Corn (Oklahoma) MB Church will celebrate its 125th anniversary Nov. 10-11, 2018. The celebration will begin Saturday, Nov. 10, with a light meal at 5 p.m. Former pastor Ken Gardner will provide opening remarks, and Southern District Conference (SDC) minister Tim Sullivan will bring greetings. Corn mayor Barbara Nurnburg will welcome guests. The program will also include songs performed by the beginners’ Sunday school department, a children’s feature by Russ Claassen, former youth pastor at Corn MB and current SDC youth minister, and a reading of church history and emcee memories by Jonathan Bartel.
Sunday will begin with coffee and schnetka at 9 a.m., followed by a 10 a.m. worship service including a welcome from current pastor Tim Sandy and messages from former pastors Ron Klassen and Will Fadenrecht. Karl Warkentin, son of former pastor J.K. Warkentin, will lead congregational singing. The service will also include special music by a select choir led by Charles Regier and a video, followed by a group photo and an old-fashioned roast beef lunch.
In preparation for the celebration, Corn MB held church-wide cleanup and painting days, with volunteers freshening walls with new paint, replacing carpet and updating decorations.
“Not many churches reach the age of 125 years,” says SDC’s Sullivan in an email. “Even fewer do so with the level of vitality and faithfulness to the gospel that the Corn MB Church continues to demonstrate. From this little burg on the plains of Oklahoma have come some very significant people and initiatives which have shaped our MB world. I am amazed and incredibly grateful for God’s gift of Corn MB to his kingdom work.”
Corn MB Church history
In April 1892, the U.S. government opened the Cheyenne and Arapaho lands to homesteaders, and in March 1893, Mennonite families from Kansas moved by covered wagon to the Corn—originally Korn—area. Eleven families from the Buhler, Kansas, area started the church on Nov. 9, 1893.
The first meeting house, a sod structure, was built in 1894. New structures were built in 1897, 1918 (remodeled in 1927) and 1949. The current structure was built in 1982 and dedicated April 17, 1983.
Sandy, the church’s current pastor, came to Corn MB in July 2006.
“It has been a privilege and blessing to be the pastor of Corn MB Church for these past 12-plus years,” Sandy says in an email. “There are a couple of things that impressed me when I first arrived and still do today—the church’s understanding and appreciation of their heritage and the identity they drew from this.
“But it was not just a heritage of culture, it was a heritage of being people who believed in and lived out of the authority of God’s holy Word,” says Sandy. “Many have claimed to be ‘people of the book,’ but I found here at Corn MB Church this really means something. This identity with God’s Word is a testimony to the faith passed down from generation to generation here in the Corn community.”
In addition to Sandy, the following men have served as pastors of Corn MB: Abraham Richert, Peter Neufeld, Isaac Harms, H.H. Flaming, J.J. Wiebe, J.K. Warkentin, J.P. Kliewer, Jacob Ewert, Albert Epp, J.W. Vogt, Dan Friesen, Wilfred Fadenrecht, John Flaming, Ron Klassen, James Pike, Paul Zoschke and Ken Gardner.
Church ministries respond to changes
Ministries the church is and has been involved in include: Mennonite Brethren Youth (MBY), AWANA, Sunday school, small group studies, men’s and women’s weekly prayer meetings, women’s ministry, Wednesday evening meals, church library and video ministry availability for local use, meat canning, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) work, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Sale, the Et Cetera Shop, Corn Bible Academy, Corn Heritage Village, and the Women’s Mission Circle (WMC), which has disbanded.
“A mighty shift has taken place in rural America, and Corn has not been isolated from its impact,” Sandy says. “The community of Corn has changed not only in the number of people in the area but also who those people are.
“The body of believers at Corn MB Church has found a vision and spirit to look beyond the limitations and overcome the temptation to dwell in the past,” Sandy says. “This new vision and spirit has opened the door and our hearts to new people in our community and area. This is lived out through a new annual men’s event, multiple woman’s studies, lively AWANA program, reaching students in three different school districts and a continuing passion for worship and proclaiming of God’s Word.”
In 2017, an average of 182 people attended Sunday morning worship services at Corn MB.
“Things have changed from the past as is always the case in life, and here at Corn MB we have had to deal with those changes,” Sandy says. “But the church has held well to that which never should change and embraced that which needed to change in order to face the future.”—with information provided by Don Heinrichs and Corn MB