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The History evening on Friday, February 28, 2014, featured the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. Bob Goodnough, one of their members from the Swanson church, shared his own story and the history of this Mennonite branch, sometimes known as the Holdeman Church.
Over the last number of years, we have featured the historical story of other Mennonite churches, such as the Old Colony, the Bergthaler, the General Conference (now, Mennonite Church, Canada), and the Plains Mennonite.
Several families from the Swanson Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, came too, and sang some hymns acapella. Their singing was much appreciated, but we were told at the beginning of the evening that they had requested no photos to be taken. (Afterward, Bob Goodnough graciously allowed a few informal photos to be taken).
Their first song spoke of, "Faithful landmarks our fathers placed with care...", and the second one was about the Peace that Passes Understanding.
Bob Goodnough's own early ancestors moved from Woodshire, UK, to Mass. USA, in 1638. Later, his father, born in Iowa, came to Saskatchewan to homestead. His father had attended a United church, while living in Edmonton, then, when they moved to Craig, SK., they found just three churches. They picked the Anglican church to attend.
As Bob got older he wandered away from the church, and developed a keen interest in history. From his studies there, he concluded that if there was a religious persuasion to get involved in, a Mennonite church would make the most sense. One night, coming back from a drinking party, he told a friend, that he thought one day he'd be a Mennonite with a beard.
Interestingly, Bob joined the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, in Ontario 35 years ago, and has worn a beard ever since.
Mennonites originally arrived in North America, in Philadephia in 1683, and spread to Iowa and Indiana, etc. Some moved up to Ontario, Canada. In the 19th century, Mennonites became splintered into various groups over modes of baptism and degrees of conservatism, or liberalism.
In this particular branch's story, the Holdeman family from Berne, Switzerland, came to Pensylvania, and then moved on to Ohio, and to Elkhart, IN. A small group formed and started to have meetings. Most in that group came from an Amish background. In 1856, John Holdeman made a trip to Ontario, and 70-80 were converted.
From the diary of Levi Young, on fire for the Lord, during that era, we learn that he finally left his church, and was baptized, and began to travel with John Holdeman. Levi, though a young man, was allowed to do some preaching too. Families like the Wingers, and the Stovers came into the fold.
David S. Holdeman, of that family/group, moved to Heston, Kansas, in 1823, shortly before a fresh wave of Mennonites start to arrive from Russia, especially around the Janzen, Nebraska area, and in Manitoba, there was an area of Kleine Gemeinde. John Toews began to preach and draw interest in the Rosenort and Steinbach areas - so then they invited John Holdeman to come from the Kansas/Nebraska area to conduct special preaching meetings. As a result most of the Church of God in Christ Mennonite members in Canada are descendants of the Kleine Gemeinde that began at Rosesnort, MB.
Within Canada, small groups have spread here and there, but some, like the one at Waldheim, have died out. In Linden, AB., there is a small group that is mostly of Polish roots, and people who have moved there from Manitoba. Of the singers present at this history meeting, most were descendants of John Chartuse, or Peter Janzen.
Globally, today, this church has 25,000 believers in 33 countries like, USA, Canada, Haiti, etc. (These are indiginous, that is not part of a mission board).
The Church of God in Christ Mennonite, has no fixed leadership structure. Each congregation is self-governing.
Before they have their annual communion service, two ministers are called from another church/congregation, to conduct revival meetings. They will wait until all differencese between themselves have been made right, before they have communion together. Church discipline is meant to be restorative.
They are involved in Christian Service Aid International (with headquarters in the USA), Humanitarian Aide in Canada, Gospel literature work in 100 languages, Disaster Relief, and Guest Homes.
Each congregation runs its own school, focusing on sound, fundamental education.
The floor was opened for questions for Bob from the audience.
Here we learned that their revival meetings usually go for two weeks, but have gone as long as five to six weeks. Their mode of baptism is by pouring.
Their congregations in Saskatchewan include, Bradbury, Neuanlage, Swanson, Neilburg, Louisville and Spiritwood, and Porcupine Plain. Altogether they have 570 members in Saskatchewan.
Leonard Doell offered public appreciation for the members of this church who came to help in 1997 in the aftermath of the very strong Plow Winds that damaged many farm buildings in the area.
A free will offering was taken while the singing group sang, He Makes Me Worthy. The singers included four men and six woman, plus one little girl, quietly sitting on the arm of her Daddy.
Coffee and cookies were available after the meeting, facilitating considerable visiting for a while.