Tracing our Roots
Mennonites trace their origins to 1525 in the city of Zurich in Switzerland. They were part of the Protestant Reformation but diverged in their beliefs from Luther and Calvin in that they rejected infant baptism, holding that baptism (essentially church membership) should be reserved for adults on confession of their faith. They also rejected military service, following Jesus’ teaching. These beliefs were considered heresy by both Roman Catholics and protestants, and the Anabaptists, as they were called, were widely persecuted and many were martyred.
This persecution drove them from Switzerland into Austria, down the Rhine River and into the Netherlands. Persecution in these countries drove them into North Germany, Prussia and Poland. From there a large group migrated to Ukraine on the invitation of Catherine the Great about 1780-1790. In the 1870s a major migration took place to present-day Manitoba and the western USA. Further migration to Canada occurred in the 1920s, and following WWII in the 1940s and 1950s.
The late 1880s saw considerable movement of people into what was to become the Province of Alberta in 1905, and among these people were Mennonites. They were joined by Mennonites from Ukraine and Russia in the 1920s. Most of the new arrivals were farmers. During the early 1930s they were struck by twin disasters: a long-term drought and a world-wide depression. The result was a period of desperately hard times.
One way to relieve the poverty of rural families was for some of the young women to take employment in Calgary as housemaids. Part of their earnings could be sent home. To look after their spiritual and social needs a Maedchenheim (home for young women) was established by home congregations, and served by their ministers. This was the initial beginning of a Mennonite church in Calgary.
Gradually young men also migrated to Calgary in search of jobs, and Mennonite numbers grew large enough to form a “mission church”. This became the forerunner of the Scarboro congregation, which in turn, developed into what is now First Mennonite Church.
Increasing numbers of immigrants following WWII, flowed into Calgary. Since these immigrants could not speak English, the question of which language to use for church services became a serious issue: the need for German on the one hand and English on the other. This became one of the reasons for the formation of a second Mennonite congregation: Foothills Mennonite Church.
With the passage of time and the growth of the two existing congregations, it became clear that a third one should be started to serve the south of the city. Volunteers were called for in the two existing churches to form such a church, which became Trinity Mennonite Church. That’s us.
From the beginning, Trinity felt it important to be a participating member of the conferences then in existence, hence we joined The Conference of Mennonites in Alberta (formed in 1923), The Conference of Mennonites in Canada (formed in 1903), and the General Conference (formed in 1860). Since that time restructuring has resulted in Mennonite Church Alberta, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. Trinity holds membership in the first two. Some of the functions of the General Conference were distributed between Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. Through its membership in Mennonite Church Canada, Trinity continues to participate in relevant international programs.
– Fred Enns
“IT IS AT THE CHURCH”
The desire to have our own church building to worship in, began, I believe, almost as soon as TMC formalized the church plant. We began laying monies aside from the beginning of our existence. Eventually we had enough laid aside that we began striking committees to look into an existing building or buying property on which to build. Much energy and commitment was poured into these searches. Several proposals were presented to the congregation, discussed, and for various reasons, rejected.
In September 1999, one parcel of land was purchased just South of Highway 22X on the western edge of the city, and in January 2001, a second parcel of land, adjacent to the first was purchased. Now began a time of dreaming, discussing when we might start to build, what shape it would be and what size of building we could afford. Very quickly a “Land Vision & Development Committee” was struck to begin to draw together the many ideas, dreams and possibilities that were voiced among our church members. Excitement was building fast. This committee soon had a proposal for a building size, an architect with a lot of experience in designing church buildings (Charles Olfert), and also a long term vision of a senior citizen complex for the land beside the building for worship. This committee spent a lot of time bringing this together and did an excellent job. Their proposal was presented to the congregation and with some tweaking to the plan, a decision to apply for a “Land Use Development Permit” was made. This turned out to be quite an undertaking; the committee and especially Ron Thiessen spent countless hours preparing for this. After having processed the various stages that were required to make this application, it was presented to the Foothills Municipal District Board in April 2002. The application was rejected, primarily because of residents surrounding the area objecting to a proposed church building on their road. Needless to say, most of us were devastated. We had not considered the possibility of an objection of this nature. The second application was made in May 2003, and was again rejected. We then accepted the disappointing reality that we would not be able to build at this location (we did not immediately recognize the financial gain we would experience by having to sell that land). A new search for land at a different location was begun. Again, many hours were given to this endeavor with Marvin Baergen giving a lot of leadership to this search. In February 2004, 11 plus acres were purchased just off of Highway #552. The land on 22X was sold at a considerable profit, and monies were now definitely available to continue with the actual building. What an exciting time this was for our congregation.
In August, 2004, a “Building Committee” was struck to oversee the various stages involved in the actual building. Doug Boyes, Leonard Dyck, Ron Thiessen, Hans Van der Wal, Doreen Neufeld, Walter Wiebe, Doug Janzen, Reg Lowndes, Rose Krahn, Susanne Baergen, Henry Epp, Rob Doerksen and Erv Wiens served on this committee, over the two year period. Kurt Janz accepted the position of “Project Manager” on a volunteer basis. Kurt, with his many years of experience in the construction community, was invaluable to us. His generosity and great sense of humour contributed immeasurably to making the task of constructing our present house of worship a rewarding experience. I (Susanne) undertook to be at the church building site full time, my position primarily being the liaison between the Building Committee, Kurt Janz, the architect, and the various professionals involved. This was an exciting and sometimes overwhelming assignment for me, but a very rich experience in my life. We received our “Building Permit” in September 2004. More tweaking happened with the actual building plans for the next six or seven months as we awaited the arrival of spring. What an exciting time of dreaming, and awaiting the beginning of construction this was. On April 27, 2005 we began excavating for the basement and footings. I was beside myself with excitement and phone quite a few people to come and watch; this was too exciting and wonderful to view alone. That began a time of much excitement, picture taking, waiting at the site for deliveries, sub-trades, running into town on errands and organizing volunteers (of which we had many). Most everything that happened on the building site was an experience that has made our church building very special to me.
The original building plan called for a simple wood frame building with conventional heating. In response to suggestions from a variety of sources, the Building Committee did extensive research on the following options: We researched GeoThermal heating; it was a great idea but ended up costing too much. Building with “foam blocks” was also researched and accepted, as a result, our building is very well insulated and was a lot of fun to build. We had to re-engineer the South End wall and build it out of wood in order for it to be strong enough to hold up the beautiful beam at the peak of our building. Other than that, I believe most of the building was constructed as first approved, with some minor changes required to accommodate unforeseen glitches at this particular site. The construction of the building, as a rule, went very well. There were definitely times of delay, waiting for sub-trades to have time and sometimes waiting for supplies, but this did not happen very often because of Kurt’s expertise in lining up sub-trades and ordering supplies for each stage in a very timely way. We did however, run into a fairly major situation with our septic system. As we began the first installation of the septic system, we soon discovered that we had been blessed with an over abundance of underground water. The water table was also very high, and as a result, the septic tanks that were originally engineered to go into the ground were unable to withstand the water pressure and cracked into two useless piles of concrete. A scramble was begun to find someone capable and willing to design tanks strong enough to withstand this pressure underground. There were many consultations between engineers, the septic installer, myself and the building committee. It seemed at first that this was an insurmountable problem. In the end, we were blessed right in our own congregation with the gifts and willingness of Hans Van der Wal, who designed new tanks which have, to date, held up perfectly. We had many inspections by the engineers responsible for the different areas and then finally, the final building inspection by the municipality, and we received our occupation permit. Willi Friesen replaced myself in the daily supervision of the construction in July 2006. Willi spent many, many hours there to see to the final completion.
On August 13, 2006, we held our first worship service in our building. The Worship Committee did a fine job of planning this to make it even more meaningful. We celebrated the dedication service for our “House of Worship” on September 17, 2006. What a blessed day that was, many people came to celebrate with us.
After so many years of generous use of our homes for meetings and even the odd church services, we now can say with joy and thankfulness, “It is at the Church”.
– Susanne Baergen