The first German-speaking Adventist congregation in Manitoba was organized at Morden on July 22, 1894 with eighteen members. Among early converts in the Morden district were the grandparents of Elder Arthur Spenst who later pastored the Henderson Highway Church in Winnipeg.
The year 1912 saw a considerable evangelistic activity in Winnipeg. Two series of meetings were held, one for the English-speaking people by V.W. Robb, and one for those who spoke German by O. Ziprick, assisted by Mrs. Aggie Nikkel, Salmina Thomas and H.J. Dirksen. The German meetings were well attended and resulted in a number of baptisms. A church group was started at the home of John Dederer. Those present were Fred Hilderman, Alex Gritzfelt, Mr. and Mrs Adolf Dederer, Alex Dederer, Mr. and Mrs John Dederer, Mr. and Mrs Albert Honderich, Mr. and Mrs E. Klatt and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Heinrich Maier and daughter, Mrs. Wishert, Woldermer Besel, Fred Schwindt, Mr. and Mrs G. Kettner, Lewis Klatt, H.J. Dirksen and Mrs. Wiensch.
In 1925 Henry Berg held meetings in Winnipeg and a German congregation was organized in November 6, 1926. Present for the occasion were B.P. Hoffman from the General Conference, S.A. Ruskjer, Union President and Lyle C. Shepherd local president. For several years the small church on Bannerman Avenue housed both the English and German congregations. Some of the earliest members of the German congregation were Henry, Lydia and Herbert Berg, Ernes and Emily Shultz, Margareta Gimpel, Andrew and Gladys Busch, Mrs. Elizabeth Heinemann, Mrs. Katie Hartz, Mrs. Katie Bernhardt and Mrs. Mary Graeb. Two daughters of Mrs. Graeb, Freda Fenske and Pauline McKay, still hold membership in Winnipeg Adventist churches (1995).
In 1934, when Elder Sam Reile as pastor, a small building was purchased by the German congregation and moved to the corner of Mountain and McKenzie. Some local residents, who objected to having a church at that location, were startled to awake one morning to find the church standing there, having been moved during the night.
During the 1940’s, under the leadership of Elder John D. Neufeld, members began planning and working for a larger, more representative house of worship. In 1947 a new church was completed, largely by members of the congregation, at the corner of Mountain and Andrews. One of the construction workers was Victor Trupp. Elder Herbert Esslinger came to pastor the congregation at that time. Between 1952 and 1958 a wave of immigrants from Germany, and almost weekly new arrivals were welcomed by the congregation. A number of these people are still in Winnipeg, including Karl Hergenroeder, Regina Hergenroeder, Lydia Koenecke, Veronika and Paul Komor, Gretel Loewen, Eric Mueller, Ursula Denda Segal, Horst and Irmgard Sokolies, Leonhardt and Doris Tonn, Ed Tonn, Heinz and Elvira Umbach, Elizabeth Wittinger, Fritz and Irmgard Wycisk and their daughter Eva Jordan, and Sophie Yamniuk (mother of Walter, Harry, Dan and Heidi).
Pastor and Mrs. Esslinger went beyond the call of duty to assist the new German immigrants in every way possible with such matters as finding accommodations and employment in Winnipeg. Jobs were very scarce and the pay was low. Many of the immigrant ladies found work in the garment industry for 42 cents an hour and many of the men did not fare much better. The Esslingers gave many immigrants shelter, and meals in their own home for the first few days after arrival. They also regularly invited the youth of the church to their home on Saturday evenings and many memorable and lively social events were enjoyed in their home. In appreciation for their kindness, many of the men assisted every Sunday in the building for the Esslinger’s new home on the corner of Atlantic and McPhillips, while the women prepared lunches for the “carpenters” in Esslingers old home.
The members of the German Church who were Canadian born of German heritage, as well as the members who had come to Canada after the First World War, assisted the new immigrants and welcomed them into their homes for lunches on Sabbaths, or brought groceries and preserves from their gardens. Some of these were the Penner family, the Adolf Lipps and Gustav Lipps families, the Kwirams, the Graeb family, the Litkes, Mary Granke and he Erhardts. It did not take long for the new immigrants to settle in and make Canada their new home. They soon started assisting as many of the next group of newcomers as they could. Franz and Erna Hill had an open door policy, and did not just show and interest in the physical needs of their guests but also in their spiritual needs.
Of the new immigrants, Franz Hill was the first to be elected as elder of the church. Ferdinand Ruprecht also served as an elder for many years.
Many of the children of the German immigrants acquired graduate and post graduate degrees. Several became medical doctors, teachers, nurses, engineers, pastors, computer software designers, chemists, hospital administrators, accountants, lawyers, social workers, technicians, managers, etc. There are also several accomplished musicians among them.
The pastors of the German Church were also responsible for the German churches in Morden and River Hills (Whitemouth area). The River Hills cemetery is the resting place of several deceased members of the Winnipeg and River Hills churches.
Pastor Rudolf Aussner in 1955 and shortly thereafter conducted evangelistic meetings in the German Church which were very successful. Prior to each meeting, Pastor Aussner and the young people gathered in the basement of the church in a large circle to pray that the Lord would grant a full sanctuary for the meeting. God never failed! They church was filled to capacity each time. Pastor Aussner enrolled all interested young people in the St. Johns Ambulance course, several in the Master Guide program, and in the Lifeguard program at the Sherbrook Swimming Pool. Most Sabbath afternoons were spent in Peanut Park, close to the German church, or in beautiful Kildonan Park.
Tobogganing at Lockport was popular winter and summer train trips (costing 90 cents round trip) on Sundays to Gimli on Lake Winnipeg were enjoyed by the close-knit group of young people. More than twenty weddings took place in the German church between 1954 and 1963 as many young people found their partners within the church.
During several evangelist meetings conducted in the German Church by Elder O. Ziprick (uncle of Ethel Heinricks) and Pastor Aussner, among others, in the 1950’s and early 1960’s many people gave their hearts to the Lord and are still actively involved in Winnipeg churches including Ferdinand and Eva Ruprecht, Paul Komor, Anne Kupries/Sackman, Kaethe Vogel, Regina Hergenroeder, Horst Sokolies and Leonhardt and Doris Tonn.
By 1954 the German Church was bursting at the seams, when many of the Canadian-born members transferred to the English Church on Young Street. Unfortunately, the harsh winters and the abundance of mosquitoes in Winnipeg in summer were more than most German immigrants were prepared to handle. Therefore, during the 1960’s large numbers left for California, B.C., or Ontario, and several moved back to Germany. Pastor Edmund Grentz and his family came from Michigan and served the German congregation for seven years. He was followed briefly by Pastor Pershing who filled in until the arrival of Pastor Georg Grellman in 1967. The Grellmanns had been missionaries in Africa and quickly endeared themselves to the congregation. Their home was open for musical practice and social activities, etc. The members were deeply saddened by the illness of Sister Helen Grellman and, though earnest prayers were offered on her behalf, she passed away soon after they had accepted a call to pastor in Wisconsin in 1972. Pastor Grellmann’s son, Dr. David Grellmann served a number of years at a leprosy hospital in Africa and his daughter, Evelyn, with her family, serves in Africa now.
Henry Litke/Breault was instrumental in obtaining the German “Voice of Hope” sermons from Germany. These programs were aired weekly on CKJS Radio from 1980 to 1983. For many of these programs Irene Koenecke Penner and Reinhardt Penner (daughter and son-in-law of Lydia Koenecke) presented beautiful musical renditions. Horst Sokolies and Leonhardt Tonn acted as announcers.
Others who have ministered to the German congregation include John Bahr, Pastor Stoehr, Arther Hiebert, Brian Bechthold, Mervin Kempert, Larry Duffy, Bob Hossack, Andrew Merttinen, and the present pastor, Elder John Wesley. Services are now conducted in English, although German-speaking Sabbath School classes have been maintained. The congregation is now known as the Mountain-Andrews Seventh-day Adventist Church and has 61 members.
THE ICELANDIC WORK
In 1914 David Gulbrandsen arrived in Winnipeg to work among the Icelandic people. He served for many years in the Manitoba Conference and was responsible for an Icelandic congregation in Winnipeg. He also labored in Gimli and Winnipegosis and translated several books into the Icelandic language.
THE UKRAINAIN CHURCH
Work among the Ukrainian-speaking people in Manitoba began in 1921 when J.H. Zachary, a layman, sold 5,000 copies of Hope of the World in the Ukrainian language in a fourteen-month period. At Zachary’s request, Elder G. H. Skinner came to the Sandy Lake area and conducted a few meetings, baptizing three persons. When opposition from the established church became violent, Zachary and his assistant, Simeon Demchuk, moved to Winnipeg to continue their labors. Money was scarce but Zachary was very resourceful and used some ingenious methods to fund the work. A well-to-do non-member, Mr. Chambers, of biscuit company fame, lent his name and influence to the solicitation of funds and Zachary managed to get The Great Controversy and Home Physician translated into Ukrainian. A church building was purchased for $6,000 at the corner of McGregor and Pritchard and served the membership until the 1980’s.
Evangelistic efforts were held in East Selkirk and Transcona. Despite opposition and misrepresentation, twelve people joined the church from the East Selkirk meetings. George Soloniuk, father of W.G. Soloniuk who later became president of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference, came to assist Elder Demchuk with the Transcona meetings and a Ukrainian Church was organized in Winnipeg on November 21, 1925. Elder George Soloniuk and Elder P.G. Yakovenko served as pastors in the 1930’s.
Membership in 1926 was reported to be 36. At that time the English congregation numbered 146 and the German congregation 14. Elder Nicholas Ilchuk pastored the Ukrainian Church in the mid 1940’s and also filled in the English Church briefly and efficiently between regular ministers. Elder Ilchuk became the speaker of the Ukrainian “Voice of Hope” radio broadcast and has had a very fruitful ministry for many years.
As time passed the size of the Ukrainian congregation dwindled, while, at the same time, the age and condition of the building made its upkeep costly. By the late 1970’s a good number of Filipino Adventists had immigrated to Winnipeg and were attending the various churches. Under the ministry of Pastor William Kozachenko, this group was invited to meet with the Ukrainian membership. In 1980 the church became known as Winnipeg Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. Succeeding pastors were Rick Harwood and Briach Bechthold. While looking for a new church home, the congregation rented a United Church on Sheppard Street for about two years. In the Fall of 1985 property was bought at 260 Kotelko, off Lagimodiere Blvd, in St. Boniface, and the building at McGregor and Prichard was sold.
THE SILVER HIEGHTS CHURCH
Shortly after the opening of Henderson Church in 1971, the Conference purchased the former St. Stephens Lutheran Church at 2140 Ness Avenue in the west end of the city. Twenty-four individuals from Henderson Highway Church became the charter members on June 30, 1973.
The building was found to have a number of structural problems which proved costly to remedy, but the members persevered. Sister Rosanna Scott, whose membership dated back to the English Church on Young Street, was one of the first to sense the financial implications of forming a new church. With love and dedication she gave a sizable donation to help clear up outstanding debts and defray operating expenses. The name of Elder Rudy James who served as interim pastor in 1974-75 should also be mentioned. Silver Heights Church was blessed with his spiritual support, guidance and leadership. An organ donated by Mrs. Nettie Krym and Fred and Geraldine is still in use.
The first communion service was held April 14, 1973 and the first baptism for Eslyn Glasgow, was performed June 17, 1973 by Elder Bill Kennedy. A series of meetings was held by Evangelist Bob Hossack in 1974 which added to the membership.
Other pastors who have served this congregation are William Kennedy (part-time), John Bahr, Mel Djkowich, John Gilbert, Colin Griffith, Rick Harwood and Frank McMiller. Pastor Howard Homenchuck also assisted from time to time. Ismael Ali pastored in the 1990’s.