A History of the Harrow Mennonite Church
The roots of the Harrow congregation go back to a land purchase by 12 families and 2 single Mennonite immigrants in the fall of 1928. In 1951 the Harrow group began construction of its own church on Walker Road just north of the town of Harrow. This new church was dedicated November 1951. The congregation applied for a charter in 1953 as the Harrow United Mennonite Church and in 1955 this was granted. The new congregation joined the United Mennonite Church of Ontario, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, and the General Conference Mennonite Church.
The Harrow congregation had Herman Lepp Sr. as its minister from its beginning; in fact, he had acted as the local minister since coming to the area in 1944. He was ordained an Elder in 1955, and continued in service as leader of the congregation until his death in 1966. Then Herman Lepp Jr. took the responsibility of pastoring the congregation until the spring of 1978. He was probably one of the last ministers in the old time Mennonite tradition of St. Paul as long practiced by Mennonites: a farmer as well as shepherd of the faithful.
Henry Paetkau and his family came to Harrow in the fall of 1978, and Henry began as pastor, at first on a half time basis, then later as our first full-time paid minister. During this time, Henry was much involved in the beginnings of the Windsor Mennonite Fellowship; it was an effort to establish a Mennonite church presence in Windsor. Henry remained at Harrow until the summer of 1985. Their years in Harrow were blessed with fruitful outreach into the local community which broadened the membership base of the congregation and gave it new impetus.
In January 1980 the Harrow congregation took on an outreach project to sponsor six Vietnamese refugees. There were two young sisters along with a brother and three single males. It was quite a challenge for a small congregation to house, feed, and look after the needs of these new Canadians. After some time, they moved on and became self-sufficient. It was a very good experience!
Audrey Mierau came early in 1986 and she was the first woman minister in the community, and one of the first in the Mennonite churches of Ontario. Her warm and very caring leadership came during the time of the amalgamation of Ontario and Quebec, and the Western Mennonites of Ontario, to form a new conference now known as Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC). In the summer of 1988 Audrey married and moved to Toronto.
For a year, Calvin Laur served the congregation with an eloquent preaching ministry. Calvin brought an amazing level of learning and interests in art to the ministry. He and his family left the Harrow ministry in late fall of 1989.
Jim Brown began as pastor in the fall of 1990. Jim had high conference visibility, being the assistant moderator of MCEC. For a small congregation, the Harrow Church has contributed leadership to the larger Mennonite community through Conference and broader Mennonite board and committee participation.
The original church building on Walker Road needed repair or replacement. But the congregation wondered if it could take on the costs of construction, so a series of fundraising efforts were undertaken. On June 11, 1995 the building planning committee completed its work and a building committee was elected. Many volunteer hours were given to fundraising efforts and to the building of the new church. The first Sunday morning service in the church building was held September 13, 1996. A special Dedication Service and Open House was held October 6, 1996. The total cost of the new building was totally paid for within the year.
Jim Brown and his family left our congregation in December 1998. Greg Yantzi and his family moved to Harrow and Greg started as pastor August 1999. Greg led our congregation with his uplifting energy and commitment to the church for 14yrs. Greg and his family moved away in the summer of 2012. Following his leave Gary Knarr filled in as our intentional interim pastor for 1 year while we search for a new leader.
On March 1, 2014 Karen Sheil moved to Harrow to join our congregation and lead us as our new and current pastor.
Many changes have taken place over the years. With growth inevitably comes change which is welcomed. The hope and prayer is that the Harrow Mennonite Church does not change in the steadfast faith in Jesus Christ on which it was founded.