Stirling Mennonite Church (Raymond, Alberta, Canada)
The Stirling Mennonite Church is a small congregation with diverse connections and history to both Hutterite Brethren and Mennonites. It was founded by several interrelated Prairieleut and Colony Hutterite Brethren families. This Prairieleut - Colony Hutterite ethno-religious mix and then with its Mennonite connections has made this congregation unique.
Coming from the area of Huron, South Dakota in 1918 the extended families of two brothers, John B. Hofer and David Hofer settled southern Alberta. They left the USA because of the conscription crises caused by the First World War. In 1922 they formed their own independent "Hofer Colony" near Raley, Alberta. This colony functioned like traditional Hutterite colonies but it was not accepted or recognized as such by the other three Hutterite Leut though it attracted a few other Prairieleut and colony Hutterites often through intermarriage. David Hofer's son David was the pastor of this congregation and was ordained for this task by David Toews of Rosthern, Saskatchewan.
The construction of a dam near Raley in 1944 forced the Hofer Colony to divide and relocate. One small group moved to a farm about 20 km to the north west near Brocket, Alberta. Here under the leadership of their pastor George Hofer and with help from Jacob Froese, an Old Colony Mennonite from Winkler, Manitoba, in 1948 they established the Brocket Hutterite Colony farm. The others from the Hofer colony moved about 60 km to the north east to a farm a few kilometers to the south and west of the small village of Stirling, Alberta. Raymond, Alberta was the closest large town. After moving they began calling themselves the "Stirling Colony." In 1947 the communal structure became optional though members ate in a community kitchen until 1962 and farmed collectively until 1990 and as late as the 1990s the Stirling congregation still retained the Prairieleut practice of having men and woman sitting on opposite sides of the church.
While at Raley the group sought fellowship with the Holdeman Mennonites but never joined because members could not accept the request for re-baptism. Then later those at Stirling attended studies led by Clarence Ramer a Bishop of the Alberta-Saskatchewan Mennonite Church Conference. This resulted in two members of the Stirling group asking at the 1946 Alberta-Saskatchewan Conference of the Mennonite Church for spiritual help. On 10 November 1946 the Stirling Mennonite Church was welcomed and this led to the acceptance of them into the Conference on 16 March 1947 with 11 charter members. John J. Hofer was their pastor but not ordained. Other extended family members quickly joined and by February 1948 Stirling had increased to 29 persons from 5 inter related families.
Stirling was influenced by Mervin Baer in the early 1960s and through him associated with the Upper Fraser Mennonite Fellowship congregation during the early 1960s. Feeling uncomfortable with the increasing worldly cultural permissiveness of the Mennonite Church in 1964 the Stirling Mennonite church left the Alberta-Saskatchewan Mennonite Conference to be affiliated with the Western Conservative Mennonite Fellowship now known as the Western Fellowship Mennonite Churches. In 1970 Stirling established a private Christian elementary and secondary school and 1981 began supporting a mission in Belize.
Bishop Edwin J. Bontrager served in 2001 as a non-salaried congregational leader. In 2010 the church was served by Ministers Michael J. Hofer and Delbert J. Birky and Deacon Peter Fehr.
Janzen, Rod. The Prairie People : forgotten Anabaptists. Hanover, New Hampshire, University Press of New England. 1999.
Mennonite Reporter (22 August 1994): 17.
Stauffer, Ezra. History of the Alberta-Saskatchewan Mennonite Conference. 1960: 34.
Address: Box 1027, Raymond, AB T0K 2S0
Location: 8 km east of Raymond on Hwy. 52, 5 km west of Hwy 4 on Hwy 52
Alberta-Saskatchewan Mennonite Conference (1946-1964)
Western Conservative Mennonite Fellowship (1964-present)
Upper Fraser Mennonite Fellowship
Stirling Mennonite Church Membership
|Author(s)||Victor G Wiebe|
|Date Published||October 2019|
Cite This Article
Wiebe, Victor G. "Stirling Mennonite Church (Raymond, Alberta, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2019. Web. 24 Jan 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Stirling_Mennonite_Church_(Raymond,_Alberta,_Canada)&oldid=165967.
Wiebe, Victor G. (October 2019). Stirling Mennonite Church (Raymond, Alberta, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 January 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Stirling_Mennonite_Church_(Raymond,_Alberta,_Canada)&oldid=165967.
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