Coaldale Bible School (Coaldale, Alberta, Canada)
The Coaldale Bible School (CBS) was established in 1929, the largest and most enduring of the three Bible schools established by the Alberta Mennonite Brethren between 1929 and 1933.
B. B. Janz, a prominent member of the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church, was one of the leaders instrumental in the founding of the Coaldale Bible School. There were two main reasons for the school. Church leaders were determined to give young people the opportunity to deepen themselves in the Word and in their faith, and the school was to equip workers for the local church.
Over its 36-year history, nine principals provided leadership for Coaldale Bible School. Abram J. Schierling (1929-1936) served as the first principal and was in fact the only teacher in the school's inaugural year. The school's other principals were Bernhard W. Sawatzky (1936-1944, 1946-1948, 1953-1954), John A. Toews (1944-1946), David Ewert (1948-1952), Abe P. Regier (1954-1958), Abram Konrad (1958-1961), Henry Derksen (1961-1962), Henry P. Neufeldt (1962-1963) and Jacob Thielmann (1963-1965). In all, 27 teachers served at the school over its history.
Although a local church institution, the Coaldale Bible School attracted students from other Alberta congregations and from congregations outside the province and it eventually peaked at an enrollment of 101 in 1949—remarkable growth from the original class of 12.
In the years that followed the enrollment faltered, however, dropping to 40 in 1955-56. Hoping to attract more students, the school elected to offer the equivalent of a two-year program in the space of one long year (8 months) divided into two semesters (1957-58). Only 7 students enrolled in the second semester of that year.
Enrolment figures from the late 1950s indicate that something had to be done about the situation. By 1959-60 the total student count was down to 11. One option was to try to salvage the school by placing it under provincial jurisdiction. Therefore at the June 1961 convention the Alberta Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches easily voted to accept the Coaldale Bible School as its school, and thus the school became the Alberta Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute (AMBBI).
Several reasons have been cited to explain the demise of CBS. Historian J. A. Toews notes that the Coaldale church could not carry the financial burden. Both the Coaldale Bible School and the Alberta Mennonite High School, located adjacent to each other, competed for the support dollars of local donors. Support became polarized. But shortage of money was only one problem. There was also a shortage of students. A shifting post-war mentality was siphoning more and more young people into secular training and pursuits. Finally, for many young people, the Coaldale location was not an attraction and other schools like Bethany Bible Institute became a more attractive alternative. The adoption of CBS as a provincial school seemed to have immediate positive results, as seen in the enrolment figures. In its first year as a provincial school the enrollment jumped to 29 (from 11) and the next year it reached 43. But in the end, the move to provincialize the school extended its life by a mere four years. The conference formally closed the school at the end of the 1964-65 school year. Eventually the Alberta and Saskatchewan Mennonite Brethren conferences joined forces in the support of the Bethany Bible Institute.
Bethany Bible Institute - Celebrating God's Faithfulness. Hepburn, SK: Bethany Bible Institute, 2002: 15.
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church, May 23, 1976. 1976, 52 pp.
Gedenk- und Dankfeier des 25-jaehrigen Bestehens der Coaldale Mennoniten Brueder Gemeinde am 27. Mai 1951. Coaldale Mennonite Brethren Church, 1951.
Regeher, T. D. Mennonites in Canada, 1939-1970: A People Transformed, Mennonites in Canada, Vol. 3. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.
Coaldale Bible School Teachers
Names of principles are in boldface.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Dirks, George. "Coaldale Bible School (Coaldale, Alberta, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2010. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C613.html.
APA style: Dirks, George. (January 2010). Coaldale Bible School (Coaldale, Alberta, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C613.html.