History of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan

Mennonite Church Saskatchewan is a regional church of 21 congregations with approximately 2100 members. With an office strategically located 600 - 45th Street West, its congregations are scattered from Fiske in the west to Regina in the east, north as far as Carrot River and south to Swift Current. The highest concentration of churches is in the Saskatchewan Valley between the South and North Saskatchewan Rivers, a development closely linked to the history of settlement in Saskatchewan.

Mennonite settlement in Saskatchewan dates back to the late 19th Century when immigrants from Russian and Prussian colonies began arriving at the invitation of the Canadian government. Their agrarian background and reputation as a peaceful people suited the plan to populate the prairies after the signing of the treaties with the Indigenous people and their relegation to reserves.

Subsequent immigrations from the USA and from Ukrainian Russia (particularly in the 1920's) resulted in concentrations of Mennonites in the Saskatchewan Valley (Saskatoon/Rosthern), near Swift Current and in smaller pockets south of Saskatoon.

Owing largely to the leadership of Bishop Peter Regier, the first Saskatchewan “Conference” developed in the Saskatchewan Valley (Aberdeen, Rosthern, Hague, Laird and surroundings). Arriving settlers in the Rosthern and Laird Mennonite Reserves were invited to register their families and a coalition of house churches sprang up under the name of Rosenorter Mennoniten Gemeinde. Very shortly thereafter, Mennonite leadership from the well-established Bergthal community in Manitoba and the fledgling Rosenort congregation organized the Konferenz der Mennoniten in Central Kanada. By 1940, the population in the Rosenort Mennonite Church had increased and communities were established to the point where sanctuaries could be built and local congregations could operate independently.

While progress continued toward a national conference of “General Conference” Mennonites, an early development (1940) foreshadowed the eventual provincial organization of churches. The Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization was formed at that time with the purpose of guiding the spiritual development of children and youth. In 1943, the SMYO purchased the Dominion Experimental Farm (now the Mennonite Youth Farm in Rosthern) and began providing care facilities for the physically and mentally challenged, as well as gathering youth to an annual time of worship and learning. A ministers and deacons organization functioned until the Conference of Mennonites of Saskatchewan (CoMoS) held its first organizational assembly in 1959 in Rosthern.

CoMoS linked Saskatchewan Mennonite Congregations to the national Conference of Mennonites in Canada. Saskatchewan had already developed educational and outreach efforts beginning as early as 1905, when the German-English Academy (now Rosthern Junior College) was founded under the leadership of Reverend David Toews. The Ministers and Deacons Assemblies, SMYO, the Mennonite Youth Farm, the German-English Academy, Rosthern Bible School (1932- 1962) were the early glue connecting the GC Mennonites of Saskatchewan before 1959. CoMoS was renamed Mennonite Church Saskatchewan (MC Sask) in 2001 and extensive records of the activities, changes in membership and organizational/financial accounts can be found at the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan Archives in Saskatoon. Three camps have been developed and continue to thrive: Shekinah Retreat Centre near Waldheim, Camp Elim at Lac Pelletier near Swift Current and Youth Farm Bible Camp (the oldest, dating back to the 1940s) Person to Person (P2P) and Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) prison ministries have been operating for decades in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. The Mennonite Youth Farm in Rosthern now rents out the agricultural section of land, but its benevolent work in the Nursing Home/Sunrise Place Personal Care Home and assisted living and seniors’ housing is a key mission of MC Sask.

In Summary

It’s fair to say that the history of Mennonites in Saskatchewan cooperating reveals a community “punching well above its weight.” Even during the drought and depression of the 1930’s, communities scraped and sacrificed to ensure that youth had opportunities for quality education, training and spiritual growth. The style of outreach and mission has changed, of course, but the determination to be a peace, justice and proclamation church in the world has survived intact.