Bethania (Turnhill) Mennonite Brethren Church – Beaverflats, SK
Bethania Mennonite Brethren Church fonds
Dates of Creation
20 cm of textual material; one microfilm reel
Like many churches, Bethania MB Church began with a calling. In 1912, Johann W. Neufeld of Main Centre, Saskatchewan, felt called to plant a church for those who were unable to travel to the larger churches of Main Centre, Herbert, and Swift Current. The idea was presented to Bethel Church of Main Centre, where Johann was part of the congregation. After prayer and careful consideration, it was decided in 1913 that a station church was to be created in the Turnhill School district—also known as Beaverflats.
In January, 1913, the new station church in Turnhill experienced its first revival. Cornelius N. Hiebert, a traveling Bible salesman from the USA, visited the small prairie district and led 14 people to saving faith in Jesus Christ. The number of members for the Turnhill district church rose to 43 members within its first couple of weeks.
In February of 1913, a church building was required. Due to changes within the education system, the Turnhill district school building was vacant and for sale. The fledgling church bought the building at auction for $425, after much fundraising and help from members of Bethel Church in Main Centre. The new church was given the name “Bethania,” which means “House of Poverty.”
On June 12, 1913, Bethania MB Church had its first baptism service, which took place in the South Saskatchewan River and was led by Rev. Benjamin Janz. The number of church members continued to increase as new Christians joined the congregation. In 1918, another rapid increase of membership was experienced when a number of US settlers from Kansas and Oklahoma moved into the Turnhill district. The number of members increased once again in 1923, with the arrival of Russian Mennonites fleeing the increasingly terrifying events overseas. Bethania MB Church was now some 70 members strong. The growing congregation required a larger place of worship, and so in 1928 and 1929, the original church building was moved onto a new basement and an extension was made. This would remain the place of worship until the church closed in 1970.
From the start, Bethania MB Church had lay leadership. During its first several years, Johann W. Neufeld undertook this leadership. He was replaced in 1920 with Johann Ratzlaff, and then in 1928, with Johann Neufeld’s son, Heinrich P. Neufeld. Other church leaders included A.R.D. Klassen, Peter Martens, George Klassen, Eugene Martens, G.R. Klassen, P.J. Klassen, and Gottlieb Janz. While these leaders were often involved in preaching the Sunday sermon and carrying out home visits, the church was also visited by ministers from neighboring church stations. On rarer occasions, ministers would also visit from Manitoba or the USA.
The church had a special place in their ministry for missions. India, China, and Africa were some of the overseas mission locations the church supported. One of India’s well-known missionaries, J.H. Lohrenz, visited several times, as well as many others who would visit friends a family while on furlough. Often, these visiting missionaries would warrant a special celebration, during which time the congregation would get to hear stories from the mission field. These special occasions are described in the correspondence published by the Zionsbote and Mennonitische Rundschau in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Life on the prairies was hard, and the church was well versed in dealing with death, illness, failed crops, and awful weather. The Turnhill district was made up of small farms, whose fortunes depended on the weather for the survival of their crop and their families. As children grew up and farms expanded, it became difficult for the youth to find work in the area. Many people had to move away to find jobs or start their own farms. As a result, church membership suffered.
Other factors continued to affect Bethania MB Church membership. With travel becoming increasingly easier, it was no longer difficult for those living in the Turnhill district to attend the larger church stations of Herbert and Main Centre. Families were also deciding to sell their farms and move to larger centers. It was a new era—one in which small station churches no longer needed to exist every 8 to 10 miles.
In April 1969, under the leadership of Gottlieb Janz, Bethania MB Church decided to close its doors. Regular services were no longer held after July 6, 1969; however, the church did not officially close until July 1, 1970. Today, the church still stands as a reminder of those early pioneer days, when traveling a few miles was anything but easy and each district depended on their small church congregations for leadership, guidance, and community.
Scope and Content
This fonds consists of two congregational minute books (German), one minute book of the Bethania Jugend Verein (German), a translated manuscript of both congregational minute books (English), and newspaper records (Mostly German; Some English). The minutes follow church administration from its beginning, in 1913, to its conclusion in 1970.
The entire collection (congregational minute books and translation) was brought to the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Fall, 2013 by Arnold Dyck. After Arnold found these record books at Herbert MB Church, where they were being kept by Henry Braun, he had one of the volumes rebound and then enlisted the help of Doyle Klassen, Irmgard Seidel, and Susie Harms in translating the German Gothic script into English. How the record books were deposited at Herbert MB Church is unknown.
- Location: Volume 809.
- Accession Number: 2013-21.
- Finding aid consists of a file list.
- Language: German and English
- Description created by Kate Woltmann, November 14, 2013.
- Bethania MB Church Books 1 & 2 Congregational Minutes English Translation. -- 1913–1969.
- Newspaper records pertaining to Bethania MB Church. -- 1913, 1916–1921, 1925, 1928–1940, 1946–1949, 1954.
- Eigentum der Christlichen Jugend Vereins zu der Bethania Gemeinde Beaver Flat, Sask. -- 1941–1945.
- Bethania MB Church Congregation minutes – Book 1. -- 1913–1960.
- Bethania MB Church Congregation minutes – Book 2. -- 1961–1970.
Microfilm File List
- Membership Records. -- 1913–1970. -- p. 338–390.
- Congregational Meeting Minutes. -- 1913–1916; 1961–1970. -- p. 1–337.