THE EMMANUEL STORY
by Mrs. Joyce Reimer
In the summer of 1943, a small group of enthusiastic people shared a common passion to share the gospel with more than just the community at their doorstep but also the surrounding areas and abroad. Their joint concern to reach the lost for Christ was the impetus to band together and begin worshipping as a church body. In just a month’s time an MB Church was being put up for sale on First Street and they followed God’s leading and purchased it for $2,800.
The first service, in September of 1943, was the beginning of a rich and vibrant church history. In that service Romans 12 was used to urge the brothers and sisters in Christ, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” The passage emphasized that every person had their own gifts that should be used to enrich the body of Christ.
By December of that first year, the small group of believers had hired their first pastor, Mr. A.T. Doerksen, and agreed on a name for the church; Emmanuel Mennonite Mission Church. An emphasis was put on the use of the word “mission” because of their intense desire to reach the lost beyond their immediate doors. By the end of 1944, there were 100 members.
Annual mission conferences were a highlight for many years. At the first conference in 1949, the message of outreach was clearly a focal point that became a catalyst for many young people choosing Bible school as their post-secondary path to full-time missions. The church’s goal of full-time ministry placements was lofty; sending out one in every ten members! During the conference, the church budget was announced and a “Faith Promise” system was promoted. This was a clear way for members and adherents to give a monthly tithe to ensure that expenses and mission project goals were met.
During the 1950s the church growth was rapid. Music became a staple for the young congregation and the rich talent for music was apparent with five choirs ranging from young boys to adults. A Christian Education wing was soon added to the First Street building that provided for much-needed expansion.
Since the group had started the church for the reason of outreach the young congregation held many evangelical meetings in areas surrounding Steinbach as well as in western Ontario. A sister church was planted in Winnipeg that has become Winnipeg Evangelical Free Church. In time, other church plants were added as well.
Emmanuel was growing steadily and land was purchased on Third Street and by Christmas 1962 the new church location opened its doors. An observation was made for the importance of keeping our young people, which led to the hiring of our first full-time youth pastor.
In the 1970s and 1980sthere were many changes both in senior leadership and in the need for more space. The need for more space started the discussion of the feasibility of having more than one Sunday service and by the mid-1980s another piece of land was purchased for a new facility on McKenzie Avenue. In the fall of 1989, the now much larger group of believers moved into their new home.
Fast forwarding to the present, there have been many physical changes to the building and many changes to programming and staffing and one should remember as we note the changes in the purchase and erecting of buildings that it is the body of believers that make up God’s church.
Today, Emmanuel is home to approximately 1,200 people. Both traditional and contemporary services are offered, along with vibrant weekly programming for all ages. The main goal of Emmanuel’s mission is to “Make followers of Jesus who love and live like Him”.
The church in its rich history has met many challenges and God has continued to be faithful. As one Emmanuel pioneer put it, “It has caused us to look inward but also inspires us to look forward.”