September, 1977

Baden-Geiger Unite to form Wilmot Mennonite Church

Baden, Ont.—A history-making event within the Mennonite Conference of Ontario took place in the village of Baden on September 11.

For quite a number of years the Baden and Geiger congregations worked together in a variety of ways; alternating Sunday evening services, sharing the same pastor and combined services during July and August. About three years ago both congregations voted in favor of holding joint services.

These services were held in the Geiger building located on Bleams Road, west of Wilmot Center, until November ‘75 at which time the Geiger building was gutted by fire. The congregations then moved back to Baden, with the Township Hall as their headquarters while renovations were made to the Baden building in order to better facilitate the combined group.

The vote to amalgamate properties, finances and memberships was decided officially on May 15 this year.

On Sunday, September 11 there was an air of excitement and anticipation as the service which was to celebrate the uniting of our membership got underway. Ross Shantz, council chairman, chaired the service.

An object lesson for the children was given by Lil and Ken Quanz. Lil used a loaf of bread and the various ingredients stressing their importance and the contribution they make to the bread.

Ken tied this example in with the church. Bread, the finished product, is the church, the yeast is God who gives the church life. Some people are like the shortening, they hold the church together and so on. The children of the Sunday school then joined in singing: This is the Day the Lord Hath Made and Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Historical sketches were given by Baden's church historian, Jonas Ramer. The Baden building was built by Peter Moyer in 1913 at his own expense. Peter felt that there was the need for a Mennonite witness within the village. Local pastors were given 50˘ to preach on a Sunday morning, while those from a distance received $1.00. Later the church became known as the Baden Mission because the conference helped with it's support for a number of years. This was a very mission-minded church and many Bible conferences were held. In 1934 the first Summer Bible School was held with an attendance of 400.

Jonas quoted a paragraph spoken in 1953 on the church's 50th anniversary service "There are things in the history of every congregation that are kept only on the record book of God: the faithful labors and prayers of pastors and teachers, the experience of those who have found Christ under the preaching of the gospel, and of people whose lives have been enriched in worship and fellowship, the hearts of children who have learned the scripture which is able to make them wise unto salvation, the dedication of those who have carried and are carrying the gospel to other communities and countries, presently in Toronto, Honduras and Brazil."

Jonas closed by reading a few verses from Peter Moyer's Bible.

Historical sketches from the Geiger congregation were given by Cranson Good. Services were held as early as 1831. Although there is no record of where these services were held, it is assumed it was in homes. Land was purchased in 1946 from David Geiger, after whom the church was named, A building was then erected but later replaced by the present structure.

Tribute was paid to Mrs. Angus Gingerich and Mrs. Lilly Snyder, who are still in the church today with the longest continuous membership.

In the early days of the Geiger church, services were held every eight weeks, then every four weeks and finally every alternate week. The reason for this was the shortage of ministers. However, people visited other congregations on the off Sundays that were within reasonable distance.

A final vote for the name of the "new congregation" was held earlier in the service. It was at this point that the name "Wilmot Mennonite Church" was announced. The young people of the church had made a banner bearing the name, as well as a symbol of two churches overlapping, becoming one. The banner was placed on the wall behind the pulpit.

Pastor Stanley Shantz spoke on the subject "Why we do what we do." He emphasized that we can be influenced by people and ideas and that we continually face the challenge of choosing the motivation for the best. We need to be convinced that what we are doing is of the Lord.

A Geiger grandfather, Abner Rudy and a Baden grandmother, Anna Gingerich each lit a candle representing their congregation. Mr. Rudy's granddaughter Marilyn and Mrs. Gingerich's grandson Robert together using their grandparents' candle, lit a third candle representing the "new congregation." This proved to be a very meaningful part of the program.

A covenant renewal for members was read together by the congregation followed by the reading of an affirmation of faith. The congregation then joined in the breaking of bread. Urie Bender gave his reflections as a former pastor. He referred to Christian Nafziger coming to this area and making arrangements for this 40,000-acre block of land which was purchased and became the central part of Wilmot township. Urie also shared some memories he has of Peter and Annie Moyer and the interest they shared in the church.

Urie said he has a pastoral viewpoint with respect to people and read a portion of scripture from Ephesians 1 mentioning that there is a movement within the politics of God toward unity. The center of that movement is Jesus Christ. We are called from many different backgrounds, many different heritages — called to become one.

Of course there are forces which tend to separate and divide. Jesus' prayer that we might discover the beautiful unity that exists between him and the Father as recorded in John IT is still our challenge.

Vernon Leis brought a brief greeting, representing the Mennonite Conference of Ontario. A pot-luck dinner and fellowship hour followed the events of the day. The occasion will go down in history and in the minds of all who witnessed this step of unity within the church.

Jean Shantz
A Geiger grandfather, Abner Rudy and a Baden grandmother, Anna Gingerich each lit a candle representing their congregation. (Photo from John Rudy)
Mr. Rudy's granddaughter Marilyn and Mrs. Gingerich's grandson Robert together using their grandparents' candle, lit a third candle representing the "new congregation." (Photo from John Rudy)
O’Derald Gingerich, church council secretary, serves communion to Mrs. Lily Snyder during the Baden-Geiger “uniting service.” Looking on are MYFer Lorrie Shantz and Pastor Stanley Shantz.
(Photo by Floyd Gerber)