Until 1941, the members of the church had been meeting in a rented building on Hanover Street in Steinbach. The need for a church building became more obvious. A brotherhood meeting was called in November of 1941, and attended by 27 members. It was decided to build a church immediately. A Building Committee was elected consisting of Julius Block, Johann Kroeker. Abram Vogt and Gerhard Derksen. There were 48 members, but many abstained, making it more difficult to build. A lot was purchased on the corner of Reimer Avenue and Hanover Street for $150.00. By Christmas of 1941 the basement was finished, and our church services were held there immediately. In the spring of 1942, the church building was finished at a cost of $4,000.00. The seating capacity was approximately 175 people. In the spring of 1942, the church was dedicated. Within 5 years it was paid for! It is interesting to note that the Ebenezer Verein raised $2,000.00 of the $4,000.00 in this period of time.
It should be noted that much voluntary work was done by the members. This was especially line of the concrete pouring, as this had to be done by hand and shovel. The ladies of the church were very busy. involved in cleaning up and painting.
With the addition of about 30 families in 1948 and 1949, the church became too small. In the fall of 1950, a meeting of members was called and the decision was made to build a new church. A Building Committee was elected: Abram Rempel, Herb Peters, Peter Peters, Hans Wiens and Dietrich Warkentin.
by Herbert Peters
A lot was bought on the outskirts of Steinbach in 1951. Known as the corner of Barkman and Hanover later on, this address was not quite correct at the time. At the time of purchase, we did not buy the first lot on Barkman, as there was still a chicken barn on this location. The asking price was $1,000.00, so we declined and bought the next 3 lots for $900.00. It was only in 1956, after the chicken barn was moved, that we also bought this lot for only $300.00! The Building Committee started negotiations with the Lutheran Church Committee, and the first church building, which was located on Reimer and Hanover, was sold for $4,500.00. We received another $500.00 from the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.
In May, 1951 we broke ground (on the "corner of Barkman and Hanover") and construction was started. The size of the new church was 38 x 80, and the seating capacity was 325-352. Our budget was $28,000.00. It was a real step of faith for us to begin a project that large. The time was too short to have a building fund accumulated. Giving was voluntary and money always came as the church building progressed. Because of this, we never experienced any financial difficulty. Much of the concrete work was done by volunteer labor. The ladies also did much voluntary work such as cleaning and painting.
God blessed our efforts and the sanctuary was finished at a cost of $27,000.00. I should add that up to this time, all the heating was done with wood and coal. We installed an oil furnace, which was a first for any church in Steinbach. The sanctuary was dedicated on October 7, 1951.
At that time there was not water or sewer available, so there were no washrooms located in the new building. Preliminary ones were built outside. Since there was an auditorium available downstairs for weddings, funerals, etc. water had to be delivered. The Ebenezer Verein bought a 100 gallon barrel for water storage.
The church building completed, there still existed a need for more Sunday School rooms. It was decided at a membership meeting that we would keep the Building Committee intact, and look forward to building Phase II the "Education Wing" as soon as possible.
In the fall of 1957, the education wing was begun. C.T. Loewen & Sons received the contract to build the outside frame of a two storey, 24-room education wing onto the church that had been built in 1951. This included a good-sized new kitchen, and ladies' and men's washroom facilities. All the inside carpentry, such as classroom division, finishing, and the kitchen cupboards was done in the winter of 1957 with volunteers. Julius Block was the volunteer coordinator. It kept him very busy, as he was on duty all day as well as evenings. He donated half his time. All the other volunteers came as they could, not as regularly; some during the day, and others in the evening up to 15-20 in one evening. Participation was great! Looking back, we must say it was a wonderful experience. God blessed us! I must add that in the winter of 1957 all the tables were built with voluntary labour. The total cost of Phase II was $30,000.00.
It became evident that we did not have enough parking for all cars, so in 1965 two lots adjoining our church property (facing Henry Street) were bought for $5,600.00.
by Herbert Peters
The decision to build a bigger sanctuary was originally discussed at church meetings as early as 1970. From that point in time, to the grand opening of our new sanctuary on December 15, 1974, encompassed four building plans, many special board meetings and some very stormy organized opposition. It must be said that God was ever present. Through prayers and supplication He gave us unity at the board level and among members of our congregation and enabled us to proceed with the project to erect a new sanctuary adjacent to the structure present at that time.
A mandate was given in January 1971 by the congregation to the Board of Trustees to look into the possibilities of adding to the present structure. The board consisted of Heinz Peters, chairman; Jake Klassen. Eugene Derksen, Abe Klassen, and Jake Wallman.
At the August 2, 1971 board meeting, Jake Klassen presented preliminary drawings to a radically new type of church building by architect Siegfried Toews. It featured a peaked ceiling to one corner, skylights, pews located in a semicircle, at a price of $120,000.00. It would mean breaking down the old sanctuary, but leaving the education wing intact. It was decided to have a scale model built and to present it to the membership. At a membership meeting on November 7, this plan, with the attached price was voted down. As it stood now, this board had no authority to look any further into the building question.
At a November 10, 1971 board meeting, a motion was made that the church council go to the church membership to vote on the following issues: 1) To remain as at present; 2) To establish a mission church (split and form a sister church); or 3) To enlarge on present site.
After successive brotherhood meetings, a building committee was elected, to bring a solid proposal back to the membership, to enlarge on the present site. This committee remained intact and was instrumental in negotiating for and in building the new sanctuary in 1974. The committee members were: Peter Koop, chairman; Vern Hildebrand, secretary; George Rempel, Jake Wiens, Jake Wallman, and Peter Block.
Our first meeting as a committee occurred December 4, 1972, where we organized our duties to the mandate we had received from the brotherhood. We pledged ourselves, through prayer, to
During the next few months we visited many churches in Winnipeg and southern Manitoba. Many ideas were gathered from these visitations, which we incorporated into our plan. This committee presented our plans to the membership, the last one being accepted on April 2. 1973.
Previous to that decision on January 3, 1973 two preliminary floor plans were presented to a membership meeting. Plan one featured an auditorium built on the west side of the sanctuary, seating approximately 420. It would be incorporated into the present sanctuary and was priced at $144,000.00. Plan two featured a new building next to the present church seating approximately 500, with a full basement. The present church could then be used for Sunday School rooms. This price was approximately $170,000.00. Both these plans were priced by a local firm. The membership voted by a 90% majority to build a new building. By a vote from this meeting, authority was given to the Building Committee to have blueprints made and get definite prices and to act as the collecting committee for the building fund.
On May 2, 1973, architect Hans Peter Langes was hired to design an addition to our present building to meet our requirements. He produced two plans for our consideration. The one plan featured a theatre style in a horseshoe type layout. The other plan was a more conventional layout with the choir at one end and the congregation facing the choir. The latter plan was chosen.
After countless meetings with the architect and many deletions and clarifications, this project was opened for tenders on March 22, 1974. Five firms put in their bids ranging from $277,000.00 to $305,000.00. As these prices seemed very high, the committee discussed exploring a new route.
At a congregational meeting on April 2, 1974 the Building Committee listed the contractors' bids and much discussion followed. The brotherhood sided with the committee and decided we could not afford building at that price. At this point we informed the congregation that we had already been in contact with A.K. Penner & Sons and they would probably be able to build for $240,000.00 with a few modifications. By a vote of 82.5% the congregation gave authority to the Building Committee to have A.K. Penner's draft and build a conventional type of church, within that price range.
Our sod turning ceremony took place the last week in April, 1974 with Rev. Frank Isaac officiating. Construction began in 2 weeks. To cover the cost of the entire project a loan for $180,000.00 was made as we had already collected a fair amount by visitations to all members. We were able to have a grand opening on December 15, 1974.
It was a real blessing, not only for the membership at large, but also for the Building Committee to see this project finished. The success of this venture was largely attributed to the unity we had in our church. Approximately seven years later we were able to have a mortgage burning ceremony. We all felt God had richly blessed us as a fellowship of believers.
The house and lot located directly behind the education wing facing Barkman Avenue was purchased for $27,000.00 on December 7, 1980 to facilitate future expansion. The adjacent lot was purchased in 1981 at a cost of $12,000.00. The lot at the corner of Barkman and Henry was purchased in 1986 for $21,400.00.
by Jake Wallman
Discussion about more space requirements in the Sunday School and sanctuary started to surface at membership meetings in 1983. In January of 1985 a Task Force consisting of John Kroeker, Eric Peters, Dave Penner, Peter Dyck, Reg Penner, Katie Giesbrecht, Abe Wiebe, and Eric Froese was stuck to develop several options for a larger sanctuary and more Sunday School space.
Several options were researched; however, none were found that satisfied all the needs. A major concern was the extensive renovations required to bring the building up to current Building Code requirements.
Starting a sister church was discussed at several membership meetings as being an alternative to building a new facility. Eventually, when the issue was put to a vote, the majority decided to stay together.
It was soon suggested to pursue selling the property and building a new church. After a year of negotiations with several congregations, we were able to sell the property to the Christian Fellowship Church.
A lot was purchased on Townline Road and Harold Funk was retained as architect. After developing several building plans, the membership finally approved a plan that incorporated an 800 seat sanctuary with a large stage, a large foyer, grade level entrance for wheelchair accessibility, a combined gym and banquet hall for 500 and a larger education wing.
Once the project was tendered, we found our wishes were considerably larger than our pocket books could afford. The membership determined that a maximum loan of $1,000,000 would be authorized to complete the project. After extensive cost cutting, a budget of $2,300,000 was approved and construction got under way after a sod-turning service in October, 1988.
To assist the Building Committee in staying within the budget, many hours were donated by various members. Several people looked after jobsite cleanup, others nailed plywood, hauled gravel, stripped topsoil, painted, in- stalled pews, placed insulation, shoveled gravel, installed rebar, placed floor tile, laid the sod, shoveled snow and various other tasks. In total the volunteers saved about $160,000; a tremendous effort!
Someone remarked that Church Building Projects bring out the best and the worst in people. This project must have brought out the best in our congregation. While we didn't always agree on all the decisions, we were able to resolve the contentious issues through discussion. There was always plenty of discussion and many opinions; however, once the vote was taken, everyone seemed to support the decision. The issue getting the most discussion was the gymnasium. Today it is tremendously encouraging to see the gym used several times a week by young and old. The concern that a gym made a poor banquet ball seems to have disappeared as our catering committee continues to serve a record number of meals within a year.
Hopefully the building will continue to serve the needs of our various programs in the decades ahead.
by John Kroeker
“Steinbach Mennonite Church is striving to faithfully follow Christ in worship and service by making disciples, building community and reaching out to the world.”