Cornerstone Community Church (Virgil, Ontario, Canada)
The Mennonite Brethren church in Virgil, Ontario has had three names: the Niagara Mennonite Brethren Church from 1937 until 1953, the Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church from 1953 until 1994 and Cornerstone Community Church from 1994 until the present.
In the early to mid 1930s, Mennonite descendants began moving to the Niagara-on-the-Lake area where they initially worshiped together at the Wilhelm Andres farm on Niven Road. By 1937 the first Mennonite Brethren congregation was formed and called the Niagara Mennonite Brethren Church, meeting in private homes for four years. The building at the Virgil site was completed and occupied in the fall of 1941.
The church leaders who served were Johann F. Dick, Dietrich J. Klassen, Johann D. Penner and Jacob P. Dyck who served during the period when, in 1953, the name of the church was changed to the Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church. Then, in 1958, John G. Baerg was called as the first full-time pastor and served for eighteen years until 1976.
The church building has a long and interesting history. In 1961, a two-story Christian Education wing was added to the side of the original building while a second addition was completed in 1972 which consisted of a large kitchen and washrooms in the basement area, as well as a library, pastor's study and hallway on the main level.
While the early post-war period was a time of growth with the arrival of immigrants from Russia, Germany and South America, as well as the resettlement of Mennonites from Canada's western provinces, that trend would change in the late 1970s. There were 436 members in 1950 and 473 in 1965, which resulted in two church plantings—the Niagara Fellowship Chapel on Concession 2 in 1957 and Orchard Park Bible Church on Hunter Road in 1971.
However, after the mid 1970s, membership numbers declined. As a result, in 1994, the Niagara Fellowship Chapel, the Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church and several families from other Mennonite Brethren congregations throughout the Niagara Region, joined together to form a new entity called Cornerstone Community Church. Still located on the original Virgil site, the Cornerstone church building was updated in the mid-1990s, at which time the roof line was lengthened over the second addition.
While the primary language of worship up to the 1960s was German, in 2003 all services and Christian Education programs were English, except for a mid-week German Bible study. The last German worship service was held on Sunday, 30 January 2005. Clearly, although some traditions remained and many of the members still came from a Mennonite ancestry, demographics were changing.
In May 2018 a process was begun to discern the potential of adopting the Orchard Park church, whose leadership had approached Cornerstone about a possible merger. There were various meetings including a pulpit exchange, a joint town hall meeting, and a joint worship service. The proposal was accepted separately by each congregation on 8 July 2018.
Orchard Park’s ministry was integrated into Cornerstone’s programs. Orchard Park members were invited to worship with Cornerstone and contribute their offerings to Cornerstone. The Orchard Park pastor, Trevor Peck, began working as part of the Cornerstone ministry team by mid-July. Cornerstone assumed outstanding financial obligations, and, as of 9 September 2018, Sunday worship services have been held at the Orchard campus (434 Hunter Road). Offices and week day programs continued at the Town Campus (1570 Niagara Stone Road).
"A Photo History and Recollections of Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church." A gift from Walter and Helen Bergmann to commemorate their 45th wedding anniversary, the history is a photo and anecdotal record from 1937 until 1998.
Bergmann, Helen Reimer, ed. Ebenezer, Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church, 1937-1987. Virgil, ON : The Church, 1987.
Bergmann, Helen Reimer. "Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church." 1974, 6 pp. Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies.
Friesen, C. Alfred. Memoirs of the Virgil-Niagara Mennonites. 1984: 44-48.
Mennonite Brethren Herald (2 October 1987): 20; (27 May 1988): 52; (18 March 1994); (10 June 1994): 15.
When Your Children Shall Ask: A History of the Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches 1957-1982. 1982: 50-52.
Archives at Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies
Address:Sunday worship location 434 Hunter Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario; Offices at 1570 Niagara Stone Rd, Virgil, Ontario, L0S 1T0
Mailing address: Box 112, Virgil, ON, L0S 1T0.
Phone: (905) 468-7155
Website: Cornerstone Community Church website
Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1937-present)
Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1937-present)
General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1939-2002)
Cornerstone Community Church Leading Ministers
|Johann F. Dick||1937-1943|
|Dietrich J. Klassen||1943-1945|
|Johann D. Penner||1945-1951|
|Jacob P. Dyck||1951-1957|
|John G. Baerg||1958-1976|
|Victor Loewen (interim)||2000-2003|
Cornerstone Membership Statistics
|Author(s)||Sandra C Crux|
|Date Published||July 2003|
Cite This Article
Crux, Sandra C and Alf Redekopp. "Cornerstone Community Church (Virgil, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2003. Web. 18 Jun 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Cornerstone_Community_Church_(Virgil,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=163686.
Crux, Sandra C and Alf Redekopp. (July 2003). Cornerstone Community Church (Virgil, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Cornerstone_Community_Church_(Virgil,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=163686.
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