In the mid-1920’s, people of the Mennonite Brethren faith (Fourth Avenue Bible Church began as the Niverville Mennonite Brethren Church, and changed its name to FABC in 2001) settled on farms around Niverville. They had emigrated from the various Mennonite Colonies in Russia. Church services originally were held in the Niverville United Church. But since their farms were scattered over such a large area, transportation presented a serious problem. Some of the Mennonite Brethren families began meeting in homes to fellowship around God’s Word. After a short time they discovered that a small Lutheran church, which was centrally located, was being used only one Sunday a month. This congregation was willing to share their facilities for the other three Sundays a month. The Niverville Mennonite Brethren Church was established in this Lutheran Church on May 29th 1929. The group consisted of eighteen members.
These early members were a collection of immigrants whose lives had been disrupted by revolution. Their families, their churches, their farms, their businesses, and their occupations, had been decimated. Many came to the Niverville area with nothing more than the travel expenses they had incurred and their faith in God. Because of the Bible teaching and the emphasis on the importance of fellowship that they had received since early childhood, they were able to establish a church very quickly. The early growth of this small congregation was prolific. In 1930 membership increased to 27. With the baptism of 23 believers in 1931 membership grew to 50.
The time came when the Lutheran Church was no longer large enough to meet the needs of a growing congregation, and consideration was given to constructing their own building. But where to build? Should they build in a grain field or in the village? A country church would be more central to a majority of the members. But in the village lived a widow and her children and others that had no means of transportation. In 1937 the issue of where to build was determined when one of the members sold his car, bought the present site, and donated the land to the church.
The early members of the Niverville Mennonite Brethren Church shared many of the same distinctive emphases as the Mennonite Brethren Church did when it formed in 1860 in the villages of the Molotschna Colony in the Ukraine. They believed in;
- The need for a personal faith in Jesus Christ
- The need for a systematic teaching of the Bible
- That leadership is entrusted to members with integrity and spiritual balance
- That while strong and wise leaders are needed, dictatorship is suspect and should be rejected.
- That a strong ethical emphasis is needed
- That meaningful church worship is essential
The rapid growth in the early years could be attributed to conversion and baptism of ethnic Mennonites from the community, and later growth was from within the church families, marriages and believers moving into the surrounding community.
The organizational structure of the church evolved as the congregation grew and its needs changed. Beginning with one leader who was responsible for organizing the time and place of the Sunday worship service to the structure that we have today. Leadership was given by both ordained ministers and lay people called from within the church. One of our local businessmen was ordained to the ministry and was a minister and the church leader for 25 years during which time he also farmed and developed several businesses. The church had the wisdom to seek and welcome into its fellowship some of the local public school teachers to assist in the pulpit ministry. In 1974 the church called its first full time pastor. It was the first time that one person could focus his full attention to the work of the church. The church in its wisdom continued to blend its leadership and pulpit ministry with professional ministers and lay people.
Music has always been an integral part of Fourth Avenue Bible Church. The many choirs and music groups that have existed throughout the years have been an avenue for people to express their faith and relate to each other. There have been a number of people in the history of this church who have been gifted by God in the area of music and have gone on to use it for the glory of God.
There has always been an emphasis on missions. People from our congregation have been involved in many facets of missions. They have been involved in church planting, Christian education, evangelism, Bible translation, Christian broadcasting, and relief work in Canada and many countries around the world.
Today we are a group of about 160 people ranging in age from new-borns to people in their nineties. We are people coming from a greater variety of walks of life and cultural backgrounds than would have been the case for much of our church’s history.