Local churches celebrate sesquicentennial


Guest speakers, cake and balloons typify events

by Connie Faber

The Christian Leader was curious to know how U.S. Mennonite Brethren congregations celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren Church. And so we e-mailed pastors, asking about any events organized in recognition of this historic event. This is what we learned.

The Mennonite Brethren Church was officially organized Jan. 6, 1860, so Dinuba (Calif.) MB Church planned their celebration for Jan. 3, 2010. Henry H. Dick, who was one of three men to organize the 100th anniversary celebration in Reedley, Calif., and is currently Dinuba’s visitation pastor, was the speaker.

Dick traced the story of the MB Church from the Reformation to Menno Simons to the decision of 18 families in 1860 to separate from Russia’s Mennonite Church. Dick, who was born in the Ukraine, also told stories of the early MB Church that he heard from his parents. Robyn Brands, whose great-grandfather was one of the 18 founders, told a children’s story and children gathered around a cake and sang, “Happy birthday, Mennonite Brethren.”

Dick shared the same message Feb. 14 at Shafter (Calif.) MB Church. Pastor Pat Coyle reports that Dick’s presentation was recorded on a DVD to be used in future membership classes.

Community Bible Church, Mountain Lake, Minn., also celebrated Feb. 14. Church member Alvin Dick instigated the celebratory worship service and wrote a summary history of the Mennonite Brethren Church, weaving the story of the 120-year-old Mountain Lake church and the early years of Carson MB Church, the Delft, Minn., church that planted CBC, into the denomination’s story. Elaine Kroeker then adapted Dick’s information for six readers and 72 photos were added to create a 25-minute PowerPoint presentation. The worship service that resulted involved at least 10 people who led in prayer, spoke and provided music.

College Community Church, Fresno, Calif., organized an adult education series Jan. 10 through Feb. 14 on Mennonite Brethren and Anabaptist history and identity. Michelle Ferguson, chair of the Adult Education Commission, says the goal of the series was to “review our history and renew conversations about how that affects our future.”

Abe Friesen spoke in three sessions about Swiss Anabaptism and the Reformation, Menno Simons and Dutch Anabaptism and the birth of the MB Church. Peter Klassen talked about Polish and Prussian Mennonites. The series concluded with two panel discussions, one on Mennonite Brethren as Anabaptists and evangelicals and another on the future of the MB Church. “Mennonite” treats were served during the final presentation Feb. 14.

Kingsburg (Calif.) MB Church designated April 25 as their celebration Sunday. Guest speaker Henry H. Dick repeated the presentation he had given earlier at other Mennonite Brethren churches. The congregation observed communion and welcomed new members, and a Happy Anniversary cake was served during coffee time.

First MB Church, Wichita, Kan., highlighted the 150th anniversary during the Sunday school hour May 16. Peggy Goertzen, director of the Center for MB Studies at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., spoke to two adult class sessions.

Goertzen gave the same presentation Aug. 22 to a joint adult Sunday school session at her home congregation, Ebenfeld MB Church, where her husband, Gaylord, who is the pastor, preached six sermons on the core values of the Mennonite Brethren Church during the summer. At the church’s July 4 picnic, the children released balloons with notes attached explaining that the balloon was launched to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren Church and asking the finder to e-mail the church with that balloon’s final destination.

Henderson (Neb.) MB Church celebrated the 150th anniversary in an Aug. 22 worship that highlighted Mennonite Brethren history through a reader’s theater and a slide show, adapted from the Mountain Lake presentation. The ongoing work of the MB Church was emphasized in the second half of the service. The church commissioned Scott Goossen as a missionary to Great Britain, licensed Steve Ryan as the associate pastor and welcomed members of First Slavic Baptist Church, the congregation’s sister MB church from Lincoln, Neb (pictured left). The celebration concluded with a church potluck.  

Several MB agencies also observed the anniversary of the denomination’s founding. The MB Foundation staff enjoyed anniversary cakes Jan. 6 at their offices in Hillsboro, Kan., and Fresno, Calif.

MB Biblical Seminary faculty members David Bruce Rose and Cory Seibel and 20 of their students celebrated the anniversary Jan. 5 during their Cross Cultural Encounter course in Southern California. That evening the professors invited the group to reflect on the connection between the founding of the MB movement and the celebration of Epiphany, which happened to fall on the same day. The professors emphasized that both the evangelistic renewal that accompanied the birth of the Mennonite Brethren and the arrival of the Magi to Bethlehem are reminders that the gospel is for everyone. The group concluded the evening by eating "king's cake," a traditional part of the Epiphany celebration in many countries.


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