Yorkdale Community Church (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
What became known about 1978 as Yorkdale Community Church in Toronto, Ontario actually began services in 1957, and formally organized a year later as Willowdale Christian Fellowship. H. H. Voth was the founding leader of a small group concerned in the first instance to provide a church home for those who had moved to Toronto and to attract students in the city from Mennonite Brethren homes.
This extension work of the Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches to Toronto, first located in Willowdale, a middle class anglo community, moved to the Baycrest Avenue Public School in 1959 and then to Flemington Road School because of a decision by the Home Mission Committee to do work in Lawrence Heights where a large low rental housing project for 4,000 residents should provide "the challenging outreach" that the group was said to need. This relocation meant selling the house in Willowdale and securing a lot for the construction of a church at 272 Ranee Avenue, between Dufferin and Bathurst, south of Highway 401. Ranee Ave. was immediately south of the giant shopping mall named Yorkdale whose construction began in 1962.
The first couple to occupy the older type house at this location in 1959 were Herbert and Margaret Swartz. They saw the organization of the Toronto Mennonite Brethren Mission Church in May 1961. They were succeeded in 1962 by Peter and Justina Penner. The latter had barely moved in when the construction began immediately behind the house. An attractive edifice was completed and dedicated 31 March 1963.
Rudy Dueckman, who had moved to Brampton, became moderator in 1964 when the Penners moved to Hamilton for further studies. The pastor most successful in the ministry to Lawrence Heights (with assistance from Mennonite Central Committee Ontario) was Isaac Tiessen. A longtime leader in the Ontario Mennonite Brethren conference, Tiessen served from 1965 to 1971, while also giving leadership with his wife Anna to the Toronto Mennonite Brethren Brethren Church. They were succeeded by Alan and Anne Gunther, and in 1974 by Ron and June Friesen who remained until 1979.
About this time the Ontario Conference supported the formation of a new congregation in Brampton, and the Toronto church was renamed Yorkdale Community Church. Though other families left to join established churches closer to their homes, Peter and Tina Brown, Christian Service workers, carried on and were succeeded by Allan and Janice Epp in 1980.
Membership stood at 46 members in 1965, reached the plateau of 74 in 1974, and then declined to about 20 by 1995. The Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches listed this church from 1961 to 1996.
The Conference sold the church building in May 1988 to a Jewish group. This made it possible for the continuing Yorkdale group to rent the facilities for its Sunday services and mid-week programs. In 1993 John Classy as pastor moved the congregation to a storefront at 702 Wilson Ave.
In April 1996 Yorkdale merged with the New Covenant Christian Fellowship under the latter's name. The merged group met at the Society of International Ministries Chapel in Scarborough.
Canadian Mennonite (November 1957): 1; (26 September 1958): 3; (19 May 1961): 4.
Mennonite Observer (2 January 1960): 3; (8 March 1963): 1.
Mennonite Brethren Herald (1 April 1988): 17; (27 May 1988): 55; (20 January 1989): 25; (17 December 1993): 15; (28 June 1996): 17.
Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Yearbook (1985): 48-53; (1986): 13-18; (1987): 36-40; (1988): 89, 99.Penner, Peter. No Longer at Arm’s Length: Mennonite Brethren Church Planting in Canada (1883-1983). Winnipeg, MB: Kindred Press, 1987: 94-96, 139.
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MLA style: Penner, Peter. "Yorkdale Community Church (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2007. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/Y674.html.
APA style: Penner, Peter. (October 2007). Yorkdale Community Church (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/Y674.html.