History: Mother Warder, a ‘Great Prayer Warrior’ and Spiritual Guide of Emmanuel’s Early Years

This year, as we celebrate Emmanuel’s eightieth anniversary, we will be posting monthly articles on the history of the College.

February 10, 2020

Since its very beginning, Emmanuel has focused not only on academic learning and ministry experience but also on spiritual vitality. Students have been trained to be people of prayer who are sensitive to God’s leading and are effective in helping others grow spiritually. An integral element of this training has been relationships with staff and faculty, who model spiritual maturity on and off campus.

In Emmanuel’s early years, one faculty member who spurred students on to spiritual maturity was Maude Warder, the widow of pastor Alfred Warder. When the school opened, in January 1940, Maude was the dean of women, one of five faculty members, along with Ward Shantz (principal), J. Harold Sherk (registrar & treasurer), P. G. Lehman (instructor), and a Mrs. McNair (instructor). In addition to looking after the female students, she was also tasked with supervising the kitchen.

Warder earned the praise of the students for her excellent cooking and baking. Particularly noteworthy were her raisin and apple pies, which, she was informed by the students and faculty, would “not soon be forgotten.” But even more appreciated was the role she held as a spiritual leader in the Emmanuel community. Warder was, in the words of Kathleen Brown, “a great prayer warrior.” One of her favourite hymns was “Take Time to Be Holy,” and she lived out the words of the song in her daily life.

Even before the school was opened, Warder prayed fervently for its future. Emmanuel once informed her, “We feel the school exists to-day because of your prayers along with those of many others.” And even after her retirement, the school was assured that she would continue to remember it in her prayers.

Warder—Mother Warder, as she became known—cared deeply for the community and was often heard saying, “I love each student a great deal, and I desire only the best for each one of you.”[1] She made herself available to listen to their concerns and was prepared to give godly counsel. In the 1944 Pilot, the school’s yearbook, Mother Warder gave a message to the graduates that was probably typical of her. She wrote,

I rejoice with you and do pray that your life will be “hid with Christ in God.” He, then, can use you and your life will be a blessing. . . .
Be obedient to His commands.
Be strong.
Keep in vital touch with your God daily.
Be thoughtful.
Be faithful.[2]

Among the graduates addressed in this message was Edna Pridham, who lost her life on the mission field.

Mother Warder played an important role in one of the biggest decisions in Emmanuel’s history. In its first years the school was located in the basement of a Mennonite Brethren in Christ church in Stouffville, Ontario. When President Shantz assumed a pastoral role in Gormley, the school moved with him, once again operating out of a church building. Of course, this lack of stability was not ideal for a school looking to grow, and the Emmanuel community recognized the need for a more permanent home.

One night, as the students were doing dishes and discussing this issue, Mother Warder suggested that they take the matter to the Lord in prayer. They followed her advice, and as they prayed together, each sensed God saying that He would provide them with a permanent home in a city. Less than six months later, the school moved to a long-term location on Ahrens Street in Kitchener.[3]

Mother Warder moved with them and continued to strengthen the school with her prayers and godly influence. In recognition of this, the creators of the 1946 Pilot yearbook dedicated the volume to her:

To Mrs. A. G. Warder who has been part of the history of Emmanuel Bible School since it began in 1940 at Stouffville, Ontario. Because of her devotion to the school, her concern for its students, her prayer for its blessings, and her unceasing toil as School Mother, we, the Pilot Staff of 1946, wish to dedicate this volume of our yearbook and in so doing, pray God’s richest blessing on the remaining years of her Christ-like life.[4]

After Mother Warder passed away, her memory lived on in the Emmanuel community. When, decades later, Emmanuel decided to build a new residence building, it decided to name it in honour of her. On September 28, 1985, the Maude Warder Residence was officially dedicated. At this ceremony those gathered sang “Take Time to Be Holy.”

That building, now called Warder Hall, continues to house Emmanuel students and is a place where lives are transformed and the leading of God is discerned. As those who live there study, pray, cook meals, and encourage each other in their faith, the legacy of the Spirit-filled “school mother” lives on.

Information in the article that is not cited below comes from material in the Emmanuel Bible College Archives.

[1] “Mrs. A. G. Warder,” Pilot 2 (1945): 16.

[2] Mrs. A. G. Warder, “Our School Mother’s Message,” Pilot 1 (1944): 14.

[3] Eileen Lageer, Common Bonds: The Story of the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada (Calgary: Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, 2004), 92.

[4] “Dedication,” Pilot 3 (1946): 3.