Covenant Mennonite Church in Winkler, Manitoba, Canada began as a church planting effort by the Winkler Bergthaler Mennonite Church in 1981. After weekly Sunday evening worship services, followed by discussions in June 1981, the basic direction of the new congregation was determined, although the official launch didn’t happen until September 1981.
Planning resulted in a number of key commitments for the new congregation: strong participation by all; lay leadership which included both men and women (initially no paid pastor); an informal, family-oriented worship style; and meeting in a rented facility (at least at the beginning). In these ways the new fellowship was seen as an alternative congregation in Winkler, with the hope that it would attract people who were interested in exploring this new worshiping community.
The original core group committed to getting the new church started was very small – only twelve people. At the charter membership service, in June 1982, when Covenant Mennonite Church became an independent congregation, the membership stood at 27. The group was made up of many young families and the worship services were often rather noisy with as many children as adults attending. The church met at the Winkler Bible Institute for the first fifteen years.
Life in the congregation was busy. Various people took on all the necessary tasks: preaching, teaching adults and children, leading worship, doing committee work, organizing a youth group, participating in care groups, supporting mission partners, etc. The church met regularly for intergenerational fellowship activities as well – occasions intended to develop a strong sense of community.
After a number of years the workload was becoming burdensome. Voices were raised in support of hiring a pastor. It took until 1992 for the church to hire its first pastor on a half time basis. Barry Lesser and his family moved to Winkler from Saskatchewan to take up the job, while needing to support his family with other work as well. By the time the first pastor arrived on the scene, the congregation was going through some difficult times which, unfortunately, later led to some people leaving the church.
The greatest crisis for Covenant developed in the spring of 1997. Within a very short period of time, the congregation learned that their pastor, Barry Lesser, had resigned and that the Winkler Bible Institute was closing. This left the congregation without pastoral leadership and without a facility in which to meet. Within a matter of months, the congregation, with the help of some people outside the church, was able to purchase the old Lutheran Church building on 8th Street, where they continue to worship today. In addition, the pastoral needs of the church were also supplied when Kelvin Dyck (formerly a teacher at WBI) was hired as their second pastor.
With its own building the congregation became more visible in the community. Long-term pastoral leadership also brought stability to congregation. The church states on its website that its "stance is one of generous orthodoxy – rooted in the Christian Scriptures, strongly affirming an Anabaptist/Mennonite theology and open at the margins. Our mission is to re-engage with our culture on all levels, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. We welcome those who wish to journey with us and encourage the creative and God-given gifts and talents of all those who make Covenant their home."
Bueckert, Garry. "Covenant Mennonite Church History." 18 February 2015. Web. 10 July 2016. http://covenantmennonitechurch.ca/history/.
Mennonite Reporter (26 July 1982): 13.
Brief history in Mennonite Historical Society of Canada file, Mennonite Archives of Ontario.
 Additional Information
Address: 363 8th Street, Winkler MB R6W 4A4
Conference of Mennonites in Canada / Mennonite Church Canada (1982-present)
General Conference Mennonite Church (1982-1999)
Covenant Mennonite Church Membership
|Author(s)||Richard D Thiessen|
|Date Published||July 2016|
 Cite This Article
Thiessen, Richard D. "Covenant Mennonite Church (Winkler, Manitoba, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2016. Web. 28 Jul 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Covenant_Mennonite_Church_(Winkler,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=134929.
Thiessen, Richard D. (July 2016). Covenant Mennonite Church (Winkler, Manitoba, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 July 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Covenant_Mennonite_Church_(Winkler,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=134929.
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