Harrow Mennonite Church
A History of the Harrow Mennonite Church
The roots of the Harrow congregation go back to a land purchase by 12 families and 2 single Mennonite immigrants in the fall of 1928. The land was a 200 acre tract northwest of Harrow, and the first families took possession in March 1929. The hard work of beginnings did not interfere with regular Sunday worship, held at first in the original farm house living room.
Most of the Harrow Mennonites affiliated with the Leamington United Mennonite Church. This arrangement worked for some 20 years. In 1951 the Harrow group began construction of its own church on Walker Road just north of the town of Harrow. This new church was dedicated November 1951. Inevitably ties with the Leamington Church were severed. The congregation applied for a charter in 1953 as the Harrow United Mennonite Church and in 1955 this was granted. The new congregation joined the United Mennonite Church of Ontario, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, and the General Conference Mennonite Church.
The Harrow congregation had Herman Lepp Sr. as its minister from its beginning; in fact, he had acted as the local minister since coming to the area from Reesor in 1944. He was ordained an Elder in 1955, and continued in service as leader of the congregation until his death in 1966. Then Herman Lepp Jr. took the responsibility of pastoring the congregation until the spring of 1978. He was probably one of the last ministers in the old time Mennonite tradition of St. Paul as long practiced by Mennonites: a farmer as well as shepherd of the faithful. Herman and Alma continued as members of the congregation.
Henry and Leonora Paetkau came to Harrow in the fall of 1978, and Henry began as pastor, at first on a half time basis, then later as our first full-time paid minister. During this time, Henry was much involved in the beginnings of the Windsor Mennonite Fellowship; it was an effort to establish a Mennonite church presence in Windsor. On January 6, 1985, Windsor Mennonite Fellowship began holding Sunday morning worship services. Henry and Leonora remained at Harrow until the summer of 1985. Their years in Harrow were blessed with fruitful outreach into the local community which broadened the membership base of the congregation and gave it new impetus.
In January 1980 the Harrow congregation took on an outreach project to sponsor six Vietnamese refugees. There were two young sisters along with a brother and three single males. It was quite a challenge for a small congregation to house, feed, and look after the needs of these new Canadians. After some time, they moved on and became self-sufficient. It was a very good experience!
Audrey Mierau, who followed the Paetkaus, came early in 1986. She was the first woman minister in the community, and one of the first in the Mennonite churches of Ontario; her warm and very caring leadership came during the time of the amalgamation of Ontario and Quebec, and the Western Mennonites of Ontario, to form a new conference now known as Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC). In the Summer of 1988 Audrey married Ken Bechtel and moved to Toronto.
For a year, Calvin Laur served the congregation with an eloquent preaching ministry. Calvin brought an amazing level of learning and interests in art to the ministry. He and his wife Gail left the Harrow ministry in late fall of 1989.
Henry Dueck from Leamington served us well on Sunday mornings during a year of pastoral search. Jim Brown began as pastor in the fall of 1990. Jim had high conference visibility, being the assistant moderator of MCEC. For a small congregation, the Harrow Church has contributed leadership to the larger Mennonite community through Conference and broader Mennonite board and committee participation.
The original church building on Walker Road needed repair or replacement. But the congregation wondered if it could take on the costs of construction, so a series of fundraising efforts were undertaken. On June 11, 1995 the building planning committee completed its work and a building committee was elected. Many volunteer hours were given to fundraising efforts and to the building of the new church.
The first Sunday morning service in the church building was held September 13, 1996 with a memorable processional from the old building to the new building. A special Dedication Service and Open House was held October 6, 1996. The total cost of the new building was around $240,000.00 which was totally paid for within the year.
Jim and Sharon Brown and family left our congregation in December 1998. A pastoral search committee was elected and with prayer and Conference advisement, God led us to Greg Yantzi. Greg, Laurie and family moved to Harrow and Greg started as pastor August 1999.
The congregation is a microcosm of Mennonite Church Canada; our membership includes homemakers, farmers, teachers, skilled trade workers, factory workers, professionals, business people, fisherman and retirees. At least seven countries of birth and as many religious heritages among members indicate the variety of origin and background within the congregation today. This is one of the sources of its strength and growth.
Past associations of Herman Lepp Sr. and a number of members of the congregation link the church with two unique Mennonite settlements and churches in Ontario in the late 1920's: Reesor and Pelee Island, two geographical extremes. They have long since ceased to exist as such. The Register of Weddings at the Harrow church starts with weddings at Reesor.
Many changes have taken place over the years. With growth inevitably comes change which is welcomed. The hope and prayer is that the Harrow Mennonite Church does not change in the steadfast faith in Jesus Christ on which it was founded.
Compiled by Sue Goerzen
Information from: Victor Dirks, Gert Goerzen, Rudy Papke and Harry Riediger
What do we believe?
The identity of a Mennonite is not defined by ethnic background but by belief in God and Jesus Christ from an Anabaptist perspective. Core values of the Mennonite faith come from a strong connection to Biblical teaching and are reflected in lives committed to peacemaking & justice, service, and community.
Beliefs that drive congregational life of the Harrow Mennonite Church are found in our Mission Statement.
More detailed information about the core values of the broader Mennonite faith can be found in the document, Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.
Is there a Mennonite D.N.A.? This article explores this myth.
Check out these other websites to learn more about Mennonites.