History of Valleyview Mennonite Church
In the fall of 1949 members of Nairn Mennonite Church planted 100 acres of wheat on rented land. The following summer a bountiful crop netted $3,400, enough to purchase facilities necessary to provide accommodation for, and otherwise serve the needs of, homeless men in the city of London. The Goodwill Rescue Mission was opened at the corner of Kent and Talbot Streets on January 29, 1951 under the leadership of Alvin and Madeline Roth. It was an immediate success.
Alvin felt that the children of the homeless men were at risk, so a Daily Vacation Bible School was opened in the summer of 1951. In August of 1953 a year-round Sunday school programme and weekday clubs for both boys and girls were initiated. Teachers were recruited from Ontario Amish Mennonite Conference churches. The children’s programmes were also very successful, so they needed their own space. Again, members of the Nairn congregation came to the rescue. They found funds for the purchase of a house at 368 King Street, a site which very soon came to be known as the centre for Mennonite activity in London, formalized under the name of Forest City Mennonite Mission, soon to be changed to King Street Mennonite Church. Sunday evening church services began in 1954 with Alvin Roth as minister. His two roles, mission administrator and church pastor, became a burden and, in 1961, Ralph Lebold was called to be pastor.
Discussions on the meaning of church membership, begun in October of 1961, culminated in an organizational service on Sunday, January 14, 1962. A constitution and a set of by-laws were adopted and thirty names were inscribed as charter members on the Historic Roll that day. A new church, soon to be called Valleyview Mennonite Church, was born.
When city officials indicated that the King Street area might be designated for urban renewal the search for a new location was on. In the spring of 1962 the church purchased property in a new subdivision in north-east London and in late November construction of a new building at 1170 Melsandra Avenue began. The completed building was dedicated on Sunday, June 16, 1963.
A number of community oriented programmes were developed to realize their ideal of being “a church for the community.” Daily Vacation Bible School was introduced in August, 1963 and about 100 neighbourhood children showed up. Later in the fall, weekday boys and girls clubs were also organized. In September 1966 the work of one church committee came to fruition when a Mennonite Voluntary Service unit of eleven members was established. In October of 1966, after almost two years of work by a joint church/community committee, a day care nursery for neighbourhood children of working mothers, which came to be known as the Valleyview Child Care Centre, was officially opened.
In July of 1966 Ralph Lebold was granted a two year study leave at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. Except for a brief period when Walter Friesen assisted in a pastoral role and for Lebold’s periodic weekend visits, the church functioned without a resident pastor in Lebold’s absence.
Lebold returned to London in July, 1968, bringing with him a unique model for pastoral education involving student internship at participating congregations. In the fall of 1968 he presented his ideas to Valleyview and Goshen Seminary. Both accepted them. In September, 1969 three interns arrived at Valleyview from Goshen Seminary for a one year term. In June, 1970 Glen Horst, one of the three, accepted a call from Valleyview to be an associate pastor on a half-time basis. Ralph Lebold continued as lead pastor, also on a half-time basis. This arrangement worked out very well. In June, 1974 Ralph Lebold resigned and Glen Horst became the full-time pastor.
Growth in membership and expanding needs of the various programmes, especially the day care nursery, were putting a severe strain on the physical facilities. In November, 1979 work began on their renovation and expansion. Space was increased by 45%, enough for 7 additional classrooms and an expansion of sanctuary seating capacity to 250. The new facilities were dedicated on October 5, 1980. In 1981 Glen Horst resigned.
In January, 1982 Millard Osborne accepted a call from Valleyview to be pastor. He was excited about the level of energy that members were willing to spend on the church. However, he was surprised at the distinct theological differences he found in the congregation. His efforts to foster dialog across these differences were not satisfying. He resigned in March, 1987. For the next few months Mary Boniferro coordinated the pastoral services shared by various Valleyview members. Then, on September 1, 1987, Mary Burkholder became pastor. She resigned in the fall of 1991, leaving the church without a pastor for some months until, in January of 1992, Doris Weber became interim pastor.
On August 1, 1992 Harold Peters-Fransen became pastor. He brought a certain sense of stability back to the congregation. In the year 2000 a Korean group, represented by Hun Lee from Charleswood Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, expressed an interest in becoming part of Valleyview. They were accepted as members, with Young-Jee Na and Young-Ho Park as pastors. Also in 2000, management of Valleyview Child Care Centre was taken over by London Bridge Child Care Services, cutting all ties between church and child care centre except for the landlord/tenant relationship. On June 30, 2000 Harold Peters-Fransen resigned. The church was without a pastor till October 10 when Gerry Vandeworp became interim pastor to the end of the year.
On January 2, Russell Sawatsky accepted the call to be pastor at Valleyview. An installation service was held on February 4. An installation service was held for Young-Jee Na and Young-Ho Park on June 10. In 2002 London Bridge vacated the church basement and all child care services at Valleyview were at an end.
In the summer of 2004 Young-Jee Na and Young-Ho Park resigned. Hun Lee moved from Winnipeg to assume sole pastoral responsibility for their congregation. They were accepted by MCEC as an emerging congregation under the name of Vision Mennonite Church.
In the spring of 2005 Russell Sawatsky resigned. With the help of Alan Rudy Froese, Valleyview members maintained pastoral services for a year. In that year also, Agape Mennonite Fellowship began meeting in the Valleyview building. Agape is a congregation that includes many socially and physically disadvantaged worshippers and was begun by Alvin Roth. Their move to worshipping at Valleyview on Sunday afternoons has marked an important reconnection between the two congregations.
In 2006 Gordon Scoville arrived for a one year term as Intentional Interim Pastor. In September of 2007, Kendall and Charleen Jongejan Harder accepted the call to be co-pastors at Valleyview Mennonite Church.
In October of 2008, Valleyview joined together with a number of other area churches and groups to form a community lunch and fellowship program known as Welcome Wednesday. Located at the Salvation Army at 310 Vesta Avenue in London, Welcome Wednesday provides a nutritious meal as well as the opportunity for fellowship and games to anyone who wants to come.
In June 2012, we celebrated fifty years of ministry as a congregation in London.