HISTORY OF THE
PLEASANT HILL MENNONITE CHURCH
(1928 – present)
Mennonite mission work began in 1928 in the Pleasant Hill district of Saskatoon when Benno Toews, then a university student and part time mission worker, began Sunday School classes for the children at the Anglican Church hall on Avenue T South and 19th Street. Since the hall was also used by others, it was available for services only for a few hours on Sunday afternoon.
The Sunday School work was difficult. Attendance was sporadic; illiteracy was common among the children. They came from poverty stricken homes, and often received little, if any, encouragement to attend. Several concerned members from First Mennonite, including Henry W. Friesen, Gerhard Penner and his daughter Kaethe, faithfully took the streetcar on Sunday afternoon to Pleasant Hill to teach. Girls from the Home alternated in going out to teach.
Financially the Sunday School could not carry itself. The First Mennonite congregation purchased streetcar passes for the teachers. Donations from the women’s group and individuals made it possible to distribute gifts at Christmas to all that came to the program. At Christmas attendance was always at its highest. Many who didn’t come during the year came to the program to receive a bag of treats and a gift.
For a period of time, Rev. Thiessen held evening Bible studies in private homes to help those whom he had contacted in his many house calls in that community and to draw the families together. These Bible studies were replaced by a worship service in the Hall on Sunday afternoon, preceding the Sunday School classes. For fifteen years he faithfully went every Sunday to conduct this service.
For twenty-five years the Sunday School met at the Anglican Hall. During these years the membership changed. In 1952 an unused recreation hall was purchased, and relocated to a lot acquired for $1000 at 2133 22nd Street West. With volunteer labor the foundation was readied, and the building converted into a chapel. 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 Endeavor, choir and Bible study were added to the schedule. In January 1954, with guidance from Rev and Mrs. Thiessen, the women organized the Dorcas Mission Circle, and began to financially support the mission work in their own district.
Minor repair costs of basement plastering and installation of eaves troughing were shared by the Pleasant Hill Mission and First Mennonite congregations. But cost sharing was changed when consideration was given to installing gas heating at an estimated cost of $690.
In 1953 the electricity for the lights in the Chapel was led by an extension cord from the next door house, which was Bill Bergen’s residence. Heat came from a wood and coal stove. The Dorcas Mission Circle assumed $200 of the estimated cost of installing the gas heating, and First Mennonite carried the balance.
It seemed the time was right for this group to organize as a church. For a year, 1955-56, Otto Driedger, a social worker, took the leadership. When he left, First Mennonite trustees made a temporary arrangement that Peter A. Reimer and Aaron Dueck would carry the Sunday School teaching responsibilities until another worker could be found.
The Pleasant Hill Mission held their first annual business meeting on February 3, 1958, with thirteen members from the mission and all the trustees from First Mennonite Church present. Rev Thiessen gave a brief historical sketch of the work, then presented five recommendations, which were accepted and implemented on a one-year trial basis. Peter Reimer accepted the position as leader, and G. Klassen, William Bergen and Abe Friesen were elected as trustees. Local ministers would serve with messages. Pleasant Hill Mission would have its own treasury, separate from that of First Mennonite. Although for a time they were considered affiliates of First Mennonite, a separate church member register was started for Pleasant Hill.
On April 20, 1958, the Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church was organized as an independent congregation with 21 charter members. First Mennonite Church donated all the properties to the new church and withdrew its financial support to give the new congregation complete autonomy.
On May 18, 1958, Rev Thiessen participated in a child dedication service with 29 children being dedicated to the Lord. The same day he served the congregation in a communion service.
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.) It was difficult to find ministers to fill the weekly pulpit. The congregation then called Ben Fast, a teacher, to be their minister. Though he was reluctant at first because of his obligations elsewhere, he conceded and with his leadership the work blossomed. Soon a larger building was a necessity.
The property on 22nd Street was sold, and with a loan from the Mission Board of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, a new building was erected at Witney Avenue and 23rd Street. Dedication services were held on July 8, 1962 and the following spring on May19, 1963 Ben Fast was ordained as Elder by Rev J. J. Thiessen, to serve Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church.
Late in the fall of 1966, Rev. Ben Fast resigned his position and Carl Ens, a guidance counselor, was asked to be the leader on an interim basis, with Rev Thiessen officiating at baptism, communion, child dedication and weddings or other special occasions. A new constitution was adopted December 6, 1968.
May 25, 1969, was the last date that Rev. Thiessen served with communion at the Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church.
Carl Ens terminated his services the end of June 1969.
The membership, at a business meeting held in February 1969, favored calling Dave Letkeman, then a student at CMBC. He accepted the call and served as pastor from July 1, 1969 until he left for mission service overseas in 1975.
In July 1975 contact was made with Rev. Peter E. Funk, formerly from Saskatchewan, but who was then Pastor in Kansas, USA. Peter and family accepted this invitation to become the Pastor of our church. He began his duties as Pastor on November 15, 1975.
The weekly programs showed that the present building was not designed to effectively run the many programs. After several years of praying, dreaming, drawing and discussing, a proposal was brought forward at the Annual Congregation meeting in January 1980, to approve the concept of enlarging our present church building. This proposal gave the church council full authority to proceed with blueprints, price quotations, source of income and construction timetable for further approval at the Semi-Annual meeting in spring, 1980. Ground breaking for the expansion took place on June 22, 1980. The Dedication Service for the Expansion was held May 31, 1981 at 2:30 p.m. We are happy for the expanded facility.
The need to strengthen the music of the Church and for more consistent sponsorship or leadership for our youth moved the church to pass a resolution for a Music/Youth Minister. On December 7, 1981 a call was extended to Steve Teele from Lincoln, Nebraska to become our Youth/Music Minister. He accepted the call and began proceedings for landed immigrant status. Steve began his services as Associate Pastor for Youth and Music on June 20, 1982, but returned to the United States in the spring of 1983.
In 1983, the 25th Anniversary of Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church was celebrated with a Fellowship Banquet and Variety Night on Saturday, June 11. The Sunday Morning Worship Service at 10:00 was one of worship, praise and Communion followed by a noon meal, voluntary service and Faspa. The new Communion Table was dedicated to the Lord during the Worship Service.
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.
After nearly 14 years of faithful and dedicated service at Pleasant Hill, Peter Funk resigned and moved on to be Senior Pastor at the Coaldale Mennonite Church on June 30, 1989.
Rev. David W. Peters came to Pleasant Hill on Sept. 5, 1989 and was installed as Pastor on October 29, 1989.
Greg Goertzen was ordained to the Gospel Ministry in the fall of 1991. In the summer of 1992 Greg moved his family to Niverville to serve as Associate pastor at the Niverville Word Of Life Church.
In January of 1995 a concept was presented to the congregation and approved unanimously for a one-year trial. This concept called for the amalgamation of Sunday School, Pioneer Clubs, and Bible Studies into a one evening program. This was called "Family Night" and "Jubilee Clubs". The Sunday Morning Worship Service was re-scheduled to 10:30 a.m. and included a Children's Church.
At the same time the church made contact with Keith and Karen Pankratz to each serve half time. Keith was to head up the youth ministries, and Karen to head up the children's and music ministries. They began to serve the church on August 16, 1995.
On May 16 -17 1998 we celebrated our 40th Anniversary. Many past and present members of the church joined together for what came to be a great celebration of God’s faithfulness to our church. Pictures from the past were enjoyed, musical groups reunited and a wonderful time of sharing, worshipping and fellowshipping was had by all that attended. Hats, T-shirts, and mugs were made as a remembrance of this event.
On January 1, 2000, Karen Pankratz began a maternity leave. In Karen’s absence, the Children’s ministry was taken over by Carla Rott (Seib). Carla continued to serve in this capacity until 2004 at which time, this role was taken over by Erin Funk who served until 2007. Our children’s ministry has been passed through faithful hands and we have been blessed by those with gifts to communicate the Love of God in exciting ways with the children. Karen Pankratz resumed this role in Children’s ministry in 2008 and continues to serve extremely well to the present time. Her ministry to children in Children’s church and Family night has been a blessing to both young and old. Her ability to be creative in presenting God’s truth caught the attention of all. Karen’s ministry has been a source of God’s blessing to our church.
Pastor Keith had been hired for a ½ time position, later it was planned that his position should be increased every 6 months to become full-time by January 1, 2000.
As the church seeks to be effective in ministry we thank God for the people He gives the church, and the guidance He gives as we seek to adapt to and meet the needs of our time.
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 space was created for Pastor Eduardo Guinez to begin a Spanish ministry on Saturday evenings: “Iglesia Evangelica Mennonita Renacer.”
By 2002 our attendance on Sunday mornings was increasing to average about 115. It was decided to go two services on a trial basis to break this numerical barrier. This worked well in some respects but did create an extra workload for those who were participating in both services and although appreciated by some others missed the fellowship of regulars who had chosen to attend the other service. With the extra work of expanding our facilities we went back to one service after the trial period was over. The time of the service was set to begin at 10:00 am in the morning.
In 2004 we added a new monthly Friday evening service to our schedule. It was called a “Connection” service, designed to bring our youth and our adults together in a worship service. Many of the youth attending Youth and Soul Survivors do not attend Sunday morning services.
On March 15, 2004 a special Congregational Meeting was held to vote, a second time, on the proposal to expand our church building. The first vote was defeated because the cost came in higher than anticipated. This vote resulted in 74% being in favour of going ahead. A Growth Committee and Fundraising Committee were formed and expansion began in May.
Construction was completed in October of 2004. The total cost of this project was $541,000. Bank financing had to be arranged for $230,000.
Several new classrooms were added and our foyer increased in size with the addition of a kitchen cabinet with sink. A separate library, a new Associate Pastor’s office, a new Infant Nursery and Toddler’s Nursery, and a total of four new washrooms were added. An overflow room was added to the sanctuary and our sanctuary stage area was increased to include the entire width of the building at that west end. New carpet was installed throughout the building and as well painting was done throughout. Another great addition was an elevator that would access four levels. Our sound system was greatly updated and air conditioning was added to part of the building. The whole expansion went very smoothly and all of us feel very blessed to be able to enjoy a beautiful church that feels like a totally new building.
An additional blessing was, the donation of funds for a wonderful grand piano and the gift of an organ, both of which contribute much to the quality of music in our church.
And so we look back on the year of 2004 with praise and thanksgiving to God and look forward with anticipation and desire to seek His will and guidance as we continue to serve Him and strive to reach into our community and welcome new people to our church services and to our Tuesday Family Night Program and other Youth programs.
At our annual meeting held January 21, 2006 it was agreed to purchase the property next to the church (112 Montreal Ave N) for $105,000. An anonymous donation of $70,000 had been pledged towards this purchase, leaving the church to raise the remainder. Donations were received, and with the sale of the buildings on the property, the cost was covered. A request was then made to the City of Saskatoon to purchase the adjacent alley way in the amount of $11,958. This property became a much-needed parking lot.
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. For a while Hto Lwe Wah translated the sermons into their Karenni language. His translation was then broadcast on FM radio to headsets worn by Burmese people attending the regular service. When Pastor Paw Eh arrived in Saskatoon in 2007 he took over the preaching, continuing to broadcast through FM. At that time they organized their own congregation which met in the lower auditorium simultaneously with our worship service. With their children then joining our Children’s Church ministry. This congregation is now called the Saskatoon Karen Baptist Church and currently holds regular worship service each Sunday at 2:00pm. What a blessing and privilege it is to work together with these many brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a group that most evidently loves the Lord with all their heart and ever joyfully serve Him.
In June of 2007 the property at 2619 23rd Street West became available for purchase in the amount of $200,000 and on October 1, 2007 we took possession. The building was sold and moved off which enabled the further expanse of the parking lot.
In the summer of 2007 another extensive project was undertaken to renovate the kitchen and install a commercial dish sanitizer bringing us up to health standards.
In September of 2007 through further prayer and discernment, a purchase of a second home and alley way occurred in the amount of $200,000 and leased back to the owner until Jul 31, 2008. The house was then sold and moved off of the property.
Through the goodness of God and the generosity of His people, in May of 2008 we celebrated a debt free Golden Jubilee / 50th Anniversary.
Beginning in August of 2009 Pastor David along with his wife Krysta interned at PHMC. This led to a full time position as Youth Pastor effective February 2010. Also at that time, a third staff position as Associate Pastor was created which was filled by Pastor Keith Pankratz.
In March of 2010 Pastor Dave Peters was involved in a car accident on the way to a Young at Heart event. Due to the severity of his injuries he was unable to work until October of that year. Pastor Keith filled in during this time. When Pastor Dave returned it was part time at first and he gradually worked back up to full time. Pastor Keith then resumed duties as Associate Pastor. God was gracious through this time and provided wisdom, guidance and grace for the leadership to continue during this difficult time.
In July 2010 the opportunity came from the city to purchase the property immediately south of us and all of the existing property all the way to Montreal Ave, total land was 19,936 square feet. Offer from the city was $330,000. There had been several delays and several discussions with the City over the next year, things were in process but nothing further presented itself for quite some time.
In December of 2010, a meeting was held with Pastor Eduardo and other members of the Spanish church to determine the fate of their church. It was shortly after this, it was decided that the church would dissolve.
In July 2011 a new proposal was received from the City regarding the purchase of 19,936 square feet just south of us. The church accepted the new proposal as the price had been dropped to $227,646, which included a value of $27,000 for the row of Elm trees running parallel to 22nd street. As part of the proposal, the Church agreed to incur additional costs to fill in the ditch along 22nd street, ensure proper drainage existed and that we meet the City’s Zoning and Bylaws which require certain landscaping, paved parking and adequate lighting.
In continuing with our heartbeat for missions, PHMC had the opportunity to partner with the Vietnamese Church. On October 23, 2011 a special congregational meeting was held in regards to PHMC acting as an employer for a Vietnamese Pastor to be brought to Canada from Vietnam. The PHMC membership was in favour of proceeding.
In August 2012, Pastor Dave resigned, after leading and serving PHMC incredibly well for 23 years. He felt God’s call on his life to head to Alberta to lead as the Conference Pastor for the North West Mennonite Churches in Alberta. Pastor Dave’s last day at PHMC was September 30, 2012. He was sent off with many well wishes and much love. Pastor Keith led as interim leader until Jan 13, 2013 when he was called to lead as Senior Pastor.
After much prayer and discernment, Pastor Tung was unanimously voted in as the pastor for the Vietnamese Church. His installation service was held Dec 15, 2013 with a start date of January 1, 2014.
At the cost of $267,817 the parking lot was completed, this include pavement, curbs, trees & shrubs, sewer structures, landscaping and lighting. A portion of this amount was generously donated. Following this completion, a property dedication was held on October 5, 2014 with a morning service and potluck – what a testimony of God’s provision throughout this process!
Pastor Tung resigned in February 2015. The Vietnamese congregation currently meets Sunday morning at PHMC and is now linking live via satellite to the Calgary Vietnamese Church.
In July 2015 Sheila Simpson, who had been the Church Secretary resigned after 12 years of service. The secretary duties were then covered on an interim basis by Ashley Ho and Kimmi Thiessen.
After a process of discernment and searching, the Lord opened the door for Lesley McNeice to join our staff in the new roll of Church Administrator on Jan 18, 2016. Her love for the Lord and organizational gifts continue to be a blessing in the life of the church.
In the summer of 2016 a complete renovation of the gymnasium was accomplished at a cost of $70,000.
We are continuing to see growth in our church, with an average weekly attendance of 157 in our regular worship service. God is faithful and gracious – we are so blessed to be called His children. He is present in our midst and we are so thankful for each one who calls PHMC home.
As we note in those early years of 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. As our society changes churches need to have both vision and flexibility. Both of these elements are very much a part of who we presently are as a church, and we are thankful to those who lead us in the 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 hath the Lord helped us." May He continue to use us and our Church to His Honour and Glory”.
Copyright 2009 Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church. All rights reserved.