First Mennonite Church had its beginning during the 1930’s when young Mennonite women came to Calgary to find employment as domestic workers in some of the well-to-do-homes. They gathered together wherever they could for fellowship.
Gradually, families arrived and the Mission Boards of the Canadian and Alberta Conferences established a ‘Mission Station’ here, with Rev. J.J. Sawatzky from Carstairs as leader. A building was purchased and Scarboro Mennonite Church was born in 1946.
Between 1948 and 1952 there was a great surge of growth as immigrants came after the war, young couples moved into the city, and retired farmers came to make their homes here. The building in which they worshipped became too small so a new one was built on Richmond Road and the church was renamed First Mennonite. The Sunday School developed and grew, large choirs filled the front of the sanctuary every Sunday, and three women’s groups were active. It was a vibrant congregation. In 1955, it arrived at the point where it was no longer dependent on funds from the Conference.
In 1965, Jacob Wiebe became the first hired pastor, but quite a contingent of lay pastors were included in the ministerial team. Ministerial candidates were chosen from the congregation, one of whom, Peter Heidebrecht, was later ordained as Aeltester. The function of the Aeltester has gone. Deacons were ordained for life, but this has been changed to shorter terms. Associate pastors and Youth pastors came into the picture. The congregation experienced some cycles of growth and decline as conflicts and differences arose. In 1993, Jake Wiebe resigned.
In 1997, Ken Bechtel led the congregation through a period of evaluation, reassessment, and transition to ultimate new growth. After Ken completed his term, Marv Thiessen joined First as the lead pastor. Shortly after, Trevor Ens joined the Pastoral team as the youth pastor, followed by Craig Wiens in that role. Alissa Bender later joined us as an Associate Pastor and has now moved on to Hamilton Mennonite Church. We are now enjoying the leadership of Pastor Ed Kauffman.
Over the years there have been structural as well as constitutional changes. The Sunday School wing was added to the original structure, changes within the sanctuary were made, and the new enlarged foyer for the accommodation of the lift/elevator was constructed. Just recently, the ‘house-next-door’ has been removed to make room for a parking lot.
“Are we there yet?” We are on the way, and through God’s grace, still growing.