HISTORY OF THE
PLEASANT HILL MENNONITE CHURCH
(1928 – 2009)
The Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church had its beginning in 1928 through outreach in the Pleasant Hill district of Saskatoon by the First Mennonite Church. Benno Toews is considered the founding leader of PHMC. Being a mission worker as well as a university student, he began Sunday School classes for children at the Anglican Church hall on Avenue T South and 19th Street . Since others also used the hall, it was available for services only for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. Being a mission, most of the students came from homes that did not have a Christian background. We still see this today in our midweek programs and Vacation Bible School . Some of the challenges faced by those leading the classes back then were sporadic attendance and a high illiteracy rate. Several members from First Mennonite, including Henry W. Friesen, Gerhard Penner and his daughter Kaethe, took the streetcar on Sunday afternoon to Pleasant Hill to teach. Some of the young women from First Mennonite Church took turns going out to teach.
For a period of time, Rev. J.J. Thiessen held evening Bible studies in private homes to help those whom he had contacted in his house calls in that community and to draw the families together. Eventually, these Bible studies were replaced by a worship service in the Hall on Sunday afternoon, preceding the Sunday School classes. For fifteen years he went every Sunday to conduct this service. Rev. Thiessen was an instrumental part of the leadership of PHMC from 1930 until its official beginning in 1958, and continued his involvement for many years afterward.
For twenty-five years the Sunday School met at the Anglican Hall. In 1952 an unused recreation hall was purchased and relocated to 2133 22nd Street West. With volunteer labor the building was converted into a chapel. On January 18, 1953 , the Pleasant Hill Mission Chapel was dedicated. Worship services were now held Saturday evening, the Sunday School classes continuing on Sunday afternoon. Christian Endeavour (young adults), choir and Bible Study were added to the schedule. In 1954, the women organized the Dorcas Mission Circle and began to financially support the work of the Mission. Isaac Ens was the leader of the congregation during 1953-1954. Until this time, the electricity for the lights in the Chapel was fed by an extension cord from Bill Bergen’s house next door. Heat came from a wood and coal stove. In 1953, gas heating was installed.
In 1955 the group began to organize as a church. For a year, 1955-56, Otto Driedger, a social worker, took the leadership. The Pleasant Hill Mission held their first annual business meeting on February 3, 1958. Peter Reimer accepted the position as leader, and G. Klassen, William Bergen and Abe Friesen were elected as trustees. Local ministers served with messages.
On April 20, 1958 , the Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church was organized as an independent congregation with 21 charter members. Peter Reimer’s term of leadership was short. In July he handed in his resignation and terminated his services at the end of the month. He passed away in November of the same year. The congregation then called Ben Fast, a teacher, to be their minister. The work blossomed under his leadership and a larger building became a necessity.
The property on 22nd Street was sold, and a new building erected at 111 Witney Avenue North and dedicated July 8, 1962 .
In the fall of 1966, Rev. Ben Fast resigned his position and Carl Ens, a guidance counsellor, took leadership on an interim basis serving as pastor until June of 1969.
Dave Letkeman, then a student at CMBC accepted the call and served as pastor from July 1, 1969 until he left for overseas mission service in 1975.
Rev. Peter E. Funk was formerly from Saskatchewan , but was then a pastor in Kansas , USA . Peter accepted the invitation to become the pastor beginning November 15, 1975 .
The weekly programs showed that the building was not able to effectively run the many programs. After several years of praying, dreaming, drawing and discussing, a proposal was brought forward at the Annual Congregational meeting in January 1980. The concept of enlarging the church building was approved. Ground breaking for the expansion took place on June 22, 1980 . The Dedication Service for the expansion was held May 31, 1981.
The need to strengthen the music of the church and for more consistent leadership for the youth resulted in calling Steve Teele from Lincoln, Nebraska to become our first Youth/Music Pastor. Steve began serving as Associate Pastor for Youth and Music on June 20, 1982 , returning to the United States in the spring of 1983.
Tim Vellacott came to serve as Youth Pastor in September 1983 and served till the end of May 1985. Greg Goertzen became the Associate Pastor in Music and Youth Ministries on February 1, 1986, serving until 1992.
In 1989, after nearly 14 years of ministry Peter Funk resigned.
Since September 1, 1989 Rev. David W. Peters has served as lead Pastor.
In 1995, the Sunday School, Pioneer Clubs, and Bible Studies were amalgamated into a one evening program called Family Night. The Sunday Morning Worship Service was scheduled for an earlier time and included Children's Church.
On August 16, 1995 Keith and Karen Pankratz came on staff. Keith headed up the youth ministries until February 1, 2010 then changing his role to Associate Pastor for education and administration. Karen served as Children's Pastor until January 1, 2000.
After a three-year period of discussion and discernment the congregation met on October 11, 2000 to vote on affiliation with the various levels of the General Conference of Mennonites. With a near unanimous vote PHMC became an independent Mennonite church.
The original heartbeat for missions has left a lasting impact on the church. On November 17, 2001 Pastor Eduardo Guinez began a Spanish ministry on Saturday evenings: "Iglesia Evangelica Mennonita Renacer."
Once again the church ministries needed more space and the building required extensive upgrades. On March 15, 2004 a special Congregational Meeting approved the proposal to expand our church building.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Easter Sunday April 11, 2004. Construction was completed in October of 2004. The new and renovated building was dedicated to the Lord with a special service on October 31 2004. An additional blessing during this time was the gift of a grand piano and the gift of an organ. Both of these instruments contribute much to the quality of music in our church.
At the Annual Meeting held January 21, 2006 it was agreed to purchase the property adjacent to the church (112 Montreal Avenue North). A request was also made to the City of Saskatoon to purchase the adjacent allies. The building was sold and the property developed into a much-needed parking lot.
In the spring of 2007 the property at 2619 23rd Street West became available for purchase and in July of 2007 we took possession. The building was sold and moved to further increase the parking lot.
In the summer of 2007 another extensive project was undertaken to renovate the kitchen and bring it up to health standards. Through the goodness of God and the generosity of His people the church enjoys being debt free.
In the fall of 2006, the mission field again came to our doors in the form of a couple of young men who were refugees from Burma. Through their influence other refugees from Burma began attending. Their participation in the life of our church is a blessing.
Through 2009 we have also been able to participate with the Calgary Vietnamese Mennonite Church with planting a vietnamese congregation here. They meet every second weekend at a home on Saturdays, and in one of our classrooms on Sunday mornings.
Throughout our history, programs were conducted according to the needs of those involved. Mission work by its very nature requires flexibility. Mission work also places emphasis on evangelism. We thank God for the evangelistic vision of those who went before us and we are thankful for the ability to be flexible. Both vision and flexibility are very much a part of who we presently are as a church and we are thankful to those who led us in this way.
As we look to the future we recognize our responsibility to be faithful, and in our faithfulness we have the promise of our Lord Jesus, that He will build His Church. God is at work in our midst. We look with gratitude upon the past and with hope into the future.
“Hitherto our Lord hath helped us.” May He continue to use our church and us for His Honour and Glory.
Copyright 2009 Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church. All rights reserved.