and the United States. Ed Boschman, a Yarrow native, served as moderator in the 1990's. With the growth of the denomination, the General Conference was dissolved in 2002, though a few boards with bi-national representation continued to exist. The General Conference was in a sense superseded by ICOMB (the International Community of Mennonite Brethren) which unites all Mennonite Brethren conferences from around the world.
With some trepidation, the Yarrow church hosted the 1957 convention, an enormous undertaking. But all went well. American guests were taken with the lovely scenery. Some were surprised to learn that Canada had a region with mild winters and that Canadians had progressed to the point of having modern houses with amenities such as indoor plumbing.
The 1957 convention saw a decision being taken to move toward indigenization around the world. In the various countries where foreign missions was being carried on, churches and institutions that had emerged during the colonial era would be transferred from the mission to local leadership and control. With the Mennonite Brethren taking the lead, other missions too saw this as an idea whose time had come and the pattern became general in the years and decades that followed.
(Further information on the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches can be found on GAMEO.)
Mennonite Brethren Missions
Excerpt from the 1957 Statement introducing indigenization into the M.B. foreign missions program.
Statement of the General Conference of the M.B. Church on the Effects of the Changes of Our Age on the Worldwide Missionary Assignment
The worldwide revolutionary changes of the post-war era affecting every phase of the international, national, social and religious life of our generation exert a severe testing upon the missionary accomplishment of the past and its program for the future. The impact of the changes establishes beyond a question that the time of a fixed routine pattern of mission program to continue for decades has passed. The station-centred mission program has out-lived itself. The assignment of a missionary for a stationary ministry of evangelism, with a lifetime to continue in the same place as the central figure of a perpetual program, results in a reactionary protest of the nationalistic-conscious native of all lands. With the growing international rejection of all colonial imperialism there has also arisen a principal rejection of the "missionary-centred" gospel ministry.
The effects of the above-given observations on our missionary program of today are far-reaching and demand considerable adjustments for the future in the area of missionary approach and administrative direction. The qualifications for missionaries of the new era in many respects differ from those of the past. Methods of field operation and measurements of accomplishment are also undergoing revision.
General Conference Year Book, 1957, p.42.
Further information on the 1957 Statement is found in A Generation of Vigilance by Ted Regehr, chapter 17.
|The Chilliwack Progress Oct 23, 1957 |
Church Conference Opens at Yarrow
Approximately 800 delegates are attending North American conference of Mennonite Brethren churches being held in Yarrow for the first time in its history.
Taking part are representatives from all parts of North America and some from South America. They are staying with families in Yarrow, East Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Clearbrook and Greendale.
The mammoth undertaking reflects extensive local planning. At the request of local residents, Yarrow streets were "spruced up" by municipal council for the occasion.
Registration was held Friday and Saturday and the conference started Sunday.
Reeve T.W. Richardson officially welcomed delegates Monday. Session originally intended to conclude today, may have to be prolonged due to volume of business.
Chairing the conference is Dr. H.H. Janzen, a Canadian teacher whose home is in Basel, Switzerland. He is staying with Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Martens, Central Road.
Monday saw the largest attendance to date. About 1400 person were served two meals that day. Spacious kitchens and many volunteers ensured smoothness of operations.
Among those attending is Rev. Frank Peters, a teacher at Winnipeg Bible College, who is staying at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Krause, Eckert Road. Rev. D.K. Duerksen, Winnipeg, another delegate is staying with Rev. and Mrs. H. Bartsch, First Street.
|The Chilliwack Progress Oct 30, 1957 |
Mennonite Church Conference Ends
Churches, church schools and seminars were among the subjects discussed at the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, which held closing sessions Wednesday.
In all, proceedings lasted the best part of a week. Committee meetings began the previous Friday. On Sunday, worship services in Yarrow, Clearbrook and Vancouver were attended by more than 5000 members of the large branch of the Mennonite faith.
Officials declared that of the total Mennonite Brotherhood of about 500,000, some 300,000 live in North and South America. Of these some 120,000 have their homes in five Canadian provinces, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
The 60 local congregations in the USA and 79 in Canada were represented by 527 delegates.
On the agenda were worship, devotional services and reports and deliberation of the work of the following boards and committees: Reference and Council, Constitution Committee, Board of Trustees, Foreign and Home Missions, Publication, Education, General Welfare and Public Relations, Youth Work and Sunday Schools.
It was stated that the Foreign Missions program of the Mennonite Brethren conference has an annual budges of about $500,000 and church membership in foreign fields now numbers about 29,000 in India, Africa, Japan, Colombia, Paraguay and Mexico.
Much effort and money, it was added, are being spent to develop a sound Christian education program, to publish books and periodicals and to maintain an aggressive foreign mission policy. Relief work in war torn countries and welfare work were receiving constant attention, delegates reported. In addition, homes for the aged, for invalids and mental defectives are being built and supported.
Stated a spokesman: "New ways of life and trends away from agriculture into trades and industries; have made the old practice of outward separation from the world practically impossible". The goal of the church is now to train its youth in the faith of their fathers and equip them by means of religious and secular education and through publications to withstand the evil in and around them.
The Yarrow conference was one of the largest of its kind in the history of the twenty-nine-year-old-community.
LARGE SCALE CATERING
A total of 8,650 meals were served. They comprised early breakfasts, dinners and suppers, all of which were served in the basement of the Yarrow Mennonite Brethren Church.
The catering proved a gigantic undertaking. At Monday's dinner, 1500 people are estimated to have consumed 200 gallons of soup, 800 pounds of meat and 300 pies.
Some 1450 people were seated at the Tuesday dinner when 800 pounds of roast, 500 pounds of potatoes and 124 pounds of steamed fruits were eaten.