Today we are a multi-generational, increasingly multi-ethnic vibrant congregation.
Here is a brief narrative of our history in the making.
In 1874 a large number of Mennonites immigrated to North America. Eighteen families settled in Manitoba, along the stony brook, which became known as Steinbach. At first they met in homes or in barns, but in 1880 they began using the school building for services. In 1912 our forbears built their first church building on this present Main Street property.
Spiritual leadership in the early years was provided by appointed or elected lay ministers from the sister congregations, Steinbach, Blumenort, Kleefeld and Blumenhof, headed by an elected bishop. These ministers rotated among the various congregations, resulting in churches sometimes having a service only every second or third Sunday. Till 1945 they were administered as one congregation, headed by the bishop, with joint congregational meetings. In 1945 each of these churches became autonomous, with their own elected leaders.
Because the village schools were originally extensions of the church, Christian Education for elementary-age children was part of their formal education, with the Bible as the main textbook and the hymnal as the songbook. When new government rules came into effect, resulting in a more controlled curriculum and requiring that English be taught in schools, the need for Sunday school was realized. Sunday school began in our church in 1926, following the lead of other Steinbach churches.
A greater focus on youth followed, resulting in such efforts as community-wide youth groups. In 1947 Steinbach EMC started their own Young People’s group. The formation of Steinbach Bible College in the 1940s was the next level of Christian Education that led to young people preparing for ministry.
By the onset of the ‘50s, missions began to become a major focus of development in the vision of Steinbach EMC. Missionaries had already begun going out from our congregation to evangelize isolated communities on the Prairies under Western Gospel Mission.
Next, we began to send missionaries overseas, under associate missions, to Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. Combining the financial demands of these mission ventures and the post-war prosperity, funds were readily generated through offerings from youth, Sunday school and our annual church budget. It was at this time of growth and evangelical outreach our church Conference name changed from Kleingemeinde (German for small church) to Evangelical Mennonite Conference (EMC).
In the years following, a second and third generation of Christ-followers have continued to obey the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). “. … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Our ministry at SEMC is to prepare each of us to be His witnesses— to our neighbors, our co-workers, our students, our superiors, our clients, and our merchants—and we are commanded to do this wherever He calls us in the world. That’s a tall order, but we don’t do this in our own strength; we go in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, with the authority of the Father in heaven and in the righteousness of the Son.