In 1536, Menno Simons, the parish priest of Witmarsum, Friesland (The Netherlands), motivated by having personally studied the New Testament, broke ranks with the then Catholic Church and re-baptized already-baptized adults upon the confession of their own personal faith. This baptism, an act of both theological and political rebellion against the predominant powers of the day, significantly helped to launch a particular strain of the emerging Protestant Reformation known as Anabaptism (an Anabaptist is literally “one who baptizes over again.”). Menno Simons needed the protection of a sympathetic prince as over time thousands of these new “twice baptized heretics” were persecuted and killed for their newly declared faith. The persecution only served to spread the Anabaptist movement beyond the Netherlands into Germany, Switzerland and beyond. Over time the people of the movement came to be known as the Mennonites, and were not only known for their views regarding re-baptism, but for their commitment to the authority of the Bible, pacifism, a simple life style, a strong sense of community, and the separation of Church and state. Anabaptism was soon to be known as one of the most radical expressions of the Protestant Reformation in Europe and while a certain segment of the movement was named after Menno Simons, he was not ever revered as a prophet, as such, but was and continues in the present movement to be seen as significant: an original Anabaptist thinker and early founder of the movement.
The Mennonites grew in number and organized themselves into close-knit communities throughout parts of Europe, and by the 17th. Century were well established in Switzerland and Prussia, trying always to live quietly where they could be left alone to live their peculiarly biblical, pacifistic and community ways.
In the 1760’s Catherine the Great of Russia invited the successful Mennonite farmers of Prussia to come settle in parts of her land, promising them exemptions from military duty and independence in living. By the end of the century thousands had settled in the Ukraine, and within a generation or two the communities were bulging and spread northwards and eastwards to find more land to farm and businesses to operate. The Mennonites evolved in their faith expression and in 1860 a small group of families broke away from the larger ethnic and Mennonite faith group for self-declared spiritual reasons and came to be known as the Mennonite Brethren.
By the end of the 19th century groups of Mennonites were already migrating to North America and other parts of the world seeking new opportunities; when the Russian Revolution and the Communist take over in Russia early in the 20th Century took away the Mennonites “sacred” rights of military exemption, economic opportunity and freedom of religious expression, thousands more migrated to NA, SA and Mexico, though it should be noted that missionary activities had already been launched into Africa and India by that time. The 1920’s saw the largest numbers of Mennonites coming to Canada. These Mennonites settled in various parts of their new country: Kitchener and St. Catharines in Ontario; Winker, Steinbach, and Altona in Manitoba; Coaldale in Alberta, and Yarrow in British Columbia, to name but a few of the favoured communities. As WW II. strained many Mennonites resolve to pacifism and their relationship with the wider non-Mennonite community in Canada, the war’s end saw an enormous Mennonite migration to the urban centres.
In 1954 young people from Yarrow, Chilliwack, and Clearbrook, as well as from other parts of Canada who had migrated to Vancouver, prompted the establishment of the Fraserview MB at Culloden and East 59th out of the swollen Vancouver MB Church at East 43rd. The church thrived in the tradition of the then vibrant MB movement in Canada, being not only a centre of Mennonite Worship, but as a social centre as well for a new generation of Mennonite Brethren people finding their way in a new world. While new “daughter” MB churches such as Killarney Park, Willingdon and Richmond Bethel were spawned over the years to handle the growth in numbers of Mennonite Brethren in the greater Vancouver area, the Fraserview congregation, realizing the constraint of its space in Vancouver, sold its original building in Vancouver and planned a move to Richmond. Buying a significant piece of property and engaging in some innovative wider community development of some two dozen or so housing lots for sale, two sites for condominium construction, space for Pinegrove Seniors Home, and a parcel of land to gift back to the City of Richmond for the establishment of Albert Airey Park, the people of Fraserview built a magnificently serviceable building on Mellis Dr. in Richmond.
The Fraserview congregation, though not in all appearances being very traditionally Mennonite, continues its existence in north eastern Richmond more than subtly holding onto its historical Anabaptist and biblical roots compassionately interested in building community through quiet citizenship and intentional deeds of service. Formally it does so through its contemporary Worship Services on Sundays and community services to the children, youth and Seniors of its neighbourhood through various programs including the Kid’s Club, the Fridge Drop-In Centre and the Adult Club through the week, and informally in many other ways as needs and call arise.
History of Fraserview Videos