Classification scheme: 

Title: Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute fonds

Dates of Creation: 1912-2004, 1930-1969 predominant

Physical Description: 4.9 m of textual material; 1 compact disc

Administrative History: The Ontario Mennonite Bible School (OMBS) began in 1907 and closed in 1969. OMBS was known as the Bible Study Class until the 1920s. “Bible school” was more common by 1930, and a new constitution in 1932 formalized the name Ontario Mennonite Bible School, sometimes referred to as the Kitchener Bible School. In 1951 a more advanced “Institute” was added, leading to the name Ontario Mennonite Bible School & Institute.

In 1906 the Mennonite Church of Canada decided to establish a “course of Bible study” to be held immediately after a Bible conference at the Berlin Church in January 1907. Samuel F. Coffman and Lewis J. Burkholder were the instructors for the first four-week course held from January 14 through February 8, 1907. They each taught two courses. A total of 65 students attended either the daytime or evening classes. 

No Bible study class was held in 1908 because Coffman was under discipline within the conference for at least part of a year. Several years earlier Coffman had baptized two young women even though they had not committed themselves to wear a uniform bonnet in public, and they had continued to wear hats in public.

By January 1909 the Bible study class was again on track. Later that year the Mennonite Conference of Ontario established a three-person board to oversee the Bible class. Absalom B. Snyder, minister of the Wanner congregation served as chair; Isaiah Wismer, minister of the Strasburg (Pioneer Park) congregation was secretary, and U. K. Weber, minister at the Berlin Mennonite Church, served as treasurer. Board members were elected for three year terms.

From 1910 to 1918 S. F. Coffman was the only teacher of the Bible class, except for 1916 when J. D. Brunk taught a music course.  In 1912 a six-year rotation of courses was established, and in 1913 the course was expanded to six weeks in length. That same year Bible class students built a model of the Old Testament tabernacle, a teaching tool that was used for many years. Meals and lodging arrangements for students were also established during this time. For unknown reasons, classes for most of this decade were not held at the Berlin Church, but rather were held in various rented quarters in town. Finally in 1920, the school returned permanently to First Mennonite Church (renamed in in 1916 when the city of Berlin changed its name to Kitchener).

In 1919 Oscar Burkholder (Breslau Mennonite Church) assisted Coffman, and in 1921 became the second faculty member, working along with Coffman, who continued to serve as the principal of the school until 1947. Burkholder served as the second principal, from 1948-1954. Clayton F. Derstine (First Mennonite Church) served on the faculty from 1929-1949. Jesse B. Martin was the fourth pillar who taught at OMBS from 1932 to 1966. He served as principal from 1957-1966.

Coffman, Burkholder, Derstine and Martin were the “big four” at Ontario Mennonite Bible School during its years of greatest influence. Other longer term faculty included Merle Shantz (1939-1952), Roy Koch (1947-57; principal for 1955-57), Osiah Horst (1953-1964) and Newton Gingrich (1958-69; principal, 1966-69.

In the late 1920s the term was expanded to eight, then ten weeks in length. In 1930 the schedule was altered to follow a three-year curriculum rotation with twelve week terms.

The peak of enrolment occurred during the late 1920s and 1930s, ranging between 107 and 244 students in attendance. This was partially in response to an addition built by the Mennonite Conference of Ontario at First Mennonite Church specifically to accommodate the Bible school. By the 1950s the enrolment in Ontario Mennonite Bible School dropped below 100, and in the 1960s below 50. Most assimilated Mennonite young people were now graduating from high school and many were considering college, so the Bible school model lost much of its constituency. A higher percentage of students were attending from outside Ontario (most often Alberta and Pennsylvania), reducing the incentive for the Mennonite Conference of Ontario to continue support, even as it was undertaking financial support for Conrad Grebel College, a new Mennonite post-secondary venture in Ontario.

In the fall of 1951 an Ontario Mennonite Bible Institute for more advanced Bible study began with two 10-week semesters. The faculty and administration was shared between OMBS and OMBI, but the target audience was persons who would become congregational leaders, including pastors. It included courses on homiletics and pastoral theology, and Christian education courses aimed more at female students. Newer faculty members had more education, including college and seminary degrees. Eventually the Institute offered up to one year of credit accepted at some Mennonite colleges in the United States. Enrolment ranged from the 40s to the 50s during the life of the Institute, though in later years Ontario students were a small minority.

Both OMBS and OMBI closed in 1969 because of declining enrolment. For more information see the official history by Newton L. Gingrich, Mission completed: history of the Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Ontario Mennonite Bible Institute (Kitchener, [1971?]) or the article on OMBS & I in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online.

Custodial History: The vast majority of the records were donated to the Archives after OMBS&I closed in 1969. Preliminary processing was done in the early 1970s. Donations by various individuals in following years supplemented the collection. Records related to alumni reunions held after the school’s closing were deposited in the Archives by Conrad Grebel University College.

Scope and content: The fonds includes seven series: 1) Constitutions and legal agreements; 2) Board minutes (1939-1969) and correspondence (1950-1969); 3) Administrative reports and correspondence, registrar’s records and detailed student files, and financial records; 4) Faculty minutes, correspondence and curriculum materials; 5) Student application forms, student committees and publications; 6) Alumni minutes, programs and correspondence; and 7) Miscellaneous items including unpublished histories, sundry programs, equipment inventories, etc. Prior to 1930 the records are limited.

Notes: For Ontario Mennonite Bible School & Institute yearbooks (North Star), student paper (Star Light) and official history (Gingrich, Mission accomplished….) search the CGUC library. Photographs related to OMBS & I can be found in the Mennonite Archival Image Database.
Grade reports from faculty to the registrar (1951-1968) were withdrawn as they duplicated information in the Bible school & Institute credit records held by the registrar. Also withdrawn were diploma record stubs (duplicated in other records) and an alumni address card file (contained limited useful information).
Original description created in 2016 by Sam Steiner.

File List:

Series 1: Constitution/ Legal Agreements

  1. Constitution and By-Laws, undated, 1932, 1958
  2. Construction contracts, 1927

Series 2: Board

  1. Board Minutes, undated, 1939, 1941, 1943-1969
  2. Correspondence, 1950-1969

Series 3: Administration

  1. Course Announcements/Annual Bulletin flyer, 1917-1958
  2. Student rules and regulations, undated, 1927
  3. Misc. publicity brochures, 1950s-1960s
  4. Principal Reports, 1947, 1949, 1955-1969
  5. Correspondence, 1916-1967 (1940-1967 predominant)
    1. Transcripts and letters of recommendation, 1918-1961 (1940s predominant)
  6. Student Lists, 1907-1969 (partial lists prior to 1911)
    1911-1933 (typescript created in 1930s by S.F. Coffman)
    1907-1952 (holograph lists maintained by S.F. Coffman; 1907-11 incomplete)
    1920-1931 (bound volume containing student lists, attendance records, class organization and some financial records)
    1920-1928 (bound volume of “Boarding Association” records for meals)
    1938-1945 (bound volume of students registered, including their signatures in some years)
    1946-1952 (bound volume of students registered, including signatures, class organization and attendance)
    1953-1961 (bound volume of OMBS students registered, including class organization and miscellaneous programs)
    1951-1969 (bound volume of OMBI students registered)
  7. Annual Register and Report, 1912-1951
    Each annual folder Includes student lists and attendance records and may include grades, billeting locations, class schedules, class organizations, instructor assignments, faculty meeting notes, some exam examples, and programs put on during the year. Some folders also include records of evening classes. The amount of detail increases in the 1930s. These files were maintained by Principal S. F. Coffman.
  8. Registrar’s records
    8.1 OMBS Registration records
    1930-38, 1939-1948 (bound volumes),
    1933-1948 (4 x 6 in. cards in three file boxes; some indicate grades or credit for courses)

    8.2 Both Bible School & Bible Institute credit records, 1951-1967 (8 ½ x 11 in. cards), they show marks and credits for all courses taken; most also include personal information about the student. There are two sets of cards; it’s not clear if there is a difference between them.

    8.3 Bible School graduates, 1950-1966 (index cards), including grades for each term. A second run includes personal information on the students, including parent’s name, address, church membership, previous education, etc.

    8.4 Bible School non-graduates, 1950-1966 (index cards). See above for description.

    8.5 Bible Institute graduates, 1951-1969 (index cards), includes grades for each term.

    8.6 Bible institute non-graduates, 1951-1969 (index cards), includes grades for each term

    8.7 Night class registration forms (Undated, 1954)
  9. General Education Development (GED) test results (1955-1964) (These were administered for OMBI by Eastern Mennonite College (Harrisonburg, Va.) and served as high school diploma equivalency tests)
  10. Financial records
    10.1 Ledger, 1938-1953, 1953-62 (includes financial summary by week, no detail; second book includes some cheque records)

    10.2 Financial journal, 1942-48, 1949-53, 1953/54-1955/56, 1956/57-1958/59, 1959/60-1960/61, 1961/62, (also includes student accounts for 1963/64), 1963-1967

    10.3 Student tuition and board financial records, 1929-1933 (boarding only), 1941-48, 1950-1953, 1953-54, 1957-1963

    10.4 OMBS Board financial journal, 1935-1963 (includes gaps)

    10.5 Building debt drive journal, 1956-1958

Series 4: Faculty

  1. Minutes, 1939-1951, 1961-1969
  2. Evening Class Curriculum notes, Undated, 1929, 1937-1949
  3. S. F. Coffman curriculum notes, 1932-1952
  4. Prophecy class notes, 1935-1951
  5. Examination papers (blank), 1952-1957, 1957-1963, 1962-1969
  6. Church history wall chart, 1934. - compiled by Harold S. Bender, drawn by W. C. Friesen. - 281 x 94 cm

Series 5: Students

  1. Application forms, 1949-1969
  2. Commencement Programs, 1930-1969
  3. Committees
    3.1North Star (yearbook)
    Committee minutes, 1948-1963, 1963-1969

    3.2 Tract and Social Committee, 1961-1969

    3.3 Young Peoples Christian Association, 1953-1969
    Constitution, n.d.
    Minutes, 1967-69
    Financial records, 1953-1969 (also include some financial records for North Star and Starlight)
    Project and organizational reports, including some minutes, 1953-1968

    3.4 Institutional Committee, 1959-1965
    (Records of programs given at various institutions (seniors homes, House of Friendship, etc.)

    3.5 Devotional Committee, 1952-1969

    3.6 Extension and Tract Committee, 1958-1965

    3.7 Program Committee, 1951-1965
    Includes schedules of programs presented by OMBS & I students in local congregations, including some programs

    3.8 Radio programme script, 1953

    3.9 Student creative work
    O.M.B.I. booklet produced by first OMBI graduates, 1954
    Character sketches of faculty (1954) and several hymns written by students, 1950-1954
    Easter Choral recital by M. T. Brackbill, presented by students, March 1954

    3.10 Starlight Committee, 1953/54-1955/56
  4. Term papers, 1953-1969

Bast, Mary, "Isaiah: a spokesman for God", 1967
Bauman, Gordon, "The pastor's counseling ministry", 1957
Bohm, John, "A successful Christian life", 1955
Bontrager, Mildred, "The place of the family in the plan of God", 1961
Bowman, Almeda, "Historical sketch of the Ontario Mennonite Conference", 1956
Brown, Charlene, "An ideal Christian home", 1967
Brubacher, Amsey, "Social changes amongst Mennonites", 1962
Brubacher, Lucy, "Chain reaction of Voluntary Service", 1961
Burkholder, Ruth, "Youth in dimension", 1968
Carpenter, Ann, "God builds his church in Puerto Rico",1965
Chupp, Harvey, "One body, one spirit",1962
Dettweiler, Margaret  "Canadian Mennonites and nonresistance"  1955
Detweiler, Delilah, "Christian etiquette", 1958
Eash, Ted, "Divisions in the Mennonite Church", 1964
Erb, Raymond, "There is a job to be done--evangelism", 1962
Feick, Doris, "Brazil: a missionary challenge", 1955
Freed, Ruth L.,  "City evangelism", 1962
Friesen, David J., "A brief study of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", 1964
Gingerich, Mildren, "The pastor's wife", 1958
Gingrich, Wayne, "Family togetherness", 1966
Good, Edith, "Creating wholesome parent-child relationship",1964
Harnish, Dorothy, "A consideration of the arts and Mennonite attitudes", 1965
Herschberger, David A., "Towards recovery of a committed church",      1964
Hershey, Genevieve, "Vocations for Christian women", 1961
Hershey, Leonard, "Alcoholism, America's number one problem", 1961
Hershey, Verna, "Influence of the Bible in the world",1962
Hochstetler, Levi, "A Christian's look at communism",1966
Holloway, Joe Lewis, "The Christian and minority groups", 1962
Horst, Glenn R., "A survey of the practice of worship", 1961
Jantzi, Leo, "The divine human Jesus", 1964
King, Laurence, "Peace: a way of life", 1961
King, Martha, "Power in prayer", 1964
Knechtel, Dorothy, "Christian ministry to the sick", 1957
Knechtel, Erma, "The relationship of faith and works", 1956
Kuepfer, Clayton J., "Pastoral counseling", 1962
Kulp, Rachel, "Youth faces life", 1962
Kurtz, Marie, "The use of literature in evangelism", 1962
Longacre, Mabel K., "The power of God", 1963?
Martin, Alice, "The development of missions in the Mennonite Conference of Ontario", 1962
Martin, Alma, "Indigenous missionary outreach", 1956
Martin, Faye, "Our walk with God", 1957
Martin, Janet E., "The pastor's wife", 1968
Martin, Lovina, "The victorious life of Christ", 1965
Martin, Nelson, "The relation of Biblical faith and works", 1958
Martin, Rebecca, "Mennonite Youth Fellowship", 1959
Martin, Samuel B., “Archeology and the Bible", 1959
Martin, Wilmer R.,  "The nature of the church", 1968
Mast, Harold L.  "The greatest conflict: the flesh vs. the Spirit"    1963
Mast, Mary, "Jesus teaches us to pray", 1964
Mast, Robert, "The Christian nurture of children", 1961
Miller, Sue Ann, "Challenges of I-W", 1962
Mullett, Mary, "Northern Lights", 1960
Musser, Alvin,  "Youth in conflict", 1967
Reesor, Erma, "Mennonite missions in Ontario: organization and policy", 1956
Reesor, Pauline,  "Pastoral counseling, a modern necessity",  1956
Rheam, James, "Some principles and practices of personal evangelism", 1958
Roes, Florence, "Music in the history of the church", 1956
Roth, Barbara, "Christian education in the home", 1967
Roth, Dorothy, "Youth the church of today", 1964
Ruby, Bertha,  "Earnest private prayer", 1961
Ruby, Marie, "A singing church", 1960
Sauder, Stanley, "The discipline and training of children", 1959
Schmitt, Verdella"The history of non-conformity of the Mennonite Church" 1955
Schwartzentruber, Gerald, "The nature of the church", 1963
Short, Zelma"Homemakers tell the Good News", 1958
Smith, Martha,  "A congregation equipped for service", 1965
Smith, Mary, "The history and relevance of the Anabaptist vision", 1966
Steckly, Elsie Jean,  "An adequate church school program", 1961
Steckly, Isabel, "Christian education of children", 1959
Stoltzfus, Ben,  "V.S. finding its place in Central America", 1964
Stoltzfus, Betty Lou, "Building bridges for evangelism", 1963
Stoltzfus, Mervin, "The miraculous birth of Jesus", 1964
Stoltzfus, Rebecca, "The Conestoga valley", 1962
Trostle, Mary K., "The Sunday school for Christ",  1969
Weber, Carol, "The significance of the devotional covering" 1968
Wideman, Clare, "Mennonite Church tradition", 1962
Zehr, Ron, "Nonresistance in life and practice", 1956
Ziegler, Laverne,  "Thoughts on divine love", 1963

Series 6: Alumni

  1. Constitution,  1939, 1946, 1952, 1956
  2. Annual Meeting minutes, 1943-1966
  3. Alumni Executive Committee minutes, 1939-1950, 1966
  4. Alumni programs, 1940-1968
  5. Correspondence, 1937-1972
  6. Annual newsletter, 1941-1957 (incomplete)
  7. Alumni lists of members, 1928-1958, financial records, 1939-1960
  8. Alumni banquet guest book, 1961, 1962, 1967
  9. Post-closing reunion events
    1994 reunion materials
    2004 reunion materials, including CD with PowerPoint presentation

Series 7: Miscellaneous

  1. Programs, 1927-1967
  2. Unpublished histories of OMBS & I, 1927-1960s
  3. S.F. Coffman explanation of his hymn, “In Thy Holy Place We Bow,” undated
  4. Diploma/Certificate examples, undated
  5. Miscellaneous documents
    Equipment inventories, 1951, 1964?
    Research principles and thesis requirements, [196-?]
    Class gifts to OMBS (lists), 1930-1950
    Wage scale for Faculty, 1953
    "Falling from grace" / J. R. Beveridge. Chicago: J. R. Beveridge, 1920, 20pp.


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Mennonite Archives of Ontario
Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6

Phone: 519-885-0220 x24238