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Our Rich History


The original history for Onoway Baptist Church found in The Pathfinders, 1978 edition, was written by Lilli Albert.  It was updated in 1982 for the 50th Anniversary Celebration, with subsequent updates added for the 70th and 75th Anniversaries in 2002 and 2007.

The Onoway Baptist Church began as a result of settlers moving into the Onoway area from Saskatchewan and other parts of Alberta.  Glory Hills Baptist Church befriended the newcomers but, when they settled on their own land in the Onoway area, the distance for traveling was too far.  So, worship services began in homes, the first one being held in the home of Alexander Adam.  The first gathering was recorded on August 28, 1932, at which time organization began for a church in Onoway Station as it was then called.  The secretary for the first half year was August Bechtloff and later Gustav Wolter recorded minutes until 1935 when Ewald Breitkreuz became the secretary and served in this capacity for twenty years.

    The first recorded business meeting was held January 18, 1933 in Herman Schmidke’s home at which time it was decided that the church would be called the Onoway Baptist Church and was an extension of Glory Hills Baptist Church which faithfully supported and helped this new work. 

The first elected church officers were as follows:  Deacon – Jakob Bechtloff;  Treasurer – Rudolf Wolter;  Secretary – Gustav Wolter;  Sunday School Superintendent – Gottfried Matz.  The Sunday School teachers elected were Martha Eichelt, Ernest Janke, Frieda and Roland Jespersen, Ida Lehman, Ida Schmidke and Julius Wollenberg.

    One significant family in the early life of the church were Wilhelm and Pauline Renn who moved to Onoway in 1935.  Their three sons and families, Ewald and Adeline Breitkreuz and children, Arthur, and Erich Breitkreuz also became members of the church that same year.

    In 1943, John and Ella Ohlmann moved into the district.  Mr. Ohlmann had supervised the construction of the church building previous to his living here.  He again was helpful in the construction of the parsonage in 1946.

    The size of the church was to be 26’ x 40’ and to be built on the property of two lots which were purchased by Rev. Fred Benke and given to the congregation as a gift from him.  Construction began on the church in the spring of 1933 and this is still the site of the present day church building.  The basement was dug with man and horse power, and, with much effort and some opposition, was completed!  The first service in the newly constructed church building was held on August 27, 1933.  Prior to this, worship services were held in the old Onoway Hotel when worshippers became too numerous to meet in homes.  The rental fee for a month of services in the hotel was $2.

    The first pastor of the Onoway Baptist Church was Pastor Chris Martins.  During his ministry more settlers were coming into the area and so the church family grew.  This was strictly a German-speaking church at that time.  Baptismal services were held annually in the Sturgeon River, Lake Nakamun or Lac Ste Anne.

    In 1935 Roland Jespersen presented the church with a pulpit which was constructed by a local carpenter, Mr. Cliff Honert.  The same year the youth group gave a gift of 3 chairs for use on the church platform.  Because of the generosity and sacrifice of concerned Christians, the church acquired the necessary materials to make the sanctuary an attractive place of worship.

    During the ministry of Pastor Gustav Rutsch, the Women’s Missionary Society was organized.  Meetings were held in homes and the first officers were President – Linda Rutsch, Vice-president – Mathilda Priebe, Secretary – Erna Rothe, and Treasurer – Frieda Jespersen.  The group was active until 1938, but went for an entire year with no interest being shown.  In 1939 it was revived and remained active until 1952.  From that date until 1958 no records are available, but the Women’s Missionary Society was then again established under the leadership of Elsie Jaster, wife the current pastor, Rev. Robert Jaster.

    In 1939 a horse barn was built at the north end of the church property and was there till 1958 when it was no longer needed.  It was sold for $240 to James Tyschuk.

    No parsonage had been built during these early years, but in 1943 the lot east of the present parsonage (which was removed in 1997), was purchased along with the small home on it.  This was used until 1946 when the parsonage was built.  The first occupants of the original parsonage were Pastor Jakob and Mrs. Wiens.  They had arrived from Vancouver on February 21, 1943.  Their ministry ended suddenly on April 11, 1944 when Pastor Wiens passed away at the age of 70 years.

    The Glory Hills Baptist Church shared the financial responsibility and pastors until 1945 when Onoway Baptist Church became an independent work.  Additional support was still available from the North American Baptist Conference, with whom we share denominational ties.  At this time the membership of the church was 68.

    Music was always an important part of worship.  On special occasions, choirs and bands were invited from other German Baptist Churches in the Edmonton area, or from the Christian Training Institute located in Edmonton.  This school, formerly known as the North American Baptist College (now Taylor College and Seminary), needs special recognition for its involvement in the ministry of our church.  They provided speakers for many services from among the students and teachers.  Their sacrifice of time to help meet the needs of our church is not forgotten.

    During the years many changes have occurred in the church.  One of the more significant was the language change from German to English.  This was very reluctantly accepted by some of the pioneers of this church.  Change being the only constant in life, ministry growth necessitated other changes.  In April of 1975, construction began on an addition to the church.  It involved a significant change of turning the sanctuary around to face the opposite direction, a new entry way and foyer, plus office, kitchen and fellowship space.  Another addition to the front of the church was completed in 1982 which included a baptistery and Sunday School rooms.

    Pastor Wenzel Hanik, who had served the church as a student pastor in 1969 from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving, was called again in 1979 to serve as pastor.  At the celebration of the 50th anniversary (1982), the church had a membership of 75 and an average attendance for Sunday worship of 100.

Since the 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1982 was the last historical sketch written for our church, we have undertaken to add some pages to it bringing it up-to-date for the 70th Anniversary.  These last twenty years have been quite different than the first 50, especially in respect to pastoral leadership.  With the arrival of Pastor Wenzel and Maria Hanik in September, 1979, no one could have guessed that two decades of ministry would involve only one pastoral change.

    The decade of the 1980’s was all under the Hanik’s ministry.  Pastor Hanik shares his own highlights of their ministry in Onoway.

“In 1979 God led that Maria and I were called to be the pastor of Onoway Baptist.  We arrived September 1 and began serving the church which lasted almost 11 years.  Soon upon our arrival, our first son, Ryan, was born.  Three years later Tim was born thus completing our family.”  But the Hanik family was not all that was growing.  Wenzel shares also that, “Within months of our taking the pastoral leadership, we had the privilege of baptizing 2 people and welcoming 7 new members (us included) into the church.  A year later, we had our second baptismal service with 7 candidates.  But 1982 was most memorable with 3 baptismal services and a total of 12 baptized.  God blessed us in this and over the years we were privileged to baptize 49 people.  We also had the joy of 18 baby dedications, and of course ministered to 15 families in their time of grief.

    Several things started during the Hanik’s ministry here and one was the Seniors Christmas Luncheon.  This ministry was picked up by our Women’s Ministry and continues to today.  Another thing Pastor Hanik shares, “It was during the mid-1980’s that families with needs became more visible.  The church decided to begin a food bank out of the church.  Soon other churches joined in providing groceries.  Christmas was always a busy time packing food hampers.  Usually the number exceeded 25 hampers.”

    With the departure of the Hanik’s in the summer of 1990, and the arrival of the Foster’s in early 1991, the church entered another decade of ministry under one pastor.  Pastor Rick and Glenda Foster moved to Onoway in March of 1991 with their two young daughters.  They came to us from Peoria, Illinois where he had served his first church as pastor (see Foster family history for more details).  

The 1990’s was definitely a decade of change.  Some things in our ministry went through a very natural change; other things changed by a deliberate decision of the church.  For example, one of the changes that came very naturally was the dissolution of the senior ladies Bible study that met at Mrs. Ella Ohlmann’s.  The growing age of the ladies and the fact that some had moved away meant they could not carry on.  But arising in its place we now have an active Ladies Time Out group that meets for Bible study, encouragement and fellowship.

    Another change that came very naturally was in the area of youth ministry.  The dozen or so young people who were active in the church at the start of this decade grew up, graduated and moved on to institutions of higher learning or into the work force.  Most have now married and started families of their own with some moving back to the Onoway area.  It’s just part of the natural process of life.

    One of the deliberate changes came in 1998 when the decision was made to stop offering our Sunday School ministry for a time and put our energies toward an outreach ministry to children.  What came out of hours of evaluation and prayer was the launch of an AWANA Clubs program.  In our wildest dreams we could not have imagined what was about to take place.  Our anticipation of the numbers of children was similar to the average Vacation Bible School week which would be around 50 elementary school age children.  But as we approached Christmas we were almost double that number!  The stress of dealing with that amount of children in our church building was compensated by the joy of knowing that most of them were hearing the Gospel for the first time in their lives.  Since that time AWANA has been divided between two venues and two churches.  The Evangelical Free Church in Onoway has joined us in this ministry providing a number of workers, and the Onoway Legion has become the other venue where one of our clubs meets.  In total we are continuing to see 70-80 children involved in our AWANA Clubs.

    On a wider circle, Pastor Rick was very active in the community and instrumental in the development of the local Food Bank into its own society and charitable organization (see history for Lac Ste Anne East Food Bank Society), the Heritage Days Community Church Service, the Community Christmas Carol-Sing, a Home Educators Support Group, a prayer group meeting on the school grounds for prayer each week, and a Bible class taught by members of the ministerial at the elementary school Grade 5 class.

(Update added for the 75th Anniversary, June 30-July 1, 2007)

    The year 2007 marks the 75th anniversary of Onoway Baptist Church, which currently has a membership of 74 with an average attendance of 65.  Reflecting on the past five years since the last updating some things have again changed in our circumstances but the constant remains in our seeking “to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ” here in Onoway.  

    One of the most significant impacts of the last 30 years has been the longevity of Pastor Rick and Glenda Foster in their service at Onoway Baptist Church.  We watched their family grow up with their four children grown and now having children of their own.  Pastor Rick and Glenda continue to live in Onoway and remain involved in the church as they are available.

Listed here are the pastors who served the church from its beginning till the present day:

    Chris Martins               1933-1934

    Gustav Rutsch            1935-1937

    Emil Riemer                1938-1939

    Fred Benke                 1940

    Jakob Wiens               1943-1944

    Hugo Lueck                1945

    Aaron Buhler               1947-1948

    Ernest Hoffman           1948-1949

    Hugo Lueck                 1949-1950

    John Wahl                   1950-1954

    Arthur Zeller                1955-1957

    Robert Jaster              1958-1963

    Gerhard Poshwatta    1964

    Fritz Goliath                1966

    Reinhold Wilde           1967-1968

    Fred Ohlmann            1969-1973

    Phil Grabke                1974-1976

    Gerald Froese            1977-1978

    Wenzel Hanik             1979- 1990

    Rick Foster                1991- 2018

    Greg Garbutt             2018-2020

    Brian Siewert             2021-present

    The ministries that continue to be offered for the purpose of “making disciples” are our Women’s Ministries, Ladies Time Out, Youth Ministries, AWANA Clubs, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.  Each of these requires the love and dedication of many people in order to continue to serve our community with such programs.  We praise God for how He provides the human and financial resources to carry these on.

    What has changed in the last five years is that we have steadily moved forward in our pursuit of youth ministry.  We have hired a half-time seminary student to help in this area, and Adam Wiebe has worked with us for over 4 years helping to re-start the youth ministry and grow it to the place we are today. As part of our move in this direction, the house across the street from the church building was purchased in 2003 and has become the “new parsonage” for our youth pastor.  Adam has now finished his seminary training and along with his wife Anita will be moving on into another area of ministry.

    Also there have been some new ministry groups initiated within the church.  As a result of some teaching on small groups and the purposes of the Christian life, home study groups have developed focusing on different things.  We have a group to help organize ways for people in the congregation to connect with each other in meaningful fellowship.  And, we have a missions team which has begun to find ways of serving the needs of people in a very practical way, and which will hopefully expand into a team for cross-cultural ministry experience.  We also are finding that God continues to work in individual lives spurring them on in different ways to serve Him, both inside the church family and within the community.

    One of the things that has remained constant is the support of our church for the local food bank.  We have continued to house the food bank being the collection and distribution point, but in 2006 the Lord made available to us the opportunity to purchase the property immediately to the east of the church.  This house is now being used as the new location for the food bank.

    Reflecting on some of the things referred too in the update at the 70th Anniversary, due to pastoral changes at the Onoway Evangelical Free church, there has been no continuing joint effort in the AWANA Clubs, although they support it by encouraging their children and youth to attend.  We no longer use the Legion as a venue, but numbers of children and youth remain strong.  Also, because of other ministerial changes in the community, the Grade 5 Bible class has been discontinued at the Onoway Elementary School.

    As we again update this history for 2010, and the writing of the 2nd edition of Onoway’s History book, we would note that Pastor Rick and Glenda Foster continue their ministry here, which has now been 20 years.  In the last couple of years Pastor Rick has renewed efforts to establish a Ministerial Association within our community, which has begun to take shape.  One of the outcomes from this is a schedule of services rotating between area churches for the new Seniors Lodge, the Chateau Lac Ste Anne.  Also, we would mention the hiring of Mr. Chad Dupuis in March 2009 as an Administrative Assistant and Youth Worker for our church.  Chad and his wife Janie have two young sons, and both he and Janie have actively contributed to various ministries within the church, especially in our Awana Clubs and Youth ministry.   

In acknowledgement of what the Bible teaches, that only God knows what is in store for the future, we continue to press on trusting that we will maintain an active presence for the Lord Jesus Christ by serving the needs of our community in whatever ways we are given opportunity.

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