ROSENORT E.M.C. (est. 1874)
copyright Lorilee Scharfenberg 2012 Rosenort E.M. Church in 2000
The New World 1874-1900
The New Century Dawns 1900-1919
A New United Church 1920-1939
New Churches and the Flood 1960-1979
Current Church Structure
On August 14, 1874 the first Mennonite families settled in Rosenhoff and Rosenort, Manitoba after a long journey over the ocean. They were supervised by the delegate David Klassen and Heinrich Ratzlaff. The two communities were so named because of the abundance of wild roses on the Scratching River Reserve and in keeping with the traditional village names in Russia. They brought with them two main languages: written and spoken German for church and school and the expressive language of the home, known as Plautdietsch (Low German).
The people of the Scratching River Reserve came mainly from two congregations on the Borosenko Colony, South Russia - the Heuboden (also called the Friesenís Gemeinde) and the Blumenhof Gemeinde. The majority of Blumenhof members settled on the East Reserve, which includes the villages of Steinbach and Blumenort. 17 of the 47 families of the Heuboden Gemeinde moved to the Scratching River Reserve under David Klassenís leadership while the other 30 families moved to Nebraska. For many years the Scratching River church maintained a working relationship with that church group. Of the 31 original families to homestead the Scratching River Reserve, only 19 remained. 9 of those families relocated to Nebraska and Kansas within the first two years.
Rev. Peter M. Kroeker, Rev. Abram R. Klassen and deacon Jacob M. Kroeker led the settlers spiritually for the first few years. The first worship service documented was a funeral for an elderly pioneer, Anna Ratzlaff (1808-1874) which took place within the month of August.
Mainly due to difficulties in winter travel two congregations were organized within the first 4 years with newly-elected deacon John Loewen leading the Rosenhoff group and Rev. Peter M. Kroeker leading the Rosenort congregation. Brotherhood meetings were traditionally held after Sunday morning services. Diaries from this time period show that the homes where the service was held were also responsible for providing dinner afterwards when these brotherhoods were held. The Rosenorters or Rosenhoffers would host neighbours and friends as Sunday was spent visiting together.
The names on the Scratching River church membership list between 1874-1876 numbered approximately 100 souls. This number declined in 1881 when a number of church members followed Aeltester Toews in his decision to join the Holdeman Gemeinde. The following year the church began to bolster the leadership by choosing John K. Friesen as a minister and Abram Eidse as a deacon.
In 1883 Rev. Jacob M. Kroeker was chosen as Aeltester of both the Scratching River and East Reserve Churches. With the Lord's help, he provided strong leadership stemming the tide of members joining the Holdeman church.
It appears that both school and church services were conducted in homes from 1874-1888. In 1889 new church-schools were built in both Rosenhoff and Rosenort.
In 1899, the Kleine Gemeinde ministerial developed and signed a document which determined they would stay firm against unworldliness. The document recommended no member take or vote for any government office, not to attend preaching services in other churches not approved by the ministerial, no attendance of non-Christian marriages, no participation in Sunday School, choir practice and harmonies. Portraits and photographs were banned as leading to idolatry. Singing, praying and preaching at the graveyard was noted as unscriptural.
Entering into the new century inventions frowned upon were curtains for the house, fancy trim on windows, bicycles and new types of mechanized farm machinery. Simplicity was encouraged.
Rev. John K. Friesen
In 1920, under the leadership of Rev. John K. Friesen the Rosenhoff and Rosenort congregations united in a new building just across the road from the present church site. Many of his writings are extant and preserved in the EMC archives.
In 1922 the church body began to have meetings in what is the forerunner of the MCC. Our people began to think of sponsoring starving Russian Mennonites to come to Canada. The church still was firmly against instrumental music and millenium doctrine. In approximately 1923, Rev. Jacob B. Kroeker was chosen as the new Aeltester. In his ministry he baptized 516 persons and officiated at 90 weddings. His diaries from this time period are housed in the EMC archives and would be interesting to have translated to shed light on this era of church life.
In 1928 two lady missionaries from India came to start DVBS in the community. Their names were Evelyn Arnold and Evelyn Harrison. They were invited by a Mr. Peters. Flowery Bank school was the location, however the two ladies stayed with Rev. Abraham and Helena E. Eidse's home. They taught songs such as "The B I B L E" and "Into My Heart". They also continued with DVBS in the Rosenhoff North School. Some Harms children walked 2 1/2 miles for 2 straight weeks to attend this outreach. This was a good introduction to missionary outreach.
By 1935 the German Hymn book "Evangeliums Leder" was introduced and youth gathered for singing practice "Singstund". Many in the Brotherhood were still opposed to 4-part harmony.
In 1935 the Kleinegemeinde paper "Familienfreund" was begun and in 1938 Steinbach Bible Academy, nowSteinbach Bible College, opened to educate our youth and ministers.
Discussions arose about the possibility of Sunday School. On May 30, 1935, two years after the concern was first brought to the church, it was decided to begin the first Sunday School. The decision as to have it every third Sunday at 2:30. According to "Furrows in the Valley" the first Sunday School was conducted on June 10, 1935. (Author's note) Since this was a Monday perhaps the date was the 9th. A Sunday School report stated that it would be "held in the summer months and depending on the winter weather". The goals stated: "to teach faith the children who attended secular school and strengthen the German language, and the plan of salvation at a young age. For the older church members it was to strengthen them spiritually." The first Sunday School Committee: Jac R. Klassen, Henry T. Friesen, Jacob H. Friesen and Peter J. Dueck. 4 teachers were chosen: Peter K. Dueck, Jac D. Friesen, Peter L. Kroeker and Jacob H Friesen. The leader of the church, a lay minister or a deacon were to serve as superintendents. The first chosen was Rev. P.W. Friesen.
"Attendance was so high that two more teachers were voted in, namely Gerhard B. Kornelsen and Peter J Dueck. The average attendance for the first three years was 150 persons. In the beginning the children were taught to sing for 1/2 an hour so that they would learn the melodies and songs that were sung in church."
In 1937 the first Christmas program was presented by the Sunday School. The first program consisted of 85 pieces with the 86th one not on the list. It was 3 1/2 hours long. In 1938 there were 41 and 30 in 1939. After this programs were limited from 25-30 items.
The decade ended with the beginning of World War II. This world event would change the community forever. Interest in the German language deteriorated among the youth.
The War continued to invade the lives of the Mennonites until its end in 1945 and the Rosenort community would never be the same. During the war years many of the young men of Rosenort-Rosenhoff served as conscientious objectors in various forestry/lumber camps in B.C. and Ontario. For the first time they were out in the world. The bulk of their earnings went to the Red Cross. Pressures from the non-Mennonite neighbours were constant. The town of Morris was avoided by young men of military age for obvious reasons. Patriotism ran high among the Baptists and Lutherans who had been considered friends and tensions ran high. Children in school were kept well-informed of developments geographically and followed the War with interest. Several families had crystal sets (radios) by this time and listened with trepidation to the voices of Churchill and Roosevelt. Youth who were rebellious snuck away and saw movie clips of the war in local theatres. During this time Sunday School offerings went in to the general church fund but soon because missions was becoming more and more of an interest, special collections were taken up for projects. On Thursdays at 7:00 before the SS Sundays the teachers got together to discuss and pray about what was being taught. The average attendance grew to 235 until 1948 when so many families left for Mexico.
In 1947 Rev. Ben D. Reimer of Landmark conducted the first set of evening revival meetings for three weeks. With this came the introduction of choruses. One of the first introduced to the church was the song. "I Have Decided". The first English hymn book was probably introduced around this time. It was entitled "Spiritual Life Songs".
32 conservative families moved out of the area to colonize in Mexico in 1948. The reasons for the move differed from family to family. For some it was a reaction to the military draft of the Wars and the fact that their young men had tasted freedom and mixing with others at the C.O. camps. A general feeling was that the local church was becoming too worldly. Some moved because most of their family was. Others had fears over the introduction of government programs such as income tax and family allowance. Hydro and youth heading to Bible College, a heightened interest in missions. The emergence of revival meetings was opposed because they felt it was a show of pride. Many of the above reasons were cited in the many heated discussions that took place before the exodus. This group of people moved to Los Jacques, Chihuahua and established the "Quellenkolonie". The land they purchased was 35, 000 acres.
When the deeply conservative element of the church left many changes took place suddenly. The church sent most of their Gesangbuchs with to Mexico.
Dress code was drastically affected by the exodus to Mexico. Men all wore ties, headcoverings remained but changed from the black kerchief to hats or small caps or lace coverings. Brighter colors and florals were in, black was out. Weddings became more festive and women went from 2 piece suits to full length wedding gowns.
In 1949 the church building was sold and in 1950 a new one built.
An interesting change took place during this time period: some of the newly baptized youth, although progressive in missions and education, asked the Church to change the practice of serving wine at communion to grape juice in order to "avoid all appearance of evil". Many had been invited to join their English neighbours in general alcohol consumption. Upon responding with a "no", they were asked what was wrong with it if it was consumed in the church. This irony was not lost on these youth. After some debate, the practice was changed.
In 1952 the Kleinegemeinde churches in Canada officially changed their name to the Evangelical Mennonite Conference
Jugenvereinde (Youth Fellowship) began in this time period. The first youth committee consisted of Cornie B. Loewen, Nick Friesen and Peter J.B. Reimer.
A Home Mission Board was formed around '52 and Rosenort E.M.C and Pleasant Valley workers began Daily Vacation Bible Schools in the following areas: Morris, Roseisle,Doyle,Poplar Point,Rhona,Riverdale,Radway,Ideal,Laronde,Oak Point,Woodrow,Marquette,Grand Marais,Balsam Bay,Beaconia,Stony Point,Woodlands,Maryfield,Kamsack,Ninette,Meadow Lea,Lake Francis,Dominion City,McGillavary,Veregin,Bear Stream, Poplar Heights, Riverton, Washow Bay, Howardsville, Winnipeg, Pine School, S Indian Springs, Prairie Queen,Luzan,Arden and Columbine. The lay ministers of the church were kept very busy being Superintendents of all these outreaches. The youth applied in great numbers willing to go and win the lost. "Personal work" became a term used regularily. Many of these communities called to ask for the church to come. In one record setting year, shortly after its beginnings, over 500 school children were reached with the gospel.
Foreign missions was a growing interest and in 1953 the Rosenort church commissioned Ben and Helen Eidse to serve under the Western Gospel Mission (according to Messenger article on WGM).
In 1954 Cornie and Tina Loewen were chosen by the Rosenort Evangelical Mennonite Church to serve as their first official missionaries in Mexico. The sister church of Blumenort joined in with financial and prayer support a year later. Within 4 years of the Mexican Mission beginning, the Rosenort E.M. church had 8 members on the field.
In 1954 a church choir was begun under the direction of Dave L. Friesen. While most of the congregational singing was still in German, special numbers were often in English.
In 1955 Rev. Pete L. Friesen was elected as bishop (aeltester). The Rosenort Church membership alone numbered 479. In the next 15 years twelve ministers and 4 deacons were elected and ordained by the Rosenort Church to serve both at home and abroad. Amazing! In his time of ministry he ordained 24 men to ministry and assisted at 6. He married 45 couples beginning with Frank and Marge Kroeker and ending with Victor and Frieda Loewen. He baptized 265 men and women upon their confession of faith.
In 1958 the Rosenort Church hosted the first mission conference jointly with Steinbach. They also pledged 10,000 dollars to begin a home for the aged. The numbers increased steadily with the Rosenort EMC church membership peaking in 1959 with a membership of 500+. At that time Rosenort was the largest church in the conference. The Morris Fellowship Chapel was begun as an outreach in town in 1959.
The shift to mainly English messages took place with many of the young ministers feeling more comfortable preaching in this language. "Singstunde" singing time was begun and a ladies choir begun under the direction of Mrs. Helen (Sid) Reimer. In 1967 a piano was purchased and Mrs. Helen Reimer and Phyllis Friesen were the first pianists. A Young Men's Quartet was also begun.
In 1970 the first organ was purchased for the church. The Rosenort church has had a few crisis situations. In 1973 the church building burnt to the ground. It was replaced and paid for within one year in the amount of $200,000. At that time Johnny Loewen was chosen as the head pastor of the congregation. Pastor Loewen and Deacon Art Dueck helped organize care groups which many in the church greatly appreciated. Rev. Johnny Loewen was the first minister to receive renumeration (partial) for his service to the church (1974). The Love Echoes, a young girls group led by Amanda Loewen, served from '73-'75.
Music ministry boomed in the 1980's with several groups being formed to serve the church. The Gospel Echoes, a women's group, served from approximately 1980-1995. Betty Anne Friesen led a group of grade 6 and 7 girls choir known as the "Sunshine Singers". A youth choir sang under the direction of Lena Dueck. The adult church choir ended between '85-'89. At the same time German hymns were phased out of the regular service. Until this point there had still been one in every service. The R.E.M.C Men's quartet was formed in 1988. Frank Kroeker returned from service as a missionary in Paraguay to take on the role of lead pastor.
Several changes occured in the 1990's. The hymn book "The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration" by Word was purchased after a year long study. It was chosen because it was a semi-tone lower for easier harmonies, it had many of the great theologically sound hymns but also choruses with notes, and a greater variety of song services within its pages. The Praise and Worship style of music was introduced in 1995. By 1996 this style of music was sung one out of four Sundays. In 1997 the church was severely flood-damaged and was rebuilt with the help of a contractor and many volunteers including our head pastor Menno Kroeker. The membership met in the basement of our local Credit Union for many months. One of Pastor Menno Kroeker's greatest contributions was to write and revise the first Rosenort EMC Church Constitution.
In 1999 the congregation began the search for a head pastor with Frank Kroeker stepping in as interim. For the first time in its 125 year history a minister was chosen from outside the home community.
The church has been renovated and enlarged as of 2004. A grand piano and a drumset were the latest musical additions. The church has also purchased a laptop and projector to aide the Sunday morning service.
In 2001, the membership made the decision to commission Don Dueck and Bryan Loewen, rather than ordain, as lay ministers for a period of 5 years. They have served 2 terms and begun their 3rd.In 2009 Trevor Friesen was ordained as a minister in our church.Rev. Amos Fehr served as a youth leader and then later as our Youth Pastor for 20 years until 2009. Many youth point to his leadership as a major encouragement and shaping of their faith. One of Fehrs' passions was the Spring Break Tour, where the youth travelled and ministered across SK and Ab.
Scott and Debbie Dick were chosen to lead the Senior and Junior Youth and commissioned to ministry in Fall 2011.
After training Greg Kroeker, Alex Loewen and Trevor Friesen, Pastor Toews' initiated a leadership training model with assigned mentoring. During his tenure the church shifted from the brotherhood/membership decision making model to membership. Sunday School was changed to parallel the public school year and the first baptism by immersion took place in the river west of our church in June 2001. We continue to practise pouring and immersion upon request.In November 2011 Toews resigned in order to return to ministry in his home church.
13 ministers elected from within our congregation are still alive and serving. Larry Eidse serves as interim pastor while Don Dueck, and Bryan Loewen are actively involved in the ministerial. Former Pastors Menno Kroeker and Frank Kroeker serve in an advisory role.
The Church Council was created to bring unity in the direction of the various church committees. It has one representative from the ministerial, trustee com., worship com., ladies fellowship, youth, missions, christian ed. and one member at large. It is responsible to prepare the Membership agendas, to oversee implementation of church decisions, to receive reports from the various church committees, to work with ministerial on discipline cases or non-active members whose spiritual needs or membership status needs to be brought to the attention of church membership. The Church Council is to appoint and oversee non-elected church workers such as the Sunday School teachers etc.(other than the caretaker).
The Rosenort Evangelical Mennonite church practises 3 ordinances: Adult Believers Baptism, The Lord's Supper, and Footwashing. Membership transfers are accepted from other churches from within and without the conference if the church is assured the member is in good standing and has been baptized upon their confession of faith as an adult. Although excommunication was a form of discipline in the past, the membership has chosen to release those members whose faith and walk do not agree with the R.E.M.C. rather than to hold them under the ban. The church distinctives include the teaching of assurance of salvation with a need for ongoing discipleship by Christ and a need for repentence from sin. We are saved, we are being saved, we will be saved. The church has tended toward a conscientious literal view of the Scripture including the 6 days of creation, the reality of Hell as a place of torment and Heaven as our hope for life eternal, marriage of one man and one woman as a lifetime commitment, the peacemaking truth of the Sermon on the Mount, and the simple view that Christ will return for His church soon and we need to be ready at all times.
|Title,Given Name,Surname||Life Dates||Deacon||Minister||Bishop||Minister elect|
|Rev. Abram R. Klassen||1828-1906||†||1869||†||†|
|Rev. Peter M. Kroeker||1840-1915||†||Jan. 20, 1873||†||†|
|Rev. Jacob M. Kroeker||1836-1913||1873||Jan 20, 1878||Jan 21, 1883||†|
|Rev. John K. Friesen||1857-1934||†||Mar 22, 1882||†||†|
|Rev. Abram E. Eidse||1857-1930||Mar 22, 1882||1902||†||†|
|Rev. Bernhard R. Dueck||1879-1969||†||Jul 13, 1914||†||†|
|Rev. Jacob B. Kroeker||1882-1978||†||Jan 11, 1921||Oct 19, 1924||†|
|Rev. Frank B. Kroeker||1879-1969||Mar 18, 1928||Dec 15, 1930||†||†|
|Rev. Jacob R. Klassen||1882-1953||†||Oct 31, 1930||†||†|
|Rev. Peter W. Friesen||1894-1959||Oct 31, 1930||Dec. 13, 1936||†||†|
|Rev. Cornie P. Dueck||1910-2000||Nov. 21, 1943||†||†|
|Rev. Peter J.B. Reimer||1902-||†||accl 1949||†||†|
|Rev. Peter L. Friesen||1912-2006||†||May 6, 1951||Jan 16, 1955||†|
|Pastor Frank P. Kroeker||1930-||†||Jan 6, 1957||†||†|
|Rev. Cornie B. Loewen||1926-1994||†||Sep 15, 1957||†||†|
|Rev. Melvin Dueck||1930-1985||†||Nov. 16, 1958||†||†|
|Rev. Dave Harms||†||†||Mar 13, 1960||†|
|Rev. Edward Friesen||1933-||†||Sep 25, 1960||†||†|
|Rev. Dave F. Eidse||1927-||†||Aug 20, 1961||†||†|
|Rev. Nick Friesen||1923-||†||Aug 20, 1961||†||†|
|Rev. John P. Kornelsen||1935-||†||Jan 2, 1966||†||†|
|Rev. Menno Kroeker||1936-||†||Jan 2, 1966||†||†|
|Missionary†Jake Kroeker||1933-||†||Nov 6, 1966||†||†|
|Pastor Johnny Loewen||1931-2003||†||Feb 22, 1970||†||†|
|Rev. Benny Friesen||1937-||†||Feb 22, 1970||†||†|
|Rev. Larry Eidse||1950-||†||,1985;||†||†|
|Rev. Amos Fehr||†||†||Feb 16, 1992||†||†|
|Pastor George Toews||1951-||†||accl. Mar 2, 2000||†||†|
|Minister Don Dueck||1967-||†||2002 (commissioned)||†||'98|
|Minister Bryan Loewen||1972-||†||2002 (commissioned)||†||'98|
|Rev. Trevor Friesen||19??-||Oct 10, 2009">|
|Youth Minister Scott Dick||1987-||Sept 2011 commissioned/not ordained|
|Minister Nick Klassen||commissioned/not ordained|
Composite Index of Mennonites Males Emigrating to Canada
Preservings Newsletter - East Reserve Mennonite Historical Society
Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia Table of Contents
Last Updated 2012 by Lorilee Scharfenberg