The Tavistock Mennonite congregation at Tavistock, ON began services in 1942 but was not formally organized as an independent congregation until 1964. The congregation grew from the East Zorra Mennonite Church. East Zorra experienced continued growth through the years, and found that an increasing number of its members lived in town. Many older members living in Tavistock and surrounding areas found it difficult in winter to drive to East Zorra due to road conditions. Bishop Daniel Iutzi had grandchildren living in Tavistock and was concerned that his children and grandchildren would attend church. Minister Jacob R. Bender also carried a vision for outreach in the community. Iutzi and Bender can be considered the founding leaders of the Tavistock congregation. The ministry was shared by East Zorra, Cassel and Tavistock until 1954 when ministered were “stationed” at each location.
When worship services began in 1942 they were held in a public library hall. After several weeks the local Presbyterian church invited the group to use its church. When the Presbyterians sold the building in 1949, the congregation built its own building that it occupied in 1950. The sanctuary seated 275 adults, and new Sunday school rooms were welcome. There were subsequent building programs in 1969 (foyer, balcony, mother’s room) and 1998 (new sanctuary and Sunday school rooms with the older building used as a fellowship hall). The new sanctuary seated over 300 adults.
Tavistock Mennonite Church has been blessed with much musical talent over years, and often had used these gifts in its worship services. Worship is in English; the transition from German took place prior to Tavistock’s formation.
Tavistock has maintained an active Mennonite Youth Fellowship program for youth; and the women’s organization has met monthly from the beginning, doing much quilting and knotting of comforters. Boys and Girls clubs and a Seniors group have also been active in recent decades. Many members have participated in voluntary service with Mennonite Central Committee, as well as programs like Mennonite Disaster Service, Youth Evangelism Service, and SALT (Serve and Learn Together). Some have also served on the mission field in Argentina and Colombia.
The congregation sponsored two refugee families from Vietnam and one from El Salvador. In 2003 it cooperated with other Mennonite churches in sponsoring a large Afghan family. In 2009, the church sponsored a young family of five of Palestinian descent from Iraq. Around 2016, a joint sponsorship was undertaken with East Zorra Mennonite and Grace United Church to sponsor a large Syrian family. In 2019, the church joined with East Zorra Mennonite to bring another Syrian family.
In nearly all cases, these families have maintained relationships with members of our congregations and in many cases have provided invaluable assistance to newer arrivals.
Tavistock has been a growing town, and the congregation has attracted some of the newcomers. Tavistock Mennonite Church has striven to be a mission-minded, inviting and caring congregation. It’s vision is to be a worshipping community of disciples in mission.