Abbotsford (British Columbia, Canada)
Abbotsford, which describes itself as the city in the country, is located in the center of the fertile Fraser River valley, 2.5 miles (4 km) north of the United States boundary and about 40 miles (65 km) east of Vancouver, along the Trans-Canada highway (coordinates: 49° 3′ 16.6″ N, 122° 19′ 40.8″ W). Langley is to the west, Chilliwack is to the east, and Mission is to the north. According to the 2006 Census Canada data, the area of Abbotsford has a population of 159,020. The city is the third most ethnically diverse city in Canada, after Toronto and Vancouver, with South Asians comprising nearly 19% of the population in 2006.
It was Charles C. Maclure (1831-1907), a British Royal Engineer sent out to British Columbia as part of a survey team, who is credited with laying out the initial 160-acre plot that was to become Abbotsford. The village of Abbotsford was incorporated in February 1924. Following a 1993 referendum, Matsqui (including the area known as Clearbrook, incorporated in 1892) and Abbotsford were officially amalgamated on 1 January 1995, as the City of Abbotsford.
The first Mennonite settlers arrived in the Clearbrook area, sometimes referred to as Poverty Flats, in 1931 to locate on a plot of land that had been reserved for them by the Matsqui Municipality. Approximately a year later, on 1 May 1932, South Abbotsford Mennonite Brethren (MB) Church was organized with Abram Rempel as the leader, Cornelius Enns as his assistant and Isaak Sawatzky as secretary. The first United Mennonite church (West Abbotsford Mennonite Church) was organized in November 1936 with Peter P. Epp as the founding elder.
Soon after a local church base was established, Mennonites began planning for the education of their young people. On 26 September 1936 the South Abbotsford MB church began a Bible school with C. C. Peters as the first instructor and 30 students enrolled. This school eventually became Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute. In 1944 the South Abbotsford Church also laid the foundation for a Christian high school with instruction in Grades 9 to 11. Its very modest beginnings notwithstanding, the Mennonite Educational Institute (MEI) has developed into the largest private school in the province, now offering elementary, middle and secondary education.
The United Mennonite churches established a Bible school in Coghlan, later called Bethel Bible Institute (BBI). In 1946 this school was relocated onto property located next to West Abbotsford Mennonite Church (now Level Ground Mennonite Church). In its history, BBI served some 500 young people from every congregation in the denomination. In 1970 this school was amalgamated with the Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute, and renamed Columbia Bible Institute.
Mennonites in 2008 number approximately 12% of the Abbotsford population, with 15 Mennonite Brethren, 6 Mennonite Church, and one Church of God in Christ, Mennonite congregations. Mennonite entrepreneurs excel in agri-businesses, real estate and land development enterprises. Together, Mennonites operate Mennonite Educational Institute and Columbia Bible College. Further, Abbotsford is the denominational headquarters for both the BC Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and Mennonite Church BC. Here too are the ministry centers for Mennonite Brethren Missions and Service International, the Mennonite Central Committee of BC, Communitas Supportive Care Society (formerly MCC Supportive Care Services) and the Mennonite Historical Society of BC. In addition, Abbotsford Mennonites are prominent in their support a range of local para-church ministries including Kinghaven, M2W2, Fraser Valley Gleaners, and Gideons.
Mennonites have become well known for their involvement in the life of the community, with representatives on both the local school board and civic government. In 2008 the Member of Parliament for Abbotsford is a member of a local Mennonite Brethren congregation. Certainly, the people of the Fraser Valley have been enriched by Mennonite music making with well-known groups as the Pacific Mennonite Children’s Choir, West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir, Valley Festival Singers and the often acclaimed MEI choirs and bands. Prominent Mennonite musicians include Rudy Baerg, Tony Funk, Calvin Dyck, Holda Fast Redekop, Betty Suderman, Larry Nickel and Wes Janzen.
Table 1: Mennonite Congregations in Abbotsford, 2009
Most membership numbers, if available, were taken from the 2007 directories of the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and Mennonite Church British Columbia.
Table 2: Former Mennonite Congregations in Abbotsford
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Giesbrecht, David and Richard D. Thiessen. "Abbotsford (British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2009. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A227.html.
APA style: Giesbrecht, David and Richard D. Thiessen. (October 2009). Abbotsford (British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A227.html.