The East Chilliwack Mennonite Brethren Bible School was organized by the East Chilliwack (now Central Community) and Chilliwack (now Broadway) Mennonite Brethren (MB) congregations. Classes began in 1947 under the leadership of Gerhard G. Thielmann.
In the first years instruction took place in a converted feed store near the East Chilliwack MB Church. The school year was five months long with a three year curriculum. The vast majority of students came from the two supporting congregations, although there were also a few students from Greendale Mennonite Brethren Church, the East Chilliwack Mennonite Church, and other Mennonite Brethren congregations in British Columbia. For example, in the 1956-57 school year there were three students from Kelowna.
Instruction took place in both English and German, and German and music courses were taught along with the usual Bible and theology courses. An annual entitled Botschafter (later Der Botschafter) was established in the 1949-50 school year, serving as "a news carrier of the happenings and blessings of E.C.B.S." The annual included German and English language devotionals, testimonials and reports. The name of the annual was later changed to Harbour Light in the 1957-58 school year. The 1949-50 year also saw the establishment of a small library through the donation of books from school staff as well as from individuals such as Dr. Oswald J. Smith and Dr. H. A. Ironside.
In 1954 the East Chilliwack congregation completed construction of a new sanctuary on its property. As a result the Bible school relocated to the original church building with the hope that this move would allow for the accommodation of more students. In 1955 a revised two year curriculum was implemented, while the length of the school year remained at five months. Students who did not have their Grade 12 diploma but were at least 16 years of age were admitted and required to take one additional semester, while those students who had completed Grade 13 from a Christian high school were able to graduate after one year.
In the first years Gerhard G. Thielmann, Bernhard B. Boldt, Victor Toews and John K. Brandt served as instructors. Later instructors included Jacob P. Penner, Herman Voth, Henry C. Born, Abe Enns, John Wall, Hugo Jantz, Jake H. Friesen, Henry Warkentin, Hans Kasdorf, Henry Wiebe and Peter Penner. Thielmann served as principal for ten years, and also served as leading minister in the East Chilliwack congregation beginning in 1950. Many of the school's instructors later went on to teach in other Mennonite Brethren educational institutions or to serve as pastors and missionaries.
By the 1958-59 school year enrolment stood at only 21 students, with Jake Friesen and Peter Penner serving as instructors. At the end of the school year the Bible school was closed.
Total registration from 1947 to 1959 was 365, with over 200 individual students having attended the Bible school and approximately 30 students having graduated from the program. Although some of the graduates went on to serve as church workers, the vast majority of the students who attended the Bible school went on to secular vocations. The Bible school gave young people in the Chilliwack area the opportunity to study the Bible at a greater depth than what they had been exposed to in the local church, and the focus on music in the curriculum significantly strengthened the musical abilities of many students.
Botschafter and Harbour Light publications.
Giesbrecht, David. "A Brief History of Mennonite Schools in British Columbia." Mennonite Historian 25:2 (June 1999): 1, 6.
Penner, P. H. "East Chilliwack Mennonite Brethren Church 25th Anniversary 1945-1970."
Penner, Wilfred E. "East Chilliwack Mennonite Brethren Bible School." Personal e-mail (16 November 2009).
Thiessen, Anne. Interview (October 1999).
|Author(s)||Richard D Thiessen|
|Date Published||November 2009|
 Cite This Article
Thiessen, Richard D. "East Chilliwack Mennonite Brethren Bible School (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2009. Web. 11 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=East_Chilliwack_Mennonite_Brethren_Bible_School_(Chilliwack,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=115355.
Thiessen, Richard D. (November 2009). East Chilliwack Mennonite Brethren Bible School (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 11 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=East_Chilliwack_Mennonite_Brethren_Bible_School_(Chilliwack,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=115355.
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