Bethel Mennonite Church (Langley, British Columbia, Canada)
In 1934 Mennonites in the Aldergrove area met together in their homes. By 1936 they had organized, calling themselves Coghlan Mennonite Church. The leaders of the church were Heinrich H. Dueck, Jacob J. Baerg and Aron J. Janzen, and Nicolai W. Bahnmann and Jacob B. Wiens served the church alternately as elders. In November 1936 the church joined with other Mennonite churches in British Columbia to form the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of British Columbia.
The first building was built on blocks and was a 26 by 40 foot structure. Construction began in 1936 and the church was dedicated in the spring of 1937. In 1939 Coghlan Bible School was started at the church by N. W. Bahnmann. Bahnmann was installed as the church's first pastor on 13 February 1944, and served in this capacity until 3 February 1945. For the next three years Heinrich H. Dueck, Jacob J. Baerg and Aron J. Janzen served alternately as congregational leaders until Johannes Regier became pastor.
The 1940s saw a number of additions or firsts: they baptized, had marriages, formed a choir, formed a ladies auxiliary, and women got the right to vote at annual meetings. By 1944, the growth of the church directed that a basement be added to give more room for Sunday school instruction, a kitchen and the heating system. During this time a balcony was also added. In 1947 Aeltester (Elder) Johannes Regier was installed as leading minister and was given a gift of $300.00 per annum. In 1948 further expansions were required due to the coming of post World War II immigrants. A structure nearly as large as the original church building, with a complete basement, was added to the rear of the church to give it a “T” shape.
The 1950s saw the advent of boys and girls clubs, a second ladies auxiliary group, and a church library. On 5 January 1951 it was decided to change the church’s name to Bethel Mennonite Church. In 1955 N. N. Friesen was ordained as Elder. In 1956 a new church was built, dedicated on 2 June 1957. The language change from German to English also came to Bethel in the 1950s but a German service continued to be held until 2006.
On 2 August 1964 the Education wing was dedicated complete with 11 classrooms, a library and assembly area. In January of 1978 the church underwent extensive interior remodeling from the sanctuary to the nursery room to the lobby. In 1960 John H. Neufeld was ordained as pastor at Bethel. He helped the congregation to form a new constitution in 1964. The women were given full voting rights and for the first baptism in the new church the women wore white instead of black. The Sunday School reached its highest attendance of 337. These were also the years that Mennonite Central Committee Voluntary Service projects flourished. Bethel Church sent out numerous volunteers for long and short term commitments.
In 1966 Rudy Goerzen became the pastor at Bethel with N. N. Friesen assisting, and Peter J. Dyck became the first congregational chairman. Congregational members numbered 274 with 309 in Sunday school. The lack of enough space for Sunday school again necessitated another building project in 1968. This time a two- level educational wing was built.
Peter Retzlaff served as the next pastor from 1976 until 1985. The constitution was revised during his term. He was assisted by George Hoeppner who also worked with the youth. The young ladies formed the third active ladies group. Bethel had the first woman as a delegate at the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of British Columbia annual conference. In the late 1970s a regular secretary was employed and the first custodian was hired. This was also the time when Bethel opened its arms to welcome and sponsor refugees. Seven families came in the next 15 years from Cambodia, El Salvador, and Yugoslavia.
From 1985 to 1990 John Friesen became the leading minister, and in 1988 Brad Jersack came as Youth Pastor. In 1988 another new sanctuary was designed in the current circular style and built onto the west side of the existing church building. The old building, which was now converted into a gymnasium/ banquet hall, was used for all social church functions; a new kitchen with dishwasher, ovens and freezer was installed as well. The gymnasium seats 225 persons at tables and the sanctuary including the balcony seats 600 persons.
In 1990 Peter Bartel was invited to the ministry at Bethel Mennonite. It was a time of many changes and outreach. The worship format changed to include drums and guitars for the singing of contemporary spiritual songs while the piano and organ were used for the choir and hymn singing, weddings, funerals and special services. There was also an instrumental group. Boys’ and especially girls' clubs flourished.
The ministry among the youth was a challenge. Emphasis was on personal relationships, individual outreach, one-on-one mentoring, group worship, and solid Bible teaching. A group of youth and adults went on the first missions trip. Another outreach area was the "Little Lambs" nursery school in the church basement. In 1996 Pat and Radika Houmphan were commissioned as missionaries to Thailand.
In 1997-2003 Goerge and Dora Hoeppner returned to serve the Church and Allen Wiebe took over the youth ministry from 1998 to 2008. From 2003 to the present, Philip Wheaton came to pastor the church while Mike Wilson served as the Youth Pastor. The Alpha Program began and flourished, but this period also saw the closures of the German service, the boys and girls clubs, and the Sunday school. Another area of deep loss for many was the Bethel Church decision in 2007 to become an Area Conference Only Member church, removing itself from its relationship with Mennonite Church Canada.
In 2011 Bethel worship leaders had found a healthy balance of worship music. The youth work was enthusiastic and doing well. The young adults worked in care groups and in Bible Studies. They served as deacons, congregational chairperson, and worship leaders. In the previous 15 years, mission teams of young people and adults had served short terms in Mexico, Ukraine and Thailand.
Bethel Mennonite Church: 1936-1980. Aldergrove, BC: Bethel Mennonite Church, 1980.
Bethel Mennonite Church: 1980-1986. Aldergrove, BC: Bethel Mennonite Church, 1987.
Canadian Mennonite (14 June 1957): 3; (24 November 1961): 25.
Churches in Profile. Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia, 1978: 7-11.
"History of Bethel Mennonite of Aldergrove," Research paper, CMBC, 1983, 32 pp. MHC.
Mennonite Reporter (12 July 1982): 9; (13 October 1986): 20.
Warkentin, Mary. "The Bethel Mennonite Church, Aldergrove, British Columbia," Research paper, CMBC, 1958, 8 pp.
Microfilmed records at Mennonite Heritage Centre.
Address: 24687 56th Ave., Langley BC V2Z 1B9
Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia / Mennonite Church British Columbia (1936-present)
Conference of Mennonites in Canada / Mennonite Church Canada (1937-2006)
General Conference Mennonite Church (1938-1999)
Bethel Mennonite Church Leading Ministers
Bethel Mennonite Church Membership
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MLA style: Bartel, Peter. "Bethel Mennonite Church (Langley, British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2012. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B4866.html.
APA style: Bartel, Peter. (March 2012). Bethel Mennonite Church (Langley, British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B4866.html.