The Conference Mennonite Bible School in Winnipeg, initiated by the Schoenwieser Gemeinde and officially known as Die Mennonitische Religionsschule (MR), began in the fall of 1932 with a two-month evening class of 30 students. The following year the number increased to 40. Initially students were mostly rural women who worked largely as domestic help in the city in order to help improve their families' economic situation and pay their immigration travel debt (Reiseschuld). In the1935-36 school year women came from the Blumenorter, Elim, Bergthaler, Whitewater, Kleine Gemeinde, and Brudertaler congregations.
The first class met in the Schoenwieser church basement at 394 Alexander Avenue on Thursday evenings. Already in 1933, in addition to the evening classes, the offerings were expanded to comprise a two-year diploma course with daytime classes meeting for four winter months, November through February. In 1937-38 day students numbered 15, nine men and six women. Evening classes that year registered an enrollment of 25 female students. The highest day school attendance was probably in 1940-42, when 11 students were registered for the first two classes, and eight in the third and fourth classes. Four of the latter graduated that year and five women completed the evening program. Classroom space included the church library and other spaces as needed.
The three-year evening curriculum consisted of biblical studies, church and Mennonite history, German studies including German choral singing, literature and orthography. The day curriculum included ethics, doctrine, exegesis, missions, biblical archaeology, and English language. The first two years of day classes focused on the basics, and the third and fourth year were more in-depth.
The school's first and continuous teacher was Ältester Johann H. Enns (1889-1974), who had pioneered the Bible School for the Blumenorter and Bergthaler Gemeinden in Gretna Manitoba in 1929-31 (cf. Bible Schools: Manitoba Conference Mennonites) and was now the leading minister of the Schoenwieser Mennonitengemeinde. Other ministers of the church, Ältester Daniel Loewen (1872-1951), Jacob J. Schulz (1891-1958), and Peter H. Dirks (1891-1970), participated in the Bible school teaching at different times.
The MR was more than a local school since students and support came from other congregations in Manitoba. The Manitoba ministers' conference gave moral support. Numerous times J. H. Enns urged the conference to envision this school to become a provincial institution and to expand it accordingly.
Financial help came specifically through collections from individual Manitoba congregations, projects of the Mädchenheim (Girls' Home) women's organization known as Edelweisskränzchen, as well as a broader support organization known as the Unterstütsungsverein, initiated by alumni in 1941. In 1937 the recommendation was made to increase the tuition fees though initially there had been none. However, early on students were asked to pay 25 cents a month towards heating expenses. The Winnipeg Schoenwieser collection for 1936-37 totaled $149.71 of which $43.75 went towards books for the school that year.
Enrollment dwindled with the onset of World War II but the school remained open until 1946-47. Some saw the MR as the forerunner of Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) which opened in Winnipeg in the fall of 1947.
Enns, J. H. Mennonite Heritage Centre archives, vol. 4103-12 entitled "Winnipeg Bible School materials 1940-1941."
Jubilate: 60 Years First Mennonite Church 1926-86. Winnipeg: First Mennonite Church, 1991: 43.
Koop, D. H. "Bericht," Der Bote 26. Februar 1930: 2.
Mennonite Heritage Centre archives, microfilm #193.
Peters, Gerhard I. Remember Our Leaders: Conference of Mennonites in Canada 1902-1977. Clearbrook: Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia, 1982: 66, 84, 136, 153.
"Protokoll der Konferenz Mennonitischer Prediger, abgehalten in der Kirche der Schoenwieser Gemeinde in Winnipeg am 27, 28 und 29 November 1936." Mennonite Heritage Centre archives, vol. 4476-447415.
|Date Published||January 2002|
 Cite This Article
Ens, Anna. "Mennonitische Religionsschule (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2002. Web. 5 Oct 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonitische_Religionsschule_(Winnipeg,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=128434.
Ens, Anna. (January 2002). Mennonitische Religionsschule (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 October 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonitische_Religionsschule_(Winnipeg,_Manitoba,_Canada)&oldid=128434.
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