ROOTS IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
written by John M. Klassen, January 31, 2003
Langley Mennonite Fellowship [LMF] identifies with the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century and their search for personal renewal in Christ. LMF believes that renewal means a search for reconciliation between individuals and a strong sense of community. It also believes that it is important for members to make an intentional commitment to follow Christ and pursue peace. The Anabaptist vision is dynamic and LMF welcomes new ways of living it out through that flow from the life of its members.
Langley Mennonite Fellowship was founded in 1979 after a number of Langley and Aldergrove families had been meeting in each other’s homes, in a classroom, and in Douglas Hall for Bible study, fellowship and worship. In 1980 LMF bought a small church building in the Murrayville district. This was an exciting moment in our history because the purchase meant a significant financial commitment from its members but it also made a statement that we were in Langley to stay. After the move we grew quickly and we found it necessary to look for a larger building. In the summer of 1983 we purchased the Lutheran church on 56th and 196th. Throughout its existence people have come from as far east as Sardis and as far west as Burnaby to worship at LMF.
At its beginning Jake Tilitzky provided pastoral leadership and Erna Tilitzky played the piano for congregational singing. Other pastors serving on a temporary basis were Erwin Cornelson, Sig Polle, Carrie Warkentin and Erin Morash.
GUIDING VALUES AND PRINCIPLES
Throughout our years of church life we have been guided by values and principles which have given LMF a distinct identity. LMF’s motto is to ‘Know Christ and to Make Him Known.’ We reminded each other that we were forgiven sinners. Whatever virtue we had we had through God’s grace; we were a people forgiven by God, who restored us into wholeness and has made us capable of acting with confidence. LMF has sought to be a community where people can think about matters of faith and has fostered a spirit of openness so that everyone could feel free to share both faith and doubts. We have committed ourselves to accept those who continuously insist on thinking and doing things differently than we would like.
LMF has sought to discern and encourage the gifts of all participants, both women and men in leadership and worship. Since it hired its first pastor LMF has encouraged lay members to preach and provide inspiration and meditative and edifying material in the Sunday morning services. Members have placed a high value on congregational singing balancing traditional four-part hymns with contemporary songs and a variety of instruments.
As part of its effort to achieve unity of purpose, at business meetings LMF encourages each individual to speak and to listen and makes decisions by consensus. It has placed a high value on Christian education of children and most of its members taught Sunday School. The need for adequate Sunday school facilities was an important factor in deciding in 1997 to build a new church. After a lengthy process of discerning we created a fund-raising committee. We also set aside ten percent of the funds raised to a project outside of the church’s own needs, what we called a service fund. We raised a total $250,000.00 and by January 1998 we began regular worship services in our new building at 20097 40th Avenue, Langley.
The members of LMF seek to build community in spiritual, emotional and economic ways. In our early years this meant making hay for a farmer, painting houses for each other, creating a list of tools and other possessions which we shared, and helping each other pay off house mortgages. Other traditions important in helping LMF’ers grow in faith and in fellowship include weekly small group Bible studies, potlucks, weekend retreats at Camp Squeah, salmon barbecues, Christmas banquets and fund raising auctions. At present the tradition of periodic square dances is being launched. It is LMF’s goal to make the reconciling work of Christ a reality in the lives of the people of Langley by acting in a concrete way throughout the week.
INVOLVEMENT IN THE COMMUNITY
From its beginnings LMF has sought to work together with other agencies in the wider community both by sharing its building and its talents. When it purchased the Lutheran church it entered into an agreement with the Langley Adult Daycare Centre to rent the building to provide care for older adults. This relationship lasted until the Daycare expanded into larger facilities. LMF has continued its community involvement by renting its facilities to the Langley Community Music School from 2000 to 2001.
When it hired its first full-time pastor, David Gustafson in 1981, LMF asked him to give part of his time to establishing a Victim Offender Reconciliation Program [VORP] in Langley. VORP works through official criminal justice channels and seeks to bring victim and offender together so that both can agree on what do about the offence. In 1985 VORP became independent of LMF, and as the Community Justice Initiatives, has expanded its programs to include other forms of conflict mediation that extend throughout Canada and into Washington state.
The present pastor, Henry Krause began in 1989 and continues LMF’s outreach by focusing on the message of peace. Since 1990 he has headed up an effort to educate the public on the destructive weapons which are part of the annual Abbotsford Air show. To that end since 1992 he has played a leading role in organizing the Arts and Peace Festival which has at times coincided with Air show. In March 1993 Henry headed up LMF’s effort to make our church building a sanctuary for Amina Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia and her four sons, in the face of the government’s decision to deport them. LMF’s decision to offer sanctuary expressed its desire to show love and compassion to society’s powerless. LMF has also volunteered to help refugees from Viet Nam, El Salvador and Bosnia.
LMF sought to serve single mothers through the Langley Open Door until 2000. Open door was run by a group of women who provided a welcome to mothers and their children one day a week. It charged no fees and gave mothers the opportunity to relax, participate in handicrafts and join in Bible studies. In addition LMF ran a ‘latch-key’ program for neighbourhood children staffed by voluntary service workers; it began a recycling program in 1990 until the Township of Langley initiated its own; and it has opened its facilities to community groups such as Alcohol Anonymous and a Montessori school.
A delegation from LMF was a regular participant in the annual Vancouver Peace Walk. LMF felt it was important that the followers of Jesus be seen among those who believe killing is wrong and we sometimes found ourselves walking alongside groups such as ‘Punks for Peace’ or ‘Prostitutes for Peace’. In the midst of present threats of war against Iraq a number of LMF’ers are participating in renewing this peace witness.
Throughout its history LMF has trusted in the grace of God to sustain it. Aware of our own frailty, we have proceeded in faith that we were part of the body of Christ whom God would not forsake. In 1997 we sold our property and moved to a new location at 20097 40th Avenue. We left with regrets but also found that in this location God has provided us with new friends and members as well as with opportunities for service, fellowship and worship. We are pleased to have the Kid’n Around Daycare centre with us since our move. May we continue to live in profound gratitude for God’s act of salvation, and in the faith that God has declared us good despite our sins. May we continue to serve God, each other, and the community of Langley in spiritual and material ways.