The history of the Evangelical Missionary Church began in Switzerland in the sixteenth century, during the time of the Reformation, when the world’s first official Anabaptist Congregation (later known as Mennonites) was organized at Zurich, about 1525. The new group spread rapidly but the rapid growth was soon followed by severe persecution. The blood of the martyrs has always been the seed of the church, and within a few years the movement had spread to Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands; most of the large cities in Central Europe had one or more congregations. The early Anabaptist movement was strongly evangelistic and missionary minded with great emphasis placed upon personal conversions and living a holy life, separate from the world.
Menno Simons, who was born in the Netherlands, was converted at the age of thirty-nine. He joined the Anabaptists, was soon baptized, and shortly after was ordained as one of their ministers. Not long after the Anabaptists offered him the leadership of the denomination; he became so successful and prominent in his leadership qualities that the name Mennonite gradually replaced Anabaptist. The Mennonite Church was organized along New Testament lines.
The history of the Evangelical Missionary Church in North America dates back to 1683. Because of persecution, thirteen Mennonite and Quaker families of Dutch descent, emigrated from Germany at the invitation of William Penn. They founded the town of Germantown, now part of the city of Philadelphia.
During the forty years, 1786-1825, around two thousand Mennonites, (including children), moved to Canada from Pennsylvania, taking up land in the Vineland, Kitchener and Markham areas. The first families came because their stand of non-resistance caused trouble for them during the Revolution, but the later ones came for the good land, which was cheaper than land in Pennsylvania. The five hundred mile journey was made with a Conestoga wagon loaded with food and supplies. The majority of them settled in Waterloo County. The city of Kitchener was founded through their efforts.
At this time, services were held in the German language; Sunday School, revival and prayer meetings were all frowned upon. Before 1847, Bishop Benjamin Eby started a Sunday School in Kitchener, but because the opposition was so strong, it was held in a village school three miles from the church. However, some of the Mennonites, having read books on Methodism, were dissatisfied and divisions occurred.
Among the new groups formed were the New Mennonites of Ontario, the Reformed Mennonites of Ontario and Indiana, and the Evangelical Mennonites of Pennsylvania. They eventually amalgamated, and later were joined by the Brethren in Christ, an Ohio group directly descended from the Mennonites. For the next sixty years this group was called the Mennonite Brethren in Christ.
The doctrine of this new group differed from the Mennonites, being highly evangelistic and Wesleyan. Then as the church entered new areas, the name Mennonite caused problems, especially in Canada West and the western United States. In 1947, at the General Conference in Ohio, the name United Missionary Church was adopted.
A movement called Approved Ministering Sisters, or more commonly City Mission Workers, began in 1882, when a nineteen year old girl named Janet Douglas was converted and immediately began to be a soul winner. She held children’s meetings in her parents’ home, went from there to assisting an evangelist in revival meetings he was holding, and very soon began to hold revival meetings on her own.
Over the next few years, the movement grew in all of the districts of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ church. In Ontario, they were organized as the City Mission Workers Society at Annual Conference, 1902, but they had been very active for at least four years before that time. They were never ordained, as the elders were, but they were recognized as members of Conference, and they were stationed by Conference.
They usually ministered in teams of two, renting a hall for meetings, living in small rooms above or in the back of the building. They received no regular pay, getting most of their support from the small offerings, and the sale of the church paper, the “Gospel Banner”.
In 1969, the United Missionary Church and the Missionary Church Association (with churches only in the United States), after about ten years of negotiations, merged to form the Missionary Church. In July 1994, The Missionary Church in Canada merged with the Evangelical Church to become the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada. Due to government regulations, the church in Canada separated from the Missionary Church, Inc. U.S.A. The Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada had headquarters in Calgary, Alberta but is now located in Kitchener, Ontario.
The Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada now belongs to a worldwide denominational family with an estimated 1,300 churches in 25 countries with a total constituency of 150,000. Within Canada itself these include Indonesian, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tamil, West Indian, Korean, Arabic and Iranian congregations. There have been a lot of name changes over the years, but we still serve the same God.
The origins of the Stayner Evangelical Missionary Church are the result of a varied and colourful history.
About 1890 a new Methodist Church was built in the village of Stayner and the then Mennonite Brethren in Christ people, purchased the vacated Methodist frame church on the corner of Main and King Streets (better known now as the Second Line or Airport Road corner). In 1894 that structure was moved to the present location at 202 Ontario St. East. The building was bricked in 1905.
Improvements followed gradually over the years. In 1927, a new hardwood floor and new pews were installed for the sum of $1,700,00. After that the basement was excavated to add Sunday School facilities and $11,000.00 was spent in 1948 for that venture along with a new heating system.
Because Stayner was a part of a pastoral circuit that included other preaching appointments such as the Nottawasaga second line “Mennonite Brethren in Christ” church, it was decided in 1963 to combine these congregations into one in Stayner. This necessitated expansion and a larger auditorium with basement was built and added to the west of the old building at a cost of $46,000.00. The educational wing with a large gymnatorium was added in 1975 to provide a total of about 14,300 square feet of space including the wheelchair ramps added in 1982. This was done at a cost of $170,000.00.
Having been destroyed by Fire on January 2, 2007, the congregation met at Stayner Camp from January until September 2007. The congregation then met in the gym until the new Sanctuary was completed in December 2008. A dedication was held in April of 2009.
The cause of the fire was electrical and gutted the sanctuary. The estimated cost of the damage was in the millions. This was a difficult time for the congregation, yet by the grace of God they survived. After several meetings and discussions they rebuilt the present structure on the same location.
It was in the Stayner Church and the nearby campground that the Missionary Church Canada East, celebrated its 100th annual conference in 1983.
The first available records of 1901 indicate the existence of 5 Bible classes and 1 infant class. In 1902, a library was started with 26 books. In 1902, an Armenian boy was supported for $10.46 annually. For three weeks in 1918, the Sunday School was cancelled, due to an epidemic of influenza.
The Sunday School has had many projects over the years.
Our record attendance was 235 in 1979.
The first meeting of the newly formed “Young Peoples Society of the Ontario Conference” was held on Sept. 10, 1937, and included 25 members of all ages. Meetings were held every two weeks, with the location alternating between Stayner and the Second Line church. By 1942, the average attendance was about 35.
In 1975, the Young Peoples was divided into the Junior (13-15 yrs.) and Senior (16-24 yrs.) groups. Average attendance was now 48 and the groups went on many “social outings” together.
Between 1975-1978, the Young People took part in many local activities to raise money for missions, such as car washes, Bike-a-thons, slave days and the famous “Haunted House.”
Currently we have EPIC Youth that meets weekly for Grades 8 – 12 on Monday nights at 7:00 pm, it also does monthly events and is seeking out ways to be involved in mission-minded/outreach projects.
Our Young Families meet about twice a month for a small group. This inspiring time of fellowship and growth is an important part of the ministry here at SEMC.
Missionary Women of Canada
The first “Missions Circle” of the Stayner Missionary Church was organized in 1924 at the home of one of the church ladies.
Garment buyers and cutters were appointed for their “sewing bees,” where quilts and clothing were made and donated to needy area families. Offerings for the year were approximately $14.00.
A “Junior Society” existed briefly from 1955- 1961.
Along with various social activities, such as providing lunch at funerals and showers, the group also takes an active role in the encouragement and financial support of missionaries.
Several different outreach activities have been undertaken through the years including the following:
Senior Cadets, a weekly program appealing to the 10 – 13 yr. age group, had an average attendance of 50. The 70 minute program is varied and includes an opportunity for teaching Bible truths, gym activities and an “elective” program (cooking, personal grooming, etc.). These young people, many of them from non-church homes, are challenged by the staff to personally accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour. This program has been replaced by our Kidz Klub which is designed for those in grades K – 5, and EPIC Youth for grades 6 – 12. Both have been enjoyed by many in our community. Some parents stay after dropping off their kids for coffee and a chat with other parents. This is an exciting time for all involved it happens on Wednesday nights and is in need of more workers.
Ladies Coffee Hour started in 1985. This monthly ministry combines fun and fellowship, with a “devotional segment,” in which a guest speaker shares her testimony. This ‘program had appeal for all ages, and many women from the community attended, as babysitting was also provided.
Silverset Luncheons are held on a monthly basis, and provide our “seniors” from the community an opportunity to make new friends and keep in touch with old friends. Special” day trips” are also planned at intervals and are always well-attended.