The story of the church
The Coaldale Mennonite Church was founded in 1928 by a group of impoverished immigrants, recently arrived from the Soviet Union after fleeing the societal upheavals following the Russian Revolution. Most of its early members labored on nearby farms, and many eventually acquired their own land. The congregation swelled abruptly about two decades later with the influx of a second wave of Mennonite immigrants, refugees displaced from Soviet settlements during the second World War. Since then, the church has been continually enriched by many others, often not born into the Mennonite faith but attracted by its spiritual outlook and vibrant fellowship.
Like all human communities, the Coaldale Mennonite Church has surmounted many challenges in its history. An initial hurdle was finding and solidifying leadership. From its inception, the church has been blessed by sacrificial men and women who devoted talents and energy to building a cohesive, faithful community. Initially, all servant leaders were lay people but, since 1967, the church has also employed pastors and other gifted personnel. A second challenge, always present, was maintaining unified purpose despite shifting or divergent perspectives. After the post-World War II influx of Russian immigrants, for example, the church sought consensus among disparate views about language, culture, and lifestyle. A third challenge was the always vexing question: What does it mean to be a faithful church in a society with evolving social and ethical values? Divergent views among churches on how to address this question led to the Coaldale Mennonite Church’s withdrawal from the Conference of Mennonites in Alberta in 2001 and its alignment with the Evangelical Mennonite Church in 2021. Fourthly, the church has agonized over how best to engage the friends, neighbors, and acquaintances outside its walls. This question, always relevant and crucial, has prompted continual reflection on the nature of worship, on our purposes, and on how our faith is expressed at work and school and in local neighborhoods. Like any community, the Coaldale Mennonite Church has not always resolved these challenges flawlessly, but has sought to be faithful to the guidance of Scripture and the towering example of Christ.
Over the decades, many gifts have emerged and proliferated in the Coaldale Mennonite Church fellowship. One such strength, widely recognized, has been a powerful musical legacy, as reflected in vigorous congregational singing, outstanding musicians, energetic children’s and adult choirs, and the founding of the Harmony Music Studio. The church has also demonstrated strong emphases on stewardship and service to those suffering in our world’s brokenness, by offering time and resources to local service groups, international development, and other agencies promoting Christian compassion. For example, the Coaldale Mennonite Church has been a passionate, stalwart supporter of Mennonite Central Committee, Streets Alive ministry, International Foodgrains Bank, and a mission in El Salvador, among others. Another strength, often overlooked because it happens quietly, is the capacity for walking gently alongside the grieving or wounded in the church and wider community. Such service has shown itself in countless hidden acts such as preparing meals, presenting songs, offering prayers, or simply being near in difficult times. All of these varied gifts, when properly attuned to the Spirit, are offered in a posture of servanthood; they are proffered as tiny, incremental advances toward God’s growing Kingdom. This is the Anabaptist way: trying humbly to follow, even while stumbling, in the footsteps of Jesus among the people of our day.
Where to in the future? Many opportunities await us, especially now as local and global events churn ever faster, with ever more people needing the peace and meaning offered by Christ. We do not know exactly where we are headed, nor can we promise to follow perfectly. But our aim is to be faithful disciples of Christ, helping to build God’s Kingdom in trusting allegiance to God as seen in Jesus’ life and teachings in Scripture. This goal, we trust, will allow us to convey, however imperfectly, God’s own healing in all facets of life among and around us; it may lead us, for example, to:
- devote better care and respect for the elderly;
- address questions relevant to young people (for example, the environment);
- explore new ways of teaching our children and of nurturing families;
- discern, affirm, and nurture latent gifts among us
- develop more stirring, meaningful, uplifting rituals of worship;
- become more sensitive to the hurting among us, locally and globally;
- find more fresh and compelling ways of telling the healing, hopeful story of Christ.
In this enlivening adventure, we resolve to be ever learning, ever seeking, ever loving, and ever faithful, day-to-day, in the things we do, the words we speak, the values we reflect.
(Compiled and written by H. Henry Janzen)