The Cedar Valley Mennonite Church is part of a worldwide fellowship of about 800,000 people from more than 50 countries known as Mennonite Christians. We trace our history back to the Reformation period of the 16th century. Our name is derived from the name of our founder, Menno Simons of Holland, a contemporary of Martin Luther.
The Mennonite Church has a rich story to tell. The early Mennonites, like the early New Testament Christians, suffered a great deal of persecution. These persecutions were at times so severe that the believers scattered to many lands. In the late 18th century many sought refuge in the steppes of southern Ukraine. Here they prospered for about 100 years. Then, however, they experienced intense persecution once again. This led to a major emigration to Canada. The founders of the Cedar Valley Mennonite Church, for the most part, were part of a wave of immigration from the Ukraine in the 1920’s.
Our congregation had its origins in 1940. It began in a small one-room, wooden
building on Ferndale Road on the property of the first pastor, Rev. Abram J.Pankratz, who served the congregation from 1940-1944. After that he continued to serve for a number of years as an assistant pastor, first working with Rev. Jacob Nickel, and later with Rev. Peter Froese. He died of a heart attack in May, 1973. Rev. Nickel was an exceptionally gifted man intellectually. He served for only two years, going on to become an influential professor of philosophy in Wichita, Kansas, until his death in 1983.
Rev. Peter Froese arrived in the late 1940s. and had the longest tenure of all CVMC pastors to date, serving as the leading minister from 1947-1964. Following that, he continued unofficially as a beloved Bible teacher and home visitor for many years. He passed away in the summer of 1994. His contribution to the congregation is inestimable. It must be noted that up to this time all ministers of CVMC served sacrificially without monetary remuneration, often experiencing real financial hardship as they sought to care for their families.
By 1951 the original building could no longer accommodate the growing congregation. John Friesen, a member of the church, who later served as pastor in a number of other congregations, donated a choice piece of property to the church on Cedar Valley Road. Here a new church building was constructed with volunteer labour. Money was scarce, and the congregation would not allow itself to go into debt. This meant that construction had to proceed in stages. At first, until the upstairs sanctuary was finally completed in 1953, all activities took place in the church basement. In the ensuing years steady growth required frequent renovations and additions to the facility. In the mid-1970’s it became apparent to everyone that something more substantial than just another addition was needed.
Pastor Ed Goerzen served the congregation from 1965-1976. He was the first salaried pastor. Under his gifted leadership the congregation gradually shifted from a German to an English language ministry. For the first time the way was open for non-German-speaking people from the community to become part of the church. It did not take long for this to occur. Pastor Ed exhibited a strong vision for evangelistic outreach. Soon many from the community found their way into the church. As Mennonite ethnicity mixed with a variety of nationalities from the community, the congregation took on some unique features. Today there is a distinct community-church flavor that distinguishes it from more traditional, ethnically intact Mennonite churches.
John Pankratz became a full-time assistant to Ed Goerzen in 1973, but unfortunately his devoted service was interrupted by tragedy. A stroke in 1975 made it necessary for him to withdraw from active pastoral duties. He has continued as a faithful and exemplary lay member of the church.
It was in 1975 that Gary Loewen, a student at Columbia Bible Institute, became a pastoral intern at CVMC. When Ed Goerzen left the congregation in 1976, Gary continued on for an additional year as the only pastor until Rev. Henry Born was called as the senior minister. Rev. Born’s tenure was brief, but significant. He presided over the construction of the large new 700-seat sanctuary that was completed and dedicated in May of 1979. Gordon Hardy served as his associate 1978-1979, but was soon called to serve as a counselor for Burdenbearers of Canada.
In 1980 George Janzen was called to be the senior pastor at CVMC. George moved to Mission with his parents in 1942, graduated from the local high school, and received baptism at the Ferndale Church in 1949. He went on to complete his college and seminary training, and then served with his wife. Martha, as a missionary in Japan for a total of 25 years. He served at CVMC from 1980-1990, returning in 1997 to serve for an additional year as a part- time associate pastor. George and Martha continue to be active members of the congregation in their retirement.
During this time the congregation hired its first youth pastor. Under the energetic and capable leadership of Darryl and Nancy Crocker, there was soon a thriving youth ministry. They served from 1981-1987. In the same year that Darryl & Nancy began their work, the church also hired a full-time associate pastor, Jake Thielmann. He and his wife, Elfrieda, served from 1981-1983. Jake came from a rich background of experience as a teacher at Columbia Bible Institute and as a missionary in Austria. In 1983 Jake & Elirieda were re-called to missionary service in Austria.
Bruce Barrie came as the next associate pastor, and together with his wife, Janet, served our congregation from 1985-1988. Bruce had a strong interest in Christian day-school education, and was instrumental in founding the Mission campus of Valley Christian School in our church facilities. With this move CVMC found itself directly involved in all levels of Christian education from pre-school through seminary. This campus was later relocated in Matsqui. In 1988 Glenn & Carol Kelso arrived on the scene to become the new youth workers, and once again CVMC was blessed with a strong and stable youth ministry. They served well until the end of 1994, when they accepted a new church-planting assignment in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
In September of 1989 Gary Loewen, after a period of nine years as a missionary in Brazil, returned to CVMC to serve as an associate pastor. Gary and his wife, Ellie, served enthusiastically until May of 1992, when they resigned to move into a church-planting assignment in Abbotsford.
Timothy Epp, with pastoral experience in the United States, arrived in the summer of 1992 to assume duties as the leading pastor. Tim, together with his wife, Joyce, served only two years, finding it necessary to return to the U.S. in the summer of 1994.
In 1988 CVMC created a new position of ministry, hiring Larry Nickel as a part-time Director of Music. Larry was employed in the field of music on a full-time basis at the Mennonite Educational Institute in Abbotsford. Possessing rich musical gifts, Larry did outstanding work as a choir director and as a producer of dramatic musical performances. Larry and his wife, Edna, served until 1994. They were replaced by Brian and Rebecca Wiebe, who served for two years, 1994-1995.
Several others served briefly as youth pastors during these years. Wayne & Shauna Halvorson worked in this capacity from the fall of 1994 to the fall of 1995, and John & Lori Madsen served in 1996. In the summer of 1997 Douglas Pankratz arrived to accept a role as an associate pastor with an emphasis on youth ministries. Doug grew up in Mission and at CVMC, and comes with good training and experience.
In September, 1994, Bob & Brenda Cottrill arrived at CVMC. For about one year Bob served as a part-time Christian Education Director, and then, in 1995, was designated as the full-time lead pastor. With strong leadership abilities, and a variety of other skills. Under the very capable team ministry of Bob and Doug CVMC experienced rich blessings and steady growth in the church. During 1999 Waldy Klassen served as the Interim Pastoral Administrator and in September, 2000, Dan & Linda Rempel joined the Cedar Valley staff and are currently providing opportunities for further growth and service to the congregation along with Pastor Doug & wife Jenny Pankratz now serving as Associate Pastor – Family Ministries and Chad & Sandy Neustaeter Associate Pastor – Student Ministries since 2005.
The Cedar Valley Mennonite Church is committed to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our heart’s desire to learn to know Him better, to follow Him more faithfully, and to share the good news of His grace with many people, both at home and abroad.
We believe that Jesus Christ represents a unique revelation of God to the world. By His teaching and preaching, in word and deed, He showed us how God wants us to live. His death on the cross demonstrates the depth of God’s love for us, and His resurrection from the dead gives us a sure hope of eternal life.
The textbook of our faith is the Holy Bible. Here we learn to know Christ. Here we are instructed in truth and righteousness. Here we find assurance of forgiveness for our transgressions, strength to live and courage to die. We think of each other as spiritual brothers and sisters, one great spiritual family, with God as our Father. We are committed to loving and serving one another, and to reach out to those who do not yet know Christ. Our ministry has both a spiritual and a social dimension. We are eager to have others learn to know Christ as their Savior and Lord, but we are also eager to help the poor and the sick and the oppressed everywhere. We extend a sincere invitation to all to come and discover together with us the profound meaning and the overflowing joy of living for Jesus Christ.
The following represents a chronological list of pastors and spouses, both full-time and part-time, who have served as shepherds of the Cedar Valley Mennonite Church, and their terms of service:
- Abram & Maria Pankratz 1940 – 1944
- Jacob & Frieda Nickel 1944 – 1946
- Peter & Tina Froese 1947 – 1964
- Ed & Helen Ann Goerzen 1965 – 1976
- John & Wanda Pankratz 1973 – 1975
- Gary & Ellie Loewen 1975 – 1977 1989 – 1992
- Henry & Esther Born 1977 – 1979
- Gordon & Lorraine Hardy 1978 – 1979
- George & Martha Janzen 1980 – 1990 1997
- Jacob & Elfrieda Thielmann 1981 – 1983
- Darryl & Nancy Crocker 1981 – 1987
- Bruce & Janet Barrie 1985 – 1988
- Glenn & Carol Kelso 1988 – 1994
- Larry & Edna Nickel 1988 – 1994
- Timothy & Joyce Epp 1992 – 1994
- Brian & Rebecca Wiebe 1994 – 1995
- Wayne & Shauna Halvorson 1994 – 1995
- John & Lori Madsen 1995 – 1996
- Robert & Brenda Cottrill 1994 – 1999
- Chad & Sandy Neustaeter 2005 -2015
- Douglas & Jennifer Pankratz 1997 –
- Daniel & Linda Rempel 2000 –