For The Madera Tribune
Members of of Madera Avenue Bible Church participate in a centennial celebration Saturday evening.
The Mennonite Brethren Church in Fairmead was organized with 10 charter members on Oct. 19, 1919. Peter Wall was elected to be leader. The first pastor was Brother John K. Lichti.
A receipt dated Jan. 1, 1920, indicates the property on which the church sits was purchased for $250, to be paid in annual installments of $25, with a 7 percent annum interest.
Another receipt dated July 7, 1920, was made out to the “German Church” shows lumber was purchased for $437.40. The Fairmead Lumber Co. donated $50 of this. A notation on the page says (in German), “This is the sum for the remodeling of the gathering together house.”
Besides the Mennonite Brethren, which made up the official membership roll, there were a number of General Conference Mennonites and German Baptists who worshiped with the group.
The first preacher was Brother John Lichti. He was followed by Brother M.K. Schlichting, then Brother Bernard Wall Sr. served from 1925 until he retired in 1951.
Soon more people moved into the community and were taken into membership. However, very soon, some of the early people moved away. There were many visiting preachers and evangelists. Souls were saved and baptized, the earliest were done in reservoirs.
Social life revolved mostly around the church.
The ladies began their Sewing Circle by 1924. These were all-day meetings. Many beautiful articles were made. Some were given for relief, others were kept for the annual auction — which was a highlight of the year.
Every third month, the three Northern California M.B. churches (Lodi, Winton and Madera) would get together for an all-day fest of preaching, programs and feasting, and getting to know each other. The churches took turns hosting.
Singing was very important to the Mennonites, and early on there were both adults’ and children’s choirs.
In 1938, the original church house was old and dangerous, and in May construction began on the new building. On July 20, 1939, the first service was held in the basement of the new church. That basement was witness to many happy times. It had a small kitchen, used to serve many a meal and also served as the Sunday school classroom for preschoolers. The rest of the basement was divided into classrooms divided by canvas curtains — not soundproof.
Release Time Bible classes were held for children attending Dixieland School across the street. A bus was purchased, and for a number of years, Sunday school attendance was close to 100. Daily Vacation Bible School was held every summer, every morning (except Saturday and Sunday) for two weeks.
In 1952, the first paid [part-time] minister, Rev. Jacob Quiring, was called. A parsonage was built next to the church. He ministered faithfully until the end of 1959 when he resigned.
Bernard Wall Jr. was asked to fill in and preach. In 1962, the church began to investigate the possibility of relocating into town. On June 23, 1968, groundbreaking services were held on the new church site.
On July 30, 1968, work began on the first Sunday School wing (the north one) and finished in early January, 1969. In the meantime, work was also being done on the main sanctuary and by March 30, 1969, the building now being used was finished to the point it could be used. A wedding took place on that day, also.
In 1972, Brother Henry Esau was called to be pastor and served until May 19, 1974. Then Pastor Bob Kroeker was called, and he began his service on Sept. 1, 1974.
On June 29, 1979, it was decided to build another Sunday School wing (the south wing) which was completed in October of 1977.
Pastor Bob resigned on April 17, 1979, to accept a position with the U.S. Area Conference. The church called Greg Langley to be pastor, and he served until 1985. Pastor Bob Kroeker was then called, and he served until the summer of 1995.
Pastor Heath McClure began his ministry in January of 1996. He served until September of 2000.
In May of 2002, Jim Vandermark was called to be interim pastor. Then in November of 2002, Virgil Reimer was called to be Senior Pastor. In 2006, MABC began supporting Bob and Chris Davis, who serve with MB Mission in Thailand. They continue to be supported till this day.
In September of 2007, Tim Bergdahl was called to be Senior Pastor. He served until he passed away from cancer in January of 2015. Prior to his passing, Jim Kenner was called to be Associate Pastor, and he became Senior Pastor after Bergdahl’s passing.
In 2015, MABC began supporting Suneel and Amy Albert, who serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Western Asia. They continue to be supported to this day.
The Lord has blessed the church with wonderful people and a caring spirit. We love His Word and want to share it with those who come through our doors.
We believe in a Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Salvation is through faith in Christ who gave His life so we can have life in him.
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Madera Ave Bible Church is affiliated with The Pacific district of the Mennonite Brethren Churches. We are traditionally a “peace” church. We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. Our church has traditionally tried to reach out to the community and the world with the word of God and with a social conscience through various Mennonite organizations.