top of page

A Brief History

The Turn of a New Century

  1. The Homestead Act & Settlement -- during the late 1800's early 1900's the Canadian government was trying to encourage settlement of the Western Prairies. In order to help develop interest in coming out west the Homestead Act was passed. It allowed people to purchase 160 acres of land for $10.00 on the agreement that they began to put the land under cultivation.

  2. The Railway -- the C.P.R. mainline was put through Calgary as a main East/West stopping point while the C&E Line was put in between Calgary and Edmonton. This line ran through Didsbury and Carstairs area and little stations were set up, and it was around these stations that towns sprang up.

  3. The People of West Zion -- Much like the "Gold Rush" people were bitten by the settling bug and the industrious, hard working European Mennonites in the Eastern United States and Canada were no exception. By 1900 there were already a number of Mennonite families that made their way out West and settled in and around Carstairs to begin homesteading.

  4. Development of the Congregations - Many of these had roots in the Ontario Conference of the Mennonite Church and there was a desire on the part of this conference to send ministers out West to help develop and care for Mennonite congregations. S.F. Coffman, a young ordained minister, was sent out as an "acting Bishop" to carry out this assignment to establish churches and Sunday schools. In April 1901 an influx of Mennonite settlers came to Carstairs and several meetings saw the formation of the church at Carstairs -- on May 14th, 1901 the proposed name for the church was "West Zion Mennonite Church." Later in the fall of the same year the families met to elect a minister and deacon for spiritual oversight of the congregation.

  5. The First Building -- with financial aid from the sponsoring Ontario Mennonite Conference, the congregation began to build a meeting house and on March 2, 1902 it was dedicated.

  6. The Conference -- in July of 1903 the three congregations chose their first Bishop and began to meet annually. By 1907 there were four churches participating together and it would continue to grow and eventually become the Alberta and Saskatchewan Mennonite Conference, a separate entity from the Ontario Conference. This was the genesis of the Northwest Mennonite Conference.

  7. The First Decades

    1. Families kept moving into the area but during the from 1910-1920 many young adults and children died of diptheria and influenza. The church purchased four acres to use as a cemetery.

    2. In the roaring 20's the community continued to grow and new technology and automobiles were bringing new levels of prosperity but in many Mennonite congregations this was viewed with concern. With the rise of worldliness many congregations began to stress separation from the world and one way was to adopt "plain dress." This distinctive dress-code was viewed as a sign of one's commitment to Christ. Men wore plain cut suits while the women adopted a long "cape" dress and head covering or prayer veil. Jewelry was also not worn, and men and women sat on separate sides of the church.

    3. In 1929 the congregation decided to build a new building. But the depression halted the work so it took a couple of years to complete the building.

  8. The Depression

    1. Women's Sewing Circle -- during the depression sewing circles were started to help the less fortunate by making clothes, bandages and blankets. Ours still runs to this day and meets the first Wednesday of every month.

    2. Daily Vacation Bible School -- was started at the end of the 30's at West Zion for school age kids. It would run from 1-2 weeks and the kids came for crafts and Bible lessons. Many children and families came to Christ through this program and Sunday School.

  9. The War Years -- when World War 2 broke out military conscription affected the church at West Zion. Some were called up for military duty and served in alternate positions (medical corps/forestry) while others were exempt because their farm work was an essential service. The Alberta Saskatchewan Mennonite Conference lobbied for their position of non-violence and non-resistance and eventually won the C.O. status.

  10. The Post War Years -- Power was brought into the church in '49 so they didn't need kerosene lamps anymore! Overall the church continued to grow and changes were on the horizon. Late in the 50's the church began to help the minister out financially. Until then the minister worked at a regular job (often farming) and did the church work on top of that. Gordon Buschert served as the congregational minister from 1948 to 1973 during this time.

  11. A Time of Changes - The 60's - 70's

    1. The first musical instruments were brought into the worship services during the late 70's. Up till that time singing was acapella.

    2. D.V.B.S. continued but were also supplemented by boys and girls clubs and a camping program.

    3. Changes in the Alberta Saskatchewan Conference prompted changes in the congregations as well. Bishops were replaced by the Conference Minister and the system of bishops, deacons and ministerial leadership was replaced by a conference board.

    4. The first full-salaried pastor came from 1973-78 (Paul Landis).

    5. The present fellowship hall was added onto the church and was finished by 1977.

  12. The 80's & 90's

    1. Paul Issacs followed Paul Landis as the minister from 1980-1984. Pastor Jim Miller came to serve at West Zion in 1984 and served till 2001.

    2. Small Groups became an integral part of the church program at West Zion. A number of young people came to Christ through the youth group in the 80's . Many young people also went on short-term cross-cultural work trips through this time.

    3. Many new people were coming attending at West Zion and more changes were to come.

  13. 90's-Present

    1. An addition was put on the fellowship hall (1992) and services moved from the old sanctuary into the fellowship hall as the number of those in attendance rose.

    2. Worship services have taken on a more "contemporary" flavor since the 70's and there was even a Saturday night service called "The River," which ran for a number of years.

    3. As numbers grew a new expansion for the church was planned and it was completed in 2001. Our present sanctuary holds around 300 with overflow seating available.

    4. The congregation "restructured" the way it operated and developed a new constitution (2001-2003) and moved from a Church Council and Board of Ministries to Eldership rule and a seven-fold ministry team approach with an appointed director over each team (Outreach, Member Care, Administration, Worship, Discipleship, Service, Elder Board) with each team responsible to the Elder Board.

    5. We currently have a very active cross-cultural program and currently support a number of members working abroad.

    6. AWANA - a kids' club was introduced in 2002 and has seen many kids come to the Lord as a result of the program and families become associated with the church - it currently is not running.

    7. The KidsTown program (ages 3-grade 6) that runs during the sermon portion of the service. We have extended our worship service to 1½ hours and have a blend of contemporary and traditional worship as well as biblical, expository teaching from God's Word each week.

    8. Youth Group, Life Groups, VBS, KidsTown, Outreach Activities, Men's & Women's Events, an annual Church Family Campout and regular services provide a diverse ministry and many opportunities to reach out and share the Gospel with our communities.

    9. The old kitchen and Sanctuary was removed and replaced with a CE Wing and new kitchen in 2014.  The Sanctuary was expanded as well and now holds about 300.

  14. Currently

    • We have a wide age range in our church (babies all the way to people in their 90's) and there are many new families with young children and teens.

    • Our Sunday Worship attendance is between 175 and 230.

    • Our congregation is made up of many different people from many different backgrounds and denominations

    • This year we've had many new people join our congregation as members and have a number of baptisms each year.

    • West Zion is an exciting place to be and it's growing - come grow with us and be all that God wants you to be!

bottom of page