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Harrison Gospel Chapel – Harrison Hot Springs, BC

Proper Title

Harrison Gospel Chapel fonds

Dates of Creation

1942–1985

Physical Description

1 cm of textual records

Administrative History

Belle Rendall and her husband had moved to the Harrison Hot Springs area in 1942. She felt a there was a great need for spiritual guidance in the area. Mrs. Williamson of the Salvation Army, and Mrs. Rendall began holding meetings in the Rendall home with an attendance of about 6 girls and 6 boys.

In 1944, John Martens, of the West Coast Children’s Mission (a ministry of the Mennonite Brethren Churches of BC), and his family took up residence in Harrison Hot Springs and became involved with the children on the other side of the village from Mrs. Rendall. It took some time before Mrs. Rendall and Mr. Martens became aware of each other’s efforts to reach the children in the area, but when they finally realized it, they joined their groups for an Easter service in 1945.

They began to work together and as the work developed, it became more and more evident that a meeting place was needed. In the summer of 1945 a group of twelve men from the area erected a building in one day. The new building created increased interest in the wider community.

In 1947 The Chapel was completed. Money was raised through voluntary contributions from the Mennonite Brethren churches in the Fraser Valley. The Sunday school enrolment climbed rapidly after The Chapel was built and a few adults began to come as well.

In 1950, because of health reasons, The Martens family left their ministry in Harrison. No permanent replacement was immediately found so Bible schoolteachers Henry Born from East Chilliwack and Abe Neufeld from Yarrow filled in temporarily until the John Reimer family came in 1952.

This was John Reimers’ first full-time ministry. The main goal was to help the church develop into a functional church body. Weekly clubs were started that attracted over 200 children. It was at this time that the conversation regarding baptism and church membership began.

In 1954, John Reimer built a home for his family adjacent to the back yard of the church. This left the previous dwelling, the first building built for the church, open for Sunday school purposes. A basement was also built under The Chapel to accommodate the growing numbers. This progress caused curiosity among the local residents and, as a result, brought them to church.

On Good Friday 1954, the first baptism was held. The eleven candidates from the community became members directly of the BC Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches because the church in Harrison was not yet officially organized.

Two waves of immigrants to the surrounding area increased attendance, and between 1951 and 1953 several General Conference Mennonite families moved into the area. They too began to attend the Chapel because of poor transportation to General Conference churches across the Fraser River. From these additions a larger young peoples group emerged, strengthening the outreach programs that already existed.

In 1957, the Reimers left Harrison after being asked to take on the challenge of Director of Home Missions.

Peter Boschman took the job from 1957–1962. Housing became an immediate problem for the Boschmans, but with a loan from the endowment fund and with help from the Broadway Mennonite Brethren Church, a conference-owned parsonage was built in the spring of 1959. The Boschmans became involved in Cub and Girls Guide organizations, and Mr. Boschman started a church service Friday evenings in the Agassiz Minimum Security Prison, where he worked part-time. It was also during their service that the Chapel became a formal structure. Even though the church at this time did not become an official member of the Mennonite Brethren Conference, it did become an inter-denominational church. One could now become a member of the church by upholding the constitution of the church.

After the Boschmans left the pastorate at the Chapel, Walter Heinrichs and his family were called to replace them in 1962. It was during Mr. Heinrichs’ time at the Chapel that further consolidation was accomplished when a church council was organized. The Heinrichs’ left Harrison in 1966.

Jake and Leona Friesen came to Harrison in late summer of 1966. During their work at the church, the official chartering occurred – with the signing of eighteen charter members in 1967. The church became a member of the BC Mennonite Brethren Conference in 1968. A new sanctuary seating almost 200 people was put together and was then dedicated November 3, 1973. The building of the church bonded the congregation together. The Friesens left their ministry in Harrison in the spring of 1979.

In the fall of 1979, John Reimer and his family returned to Harrison after a 22-year absence. There was discussion during this time as to whether they should relocate the church to Agassiz or expand their current building. It was eventually decided to expand their existing building in Harrison. In May of 1985, the outside structure was completed and pastor Aldon Loeppky helped complete the interior work by 1998.

By 1997 the number core members of the church was low, which was a focus point for new pastor Ken Dueck. Since then numbers have begun to increase again.

Harrison Gospel Chapel is the only church in the community and serves the many tourists to the area.

Since its beginning, those to have led the congregation include the following: John Martens (1945 – 1950), John Reimer (1952–1957, 1979–1985) Peter Boschman (1957–1962), Walter Heinrichs (1962–1966), Jake Friesen (1966–1979), Aldon Loeppky (1985–1994), Orlando Wall (1994–1996), Ken Dueck (1997– ).

Scope and Content

This fonds consists of a historical sketch and two bulletins.

Custodial History

It is unclear when this material came to the archives.

Notes

  • Location: Volume 368.
  • Description by Shauna Hudson, June 7, 2004; edited by Conrad Stoesz, November 14, 2006.
  • No restrictions on access.
  • Finding aid consists of a file list.

File List

Volume 368
10. Historical Sketch. 1942–1985.
11. Bulletins. 1963.

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