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
|Abbotsford Church of God in Christ, Mennonite||Church of God in Christ, Mennonite||1948|
|Abbotsford Arabic Church||Mennonite Brethren||2000||25|
|Abbotsford Mennonite Fellowship||Mennonite Church||1996||21|
|Alderbrook Community Church||Mennonite Brethren||2001||40|
|Arnold Community Church||Mennonite Brethren||1943||95|
|Bakerview Hispanic Church||Mennonite Brethren||1996||39|
|Bakerview MB Church||Mennonite Brethren||1965||608|
|Central Heights MB Church||Mennonite Brethren||1950||1048|
|Clearbrook MB Church||Mennonite Brethren||1935||312|
|Clearbrook Mennonite Church||Mennonite Church||1952||56|
|East Abbotsford Community Church||Mennonite Brethren||2003|
|Eben-Ezer Mennonite Church||Mennonite Church||1963||403|
|Emmanuel Mennonite Church||Mennonite Church||1980||246|
|Highland Community Church||Mennonite Brethren||1976||57|
|King Road MB Church||Mennonite Brethren||1966||577|
|Lao Christian Church||Mennonite Church||1983||42|
|Level Ground Mennonite Church||Mennonite Church||2009||178|
|Life Centre||Mennonite Brethren||2006|
|Mountain Park Community Church||Mennonite Brethren||1991||174|
|Northview Community Church||Mennonite Brethren||1980||1,713|
|Ross Road Community Church||Mennonite Brethren||1947||426|
|South Abbotsford MB Church||Mennonite Brethren||1932||843|
Table 2: Former Mennonite Congregations in Abbotsford
|Church||Denomination||Founded||Year Dissolved / Left Conference||Notes|
|Abbotsford Chinese Christian Church||Mennnonite Brethren||1990||2006||Dissolved|
|Abbotsford Christian Fellowship||Mennnonite Brethren||1986||1993||Left conference|
|Central Heights Korean Ministry||Mennnonite Brethren||2003||2009||Dissolved|
|Grace Evangelical Bible Church||Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches||1946||Denomination is no longer Mennonite|
|Matsqui MB Church||Mennnonite Brethren||1945||1975||Dissolved|
|Meeting Place Fellowship||Mennonite Brethren||1999||2008||Dissolved|
|Mount Lehman Mennonite Church||Mennonite Church||Never formally organized|
|Olivet Church||Mennonite Church||1960||2007||Left conference|
|Peardonville Mennonite Church||Mennonite Church||1952||1968||Dissolved|
|Vietnamese MB Church||Mennonite Brethren||Dissolved|
|Vintage 242 Church||Mennonite Brethren||2004||2009||Dissolved|
|Wellspring Christian Fellowship||Mennonite Church||1989||2008||Merged with West Abbotsford to form Level Ground Mennonite Church|
|West Abbotsford Mennonite Church||Mennonite Church||1936||2008||Merged with Wellspring Christian Fellowship to form Level Ground Mennonite Church|
|West Clearbrook Community Church||Mennnonite Brethren||1989||1998||Dissolved|
|Richard D. Thiessen|
|Date Published||October 2009|
Cite This Article
Giesbrecht, David and Richard D. Thiessen. "Abbotsford (British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2009. Web. 20 Dec 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Abbotsford_(British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=90703.
Giesbrecht, David and Richard D. Thiessen. (October 2009). Abbotsford (British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 December 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Abbotsford_(British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=90703.
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