article by former Pastor C.B. Loewen, updated Nov. 5, 2006 by daughter Lorilee Scharfenberg
The Rosenort church together with the Mission Board began an outreach work in the town of Morris in 1958 because of the number of families that had found employment in the town. Rev. Nick Friesen was in charge of finding a building suitable to rent for this outreach. In January of 1959, a little white building just west of the Morris General Hospital was purchased for $1.00 by Nick Friesen at an auction. In April 3 brethren, Frank S. Friesen, Levi P. Kornelsen and Henry K. Kroeker were appointed to be in charge of maintenance.
Sunday school and church services began May 10, 1959 with English Sunday School at 10 a.m and German Worship at 11 a.m. It was agreed that one morning worship a month would be in English. Plans were made to have English services every second Sunday at night. It is believed that Rev. Frank P. Kroeker delivered the very first message.
Church administration was performed by Rev. Nick Friesen; Dave Eidse was the first Sunday School Superintendent. Johnny D. Loewen, Mrs. Laura Siemens and Miss Esther K. Loewen were the first Sunday School teachers. The entire lay ministry of the Rosenort E.M.C took turns leading preaching and doing visitation.
In December of 1961 the first church board was elected and consisted of Abe Klassen, Frank S. Friesen and Henry Siemens. Bert Friesen and Lorne K. Loewen served as songleaders and Rev. Melvin Dueck served as the pastor.
The church was not without controversy as a piano was in church almost immediately and the church was referred to as the "ring" church since many of the married women of the church chose to use wedding bands. All 37 charter members were transfers from the R.E.M.C. and in the following years many people joined who felt the Morris Church was more progressive and open to the youth. Until it officially organized it was considered a mission church.
In July of 1964, Cornie and Tina Loewen accepted the call of God to take up pastoral duties for a group of believers that met for Bible Studies and worship in Morris.By August 12th Rev. Loewen has a visitation program planned so that every home in town will be visited by groups of two.
On December 28th, 1965 an organizational meeting was held. 37 men and women formed the Morris Fellowship Chapel as charter members. All transferred from the Rosenort E.M.C.
Order of Service: Scripture by Rev. C.B. Loewen, Text and Message by Rev. Dave Eidse and presentation of members and dedicatory prayer by Rev. PL Friesen. Time of testimonies given and historical portion of church founding by Ben L. Kroeker, CF Dueck and Rev. C.P. Dueck. Closing and prayer by Levi Dueck and Abe Bartel .
The pastors salary for the first year was $200.00. In 1966, nine members joined the church. The co-operation of this group was remarkable considering that the active participants came from eight different denominational backgrounds. Highlights of the first full year as an organized church body were the monthly missionary nights, a church choir, the Wednesday night Bible Studies and the Thursday visitation nights. The visitation nights were especially exciting as we gathered to reach out to the discouraged, sick and unbelievers! Another outreach participated in with the Lowe Farm Bergthaler church was the distribution of over 10, 000 tracts during the Morris Stampede and Exhibition.
On January 8th, 1967 the Henry Remple's were ordained as deacons. The membership increased to an even sixty and a brand new church was built at the corner of St. Mary's and Toronto East. The three lots were purchased from the Coates for $3000. The sod turning was on May 15th and a new chapter began for the Morris Fellowship Chapel. The dedication service was held on Nov. 12, 1967. Joint monthly prayer meetings were held with the Bergthalers.
In 1968 MFC was involved in the Wes Aarum Crusade. The Fellowship had a membership of 77. There were also eight weddings involving members of the congregation. Special meetings were held with Elmer Hamm and also a series with J.J. Neufeld in 1969.
1970 There were many ups and downs in the year ahead with some of the members choosing to walk away from their relationship with Christ. The church was involved with the Barry Moore Crusade.
1971 was a very eventful year. Reverend Ben D. Reimer led services in our Chapel in spring. It was moving to witness the grace of Christ as Peter Letkeman gave his life to the Lord in the hospital and then was baptized upon his deathbed. Eight people were added to the membership roll during 1971. Revival came to the Red River Valley in 1972.
In 1973 five brethren had perfect attendance at Brotherhood meetings. We were involved in the outreach program "Key 73" during which time the Word of God entered many new homes and we had Daily Vacation Bible School with the other Morris Churches.
The anniversary of the pioneer Mennonite forefathers to the Red River Valley took place in 1974. Missionaries of the church were Klaus and Carol Peters in Thompson, Martha Kroeker continued in her work in Mexico and Elmer and Elvira went to Nigeria to be ministers of the gospel! Our youth excitedly raised money for Elmer and Elvira Warkentin with a bikathon and got in touch with missions in that way.
1975 was a year of change for the Morris Fellowship. It was ten years since organization as a church body and fourteen new members were added while seven were deleted from the roll call for various reasons.
We had a remarkable blizzard in January and the Young People of the church were forced to overnight in the chapel. We "suffered" with the young people as they "starved" for Bangledesh and later when they deprived themselves of sleep in a "wake-a-thon" to purchase radio equipment for the Larry Friesens. The church also enjoyed the musical contributions of our singing group "the Church Belles". We experienced revival with the Teichrobs which resulted in tremendous spiritual growth for many in our congregation. 10 young people received water baptism.
Larry and Pearl applied to go out under MCC to Bolivia and the church had a bungalow built to accommodate the Fellowship's need for additional Sunday School rooms. In December we had a special service for the 10th anniversary.
In 1976 our church began a new ministry through a quarterly newsletter called the Fellowship Flyer. These newsletters were evangelical in nature and contained many testimonies of the members of our congregation. We distributed them in the Town of Morris and used them to invite others to our Chapel! 9 people joined the Fellowship to further our outreach. Garry Kroeker chose to do disaster relief in Guatemala and Pastor Loewen spent three weeks in Nicaragua preaching at the various churches. Our Fellowship had meetings with Bill McLeod and Bill Orr.
1977 was another amazing year for our church. Tony and Sara Friesen were elected to serve as deacons. We were pleased to send Lorne and Helen Kroeker to Pakistan. Eight new members were added to our fellowship.
1978 There were five marriages this year within our membership. Five new members were added to the church and one couple transferred to the Rosenort Fellowship. The pastor was called to Paraguay for a two month revival effort. In the springtime we had a joint crusade with the Teichrobs in Rosenort. Larry and Pearl led the College and Career group which was formed this year, while Ed and Laura Friesen continued being the Young Peoples leaders!
The "79 Flood!" The flood seemed to dominate the year and we missed a few months of fellowship in our chapel due to the fact that most of our church members had to evacuate their homes and move to higher ground. We held some church services in a high school in Winnipeg where the Red Cross was gracious enough to provide us with a soup kitchen. 3 received water baptism. Eight members were also added by transfer from other churches and three marriages took place. Larry and Pearl left for missionary service in Mexico.
1980 was a year full of change for those of us who worshipped at the Morris EMC. Peter Thiessens left for missionary service in Mexico. We sponsored the arrival of refugees from Vietnam. Ten young people accepted baptism and Ernie and Betty Siemens were set apart to the ministry of being deacons. Twelve members transferred their memberships elsewhere including Art and Gladys Friesen and Irv and Marilyn Dueck who had served us faithfully. We appreciated 2 couples who were accepted by way of transfers. Ron and Sherri Kroeker and Gerry and Rose Friesen served as youth leaders.
A Christian Day School was begun in our church basement and Lily Colon came to do the teaching. The basement walls were poured for the new Church building on Dec. 15, 1980.
The new building was finished in 1981 and the first service held March 15. Only one Sunday service was missed during construction. Larry and Pearl Friesen were elected to the ministry. On September 20th the new church building was dedicated to the Lord. Many hands have wrought a great work!
1983 was a very busy year. Larry Friesen and Pastor Loewen jointly taught instructional classes for two baptismal classes throughout the year. There was rejoicing as Brian Klassen returned to membership. Nine people were baptized and one transferred in. We participated in the Janz Team Crusade with the Morris area churches.
In 1984 a confidence vote for the pastor and one deacon were held. The church welcomed Lorne and Helen Kroeker back from Pakistan and were pleased to take part in the Janz Team Crusade in springtime. Meetings were held with Dr. Archie Penner. The ordination of Larry and Pearl Friesen to the ministry was a moving event for the congregation.
After numerous meetings with representatives of the EM Conference and upon their recommendation, Pastor Loewen asked to be relieved of his duties as leader of the Morris Fellowship Chapel as of January 1, 1985.
In 1985 John Reimer was called to serve as pastor. Programs that began during his leadership include Mornings out for Moms, Church family camp, Men’s Fellowship, and Leadership retreats and care group ministry. A highlight for Pastor Reimer was the September 20th, 1987 baptism of 17 people.
The Morris church faithfully supported the Region 6 Good News Ministry radio program from 1987-1994.
Youth Pastor Ward Parkinson was hired in 1988 and Junior Youth and College and Career was begun while Senior Youth continued. He was ordained as an E.M.C minister in 1988 with Conference Pastor Ed Friesen and Rev. Harvey Plett setting him apart to the ministry of the Word. The youth enjoyed a variety of Bible Studies and Abundant Springs (EMC Youth Conference) under his leadership. In 1990 two deacon couples were commissioned to serve the church: Ed and Laura Friesen and Eldon and Mildred Schroeder.
In Spring of 1992 Pastor John Reimer resigned together with Deacon couple Ed and Laura Friesen taking with then 1/3 of the membership. The majority of the youth group left the church body. Of the candidates preparing for baptism only one was left. They formed the church that became known as the Open Door. The split was devastating and left many wondering if the Fellowship could survive.
In June of 1992 the Morris Christian School moved to Jerrold and Marge’s basement. Later in 1994 it moved to a a new building on the farm of Ernie and Betty Siemens.
The Morris Fellowship regrouped and elected Ward Parkinson as their interim pastor at the age of 31. After a year he was asked to stay on as the head pastor. The church had a new look to it. Many College and Career age men and women had the opportunity to fill leadership roles. The latest couple to go out on missions was James and Arletta Boulton who served under MCC.
In 1998 Pastor Parkinson’s parents, Dave and Eleanor were elected to serve as a deacon couple as well as Lorne and Lorraine Loewen. Lorne and Lorraine had previously served for many years in music ministry. In spring of 2000 Ernie and Betty Siemens retired from the deaconate. The church body chose two couples to this ministry, namely Chester and Ruth Bartel and Wes and Sheri Siemens.
Today the Morris Fellowship has a membership of 125 souls. Most of the church consists of young couples with children and parent-child dedications are more frequent and larger in number than baptisms. This will shift in a few years time. Hymns are led 3 Sundays a month and the worship band leads choruses once a month. The Fellowship continues to reach out to the community through a week of Daily Vacation Bible School.
A Family camp is enjoyed bi-annually and the first Ladies Retreat is planned for Camp Arnes for 2001! An exciting involvement for the church this year has been a “Mom’s In Touch” program where mothers of school children gather to pray for the school, the teachers and the students weekly. This program is participated in jointly with the Baptist and Open Door Churches.
The third Tuesday of the month ladies sing at the Lodge.
Significant church practice changes: Brotherhood still meets three times a year. The main decision-making body is the Membership. Communion takes place quarterly, however footwashing is practiced only twice in evening services. Baptism is mainly by pouring, however immersion is practiced upon request. Women gained the right to vote in church matters in 1996. In 1990 the Morris Fellowship began to have local deacons who served only 3 year terms rather than ordained deacons who served as part of the E.M. Conference ministerial. The Church Board consists of men elected by the membership.
The church is currently looking for a new pastor. Several men from within the membership and surrounding church community currently preach.
Alvin and Esther Brandt,Elma Brandt,Marie Brandt, Tena Brandt, Mary Dueck , Ed and Laura Friesen, Frank and Gertie Friesen, Ted and Georgianna Friesen, Art and Ruth Friesen, Elmer Friesen, Abe and Helen Klassen, Henry and Eva Kroeker, Martha Kroeker, Lorne and Arlene Loewen, Lorne and Betty Loewen, Lorne and Lorraine Loewen, Cornie, Tina and Sharon Loewen, Henry and Lucy Remple, Carol Remple, Mary Remple, Helen Schellenberg, Henry and Margaret Siemens, Elmer Warkentin.
Irma Remple (Friesen), Martha Brandt (Dueck)
Received by letter in 1966: Abe and Sarah Friesen, Pete and Tina Wiebe, Alvin and Diana Remple and Caroline Eidse.
Pastor Cornie Loewen (1965-1985) Pastor John Reimer (1985-1994)
Youth Pastor Ward Parkinson (1988-1992) Pastor Ward Parkinson (1992 til 2006)