Fonds Volume 2049-2103, 2243-2245, 2247-2248, 2851-2878, Photograph Collection No. 577 - Isaac I. Friesen fonds

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Isaac I. Friesen fonds

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CA MHCA Volume 2049-2103, 2243-2245, 2247-2248, 2851-2878, Photograph Collection No. 577

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  • 189-?, 1918-1995 (Creation)

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7.03 m of textual records
285 photographs

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Biographical history

Isaac Irwin Friesen (1900-1974) was born in Rosthern, Saskatchewan to Isaac P. and Katherine Friesen. He completed his early education at Rosthern Public School and the German English Academy. In 1917, he was baptized at Rosthern Mennonite Church by David Toews and also attended the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, California, where Dr. R. A. Torry was a strong influence on his life and faith.

In 1919, Isaac and his father were elected lay ministers at Eigenheim Mennonite Church in Saskatchewan. Isaac served as a minister in the Rosenorter Church for 17 years. He attended the Saskatchewan Provincial Normal School, graduating in 1921, following which he taught at the Scarpe Public School near Rosthern. He continued his education, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1927 and a Master of Education in 1934, both from the University of Saskatchewan. He taught at the German English Academy, the Laird High School, Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon, and Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna, Manitoba.

Isaac married Elsie Funk (1909-1995), daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ezra Funk of Drake, Saskatchewan, in 1937. He worked as chaplain at the Salem Deaconness Hospital in Oregon from 1939-1942, where he also directed the hospital radio program. In 1943, Isaac was called to continue the ministry of Reverend Benjamin Ewert at Bethel Mission Church in Winnipeg. He was ordained as an elder of Bethel Mission Church in 1945, and served as minister from 1943-1951.

Isaac's post-secondary teaching career began at Mennonite Brethren Bible College in 1944. He participated in the formation of the Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) and joined the teaching faculty when it opened in 1947. He taught at CMBC for 21 years and served as president for eight years.

Both teaching and ministry led Isaac into conference work. He was a member of the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCMC) Board of Education from 1947-1956, he served as vice-president of the GCMC Executive Committee from 1956-1962, he was a member and chairman of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada (CMC) Board of Education, and he served on the GCMC Commission for the Study of Scripture between 1961-1962.

Isaac continued to study throughout his adult life. He attended Dallas Theological Seminary (1936-1937), Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1937-1938, 1943) where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity, and Winona Lake School of Theology, where he earned a Master of Theology in 1956. During his CMBC years, he attended summer school at New York Biblical Seminary, Garrett Biblical Seminary, Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Union Theological Seminary in New York, Concordia Seminary and Luther Seminary. He pursued post-graduate studies at United Seminaries Toronto (1959-1960), London Bible College (1963-1964), and the University of Basel (1968-1971), where he earned a Doctor of Theology degree.

Upon their return from Switzerland, Isaac taught at Canadian Bible College in Regina from 1972-1973. He spent only his last year of life in retirement before his death on July 23, 1974. He died of a heart attack while speaking at CMC sessions in Steinbach, Manitoba. His wife Elsie died on July 24, 1995 in Winnipeg.

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Administrative history

Mennonites moved in great numbers to the city of Winnipeg in the 1930s, mostly students and young women finding employment there. These people made the transition to the English language very quickly and therefore did not relate to the established immigrant dominated congregations. Benjamin Ewert was asked to find these people and start a congregation with them. Their first meeting was in late 1937. In early 1938 they used rented facilities on Sargent Avenue and soon purchased and renovated the building for their own meeting house. Ewert sought but did not get much support from his Bergthaler Gemeinde nor from the city Schönwieser Gemeinde. In 1940 the name was changed from Winnipeg Mission to Bethel Mission. In the early 1940s there was pressure from the young people atttracted to this congregation to have English language services. This occurred in 1943 under the leadership of Ewert and I. I. Friesen. They moved to a new meeting house with the purchase of a building on Furby Street in 1945. The membership stood at 139 in 1949. In 1955 they built a new meeting house on Carter Avenue. In 1957 it changed its name to Bethel Mennonite Church. In 1958 the membership was 379. By 1980 the membership had risen to 459. In 1991 a larger meeting house was built on this site. The membership in 1991 stood at 522. A number of other congregations grew out of this congregation: Elmwood Bethel (1960), Charleswood Mennonite (1963), Hope Mennonite (1987), as well as Bethel Place on the same site, and a Carter Day Care. In 2000 the membership was 587. Leaders of the congregation were: Benjamin Ewert (1937-1958), I. I. Friesen (1973-1951), Heinrich Wall (1948-1964), Benno Toews (1950-1956), Arnold Regier (1947-1954), Hugo Hildebrandt (1951-1956), David Schroeder (1952-1956, 1959-1963), George Groening (1955-1965), Henry Poettker (1955-1977), David Janzen (1957-1962), David P. Neufeld (1963-1966), William Block (1966-1975), Don Friesen (1976-1977), Jake F. Pauls (1977-1993), Peter Janzen (1994-1995), David Epp-Stobbe (1996- ).

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Administrative history

The Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) began in the Bethel Mennonite Mission Church basement, Winnipeg, Manitoba in September of 1947. Discussions about the need and feasibility of an advanced-level Bible College for Canadian Mennonites had occupied the Conference of Mennonites in Canada (CMC) from the late 1930s. In 1941 J. J. Thiessen was chair-person to a five-member committee who explored the possibility of a higher Bible School. However, no qualified person in the Mennonite community could be found to lead such an institution and the plans were dropped.

In 1945 the dream was reconfigured with some urgency as the Mennonite Brethren church had established their own Bible College in Winnipeg and demobilized Conscientious Objectors (COs) were returning to Canada and attending secular universities or fundamentalist post-secondary institutions. Finally in September 1947 classes began with Arnold Regier, an American Mennonite from Kansas, as head of the newly formed college. Four Canadians were hired to complete the faculty - I.I. Friesen, P.A. Rempel, Henry Wall and John Konrad. Other presidents that served in subsequent years included I. I. Friesen (1952-1959), Henry Poettcker (1959-1978), George K. Epp (1978-1983), John H. Neufeld (1984-1997) and Gerald Gerbrandt (1997- )(with David Schroeder and Helmut Harder as interim presidents for a period each).

For two years classes were taught in the Bethel Church basement. In 1949, CMC bought 515 Wellington Crescent, a large private home, which housed the Bible College for the next 7 years. In 1956 CMBC moved to the site in Tuxedo, in the south-west corner of Winnipeg. Here the campus development over the years as various building were constructed, including an administrative building, a residence, apartment building and a Heritage Centre.

In 1964 CMBC became designated as an approved teaching centre of the University of Manitoba which allowed Mennonite students to be simultaneously enrolled at CMBC and University where they could later complete their university education.

Discussions with other Mennonite educational institutions regarding the possibilities of closer ties or a joint educational venture also took place over the course of CMBC's history, especially in the 1980s and 1990s which led to the founding of Canadian Mennonite University (a federation of three colleges -- CMBC, Menno Simons College and Concord College in September 2000.

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Custodial history

The majority of the textual records were in the archives by June 1981. An initial list on the content was created by Dennis Stoesz. The rest of the textual records and all the photographs were deposited by David Schroeder between 1994 and 2001. A few photos were donated in 2002 by Annie Funk.

Scope and content

This fonds consists eleven series reflecting the life and activities of a Mennonite minister, teacher and administrator who spent most of his life working with the church and its institutions and programs: 1) Pastoral work, 1937-1975; 2) Mennonite conferences, 1939-1973; 3) CMBC, 1945-1972; 4) Teaching notes and student assignments, 1945-1973; 5) Schools attended and student work, 1930-1972; 6) Topical files, 1938-1974; 7) Personal files, 1918-1974; 8) Elsie's personal files, 1918-1995; 9) Bethel Mennonite Church (Winnipeg), 1939-1974; 10) Sermon collection, 1939-1974; 11) Photograph collection, 189-?, 1926-1975.

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Finding aid consists of a series description with an inventory file list.

Online version of finding aid available at:,%20Isaac%20I.%20fonds.htm

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Related material: Bethel Mennonite Church, Winnipeg fonds.

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Small percentage of German.

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  • English

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