2017 is WDC’s 125th anniversary!
Enjoy reading and learning about the histories of WDC congregations. Information will be added as it is submitted. (Click HERE for submission form.)
Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church (Goessel, KS)
The Alexanderwohl congregation can trace its roots to a congregation that began meeting during the sixteen century in the Netherlands, around Amsterdam. Sometime during the first half of the seventeenth century, they migrated to West Prussia. Here they were known as the Prezechovka Congregation. The year 1640 is the date of the first lease to this congregation in West Prussia. The first elder (pastor) is believed to be Berend Ratzlaff. In 1820, approx. 200 years later, the congregation, led by Elder Peter Wedel, migrated to Russia to the Molotschna settlement in the Ukraine. Along the way they were met by Kaiser Alexander I who wished them well on their journey. After they settled in Molotschna, the Przechovka Church became the Alexanderwohl Church because the Kaiser had wished them well (wohl). The congregation, led by Elder Jacob Buller, migrated again in 1874 to rural Goessel, Kansas. They worshiped in the Immigrant House until the Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church was built in 1886, one mile north of Goessel, KS.
The church began during the wave of Anabaptism sweeping across Europe, and identified with the tenets of faith as written by Menno Simons. Each migration was made as a means to preserve their freedom of worship, exemption from military service, and freedom to establish their own economic way of life. Faith in God and their way of life held them together.
Today, Alexanderwohl is probably known by the wider community and beyond as the “big white church on the highway.” Because of its well-kept records and long history, people from all over the world come to visit and/or to trace their ancestry. It is not uncommon for our church historians to welcome tour groups to our church and tell its story.
More importantly, Alexanderwohl is an active, energetic faith community of approximately 250 people of all ages—children, youth and adults. We seek to be relevant and faithful in worship, teaching discipleship and building loving relationships, holding to an Anabaptist way of living out our faith. Connecting and caring for others in our community through our midweek and VBS ministries has led to deeper relationships with community friends and a broadening of our church family beyond those of Mennonite background. We are a church that families “come home” to every Christmas. These families, as well as community folks, fill our sanctuary and balcony with 470 or more people for the Christmas Eve service every year. Music has a high value in our worship and we are blessed with a number of quality musicians, including four organists/pianists, several trumpet players, acoustic guitarists, and other musicians, a chancel choir and a preschool and elementary age choir. Over the years our church has emphasized service as an act of following Christ. During the draft years, many of our young men chose service instead of the military. Our church participates with MDS when disasters strike and our youth regularly go on service trips. Whether it is serving at the homeless shelter, learning about racial justice or immigration issues in a Sunday School class, serving at the community Thanksgiving meal, or helping a community family on our community service day, we strive to be a people who offers hope, shares the love of Jesus and seeks God’s shalom in our community and our world.
Austin Mennonite Church (Austin, TX)
Austin Mennonite Church is an urban Mennonite congregation in the capital city of Texas. The makeup of the congregation is diverse ethnically, theologically, vocationally, and socio-economically. The average attendance at Sunday morning worship is fifty people. Members commute from a 30 mile radius and value the Mennonite identity of the congregation. The motto of the Austin Mennonite Church is “Serving Christ, Simply, Peacefully, Together.”
The church began in 1984 as a house fellowship with a small group meeting every other Saturday with a Bible study. As the fellowship increased in numbers it moved to meeting on Sunday mornings in a hotel conference room, then to a Seventh Day Adventist church. Lewis McDorman, a South Central Conference regional minister living in Austin at the time assisted the group in becoming more organized and helped Austin Mennonite Church (AMC) become established as an organization with bylaws and five year goals. In its early years Austin Mennonite Church was dually affiliated with South Central Conference and Western District Conference. The church continued to grow and called its first pastor in 1990.
Austin Mennonite Church purchased its own facility on two acres at 5801 Westminster Drive, Austin, Texas 78723 in 2000. The facility was previously owned by the Trinity Presbyterian Church which had built the facility in 1960. Austin Mennonite Church rents space to a child development center, a Spanish-speaking church, a recorder society, a local high school outreach ministry, and a community gardens organization. The church is in the process of renovating their bathrooms to make them handicap accessible.
Over its thirty-three year history AMC initiated and supported a Mennonite Voluntary Service unit for two years and has supported other short-term service volunteers. The church was active in the Mid-Texas Convention activities before affiliating solely with Western District Conference. Past and ongoing activities have included: summer children’s camp, Mennonite Central Committee Texas Relief Sales in Houston and Edinburg, serving meals at the local homeless shelter, Mennonite Disaster Service, interfaith dialogue, home repair, refugee assistance, support of the child development center in its facility, peace and justice education and advocacy, and an annual pancake breakfast to raise funds for local high school scholarships.
Currently AMC meets weekly for worship on Sunday morning and has Sunday school classes for all ages. Various small groups are also active on a monthly basis. The congregation has open communion the first Sunday of each month along with a first Sunday potluck fellowship meal.
Bethel College Mennonite Church (North Newton, KS)
This congregation began October 31, 1897. 19 charter members signed the church book and constitution. The congregation met in the chapel of the Bethel College Administration Building (until 1955). Its present building was dedicated in 1956. The purpose was to have an on-campus congregation for students and faculty of Bethel College. The congregation also drew in some non-college Mennonites who lived close by. The official founding was when 19 persons signed the new church record book and the new church constitution. Co-pastors: David Goerz 1897-1911 and Cornelius H. Wedel 1898-1910. The Bethel College Mennonite Church is unique in the Western District as the “college church”, that is, the congregation that had a strong connection to Bethel College. For the first quarter century, the president of the college also served as pastor of the church, and Bethel faculty played a large role in the church. Many students have attended through the years. A large number of Mennonite pastors and missionaries had their education at Bethel College (for example, in 1963, thirty-nine Western District pastors –2/3 of the total — had part or all of their college education at Bethel) and worshiped at the College Church as students.
Buhler Mennonite Church (Buhler, KS)
In the late 1800’s, and early 1900’s, Low German Mennonites arrived in Kansas, mostly emigrating from the Molotschna Colony in South Russia. Hoffnungsau Mennonite Church (rural Inman, KS) organized in 1874 and was the “mother” church of several area churches. Buhler Mennonite Church was organized when Hoffnungsau built a worship center for Buhler area members. This church was named Buhler Hoffnungsau Mennonite Church. As communities grew and needs changed, the Buhler Mennonite Church and Inman Mennonite Church incorporated as independent churches within the Western District Conference (1920’s). Buhler Mennonite Church’s (BMC) history book, A Year of Jubilee: 75th Anniversary of the Buhler Mennonite Church 1920-1995, records the following:
“After many hours of thoughtful prayer and several committee meetings, the Buhler Mennonite Church, as it was formally named, began its own journey on December 27, 1920, with 156 charter members. It was also in this year the church became a member of the General Conference and of the Western District Conference (7).”
BMC grew steadily and presently (almost 100 years later) has about the same membership as it did when it celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1946. It enjoys a vibrant worship setting and is committed to Christian service across the street and around the world. In 2000, Hebron Mennonite Church (Buhler, KS) merged with BMC.
(Where was your congregation located when it began (meeting places and buildings): “It was in the year 1900, and perhaps several years before, when people in and around Buhler drove to Hoffnungsau for their church gatherings. Due to the horse and buggy way of travel, it was rather difficult for all to travel to Hoffnungsau every Sunday to attend church. A movement was started by the people from the Buhler area to gather twice each month in the Union School house (northeast of Buhler) and the Lakeside [school house] (southeast of Buhler) for church and Sunday school meeting.” (Buhler Mennonite Church Yearbook – 25th Anniversary)
“Many Hoffnungsau members living in the Buhler area longed for a local church where they could worship. Consequently, in early 1913, Hoffnungsau agreed to build a small church in Buhler.” (A Year of Jubilee, p. 3)
This building was named Buhler Hoffnungsau Church and was located on the same plot where the current building is located.
This building was dismantled in 1927 to make room for the construction of a new “Colonial style” with roughly “4.5 times the floor area than the former church building.” The new white wood-frame building was completed in the fall of 1927 with dedication ceremonies taking place on November 20, 1927. This building hosts the worshiping body of BMC. A brick three-level education wing was added in 1955. The basement was renovated in 1979 and the sanctuary in 1980.
(How and why did your congregation begin?) “The reasons given to the Hoffnungsau church by the [re-organization] committee were: the actual vote by the Buhler group [for re-organization 29 “Yes” and 4 “No”], the need for a closer fellowship, the unity already developed in the Buhler group, location and distance, etc. It was made clear that this move was to be made in a high spiritual relationship. The congregation has always been grateful for the support and assistance given by the Hoffnungsau congregation during the first seven years… They [Hoffnungsau] willingly helped during the entire transition. They graciously supported it in every way to achieve separation in the most friendly and amicable way (Jubilee 6).”
The congregation’s first pastor was Rev.P.R. Voth.
(What is unique about your congregation now?) For its mutual aid and Christian service.
Eden Mennonite Church (Moundridge, KS)
This congregation was organized in February 1893. The group built a church building 4 miles west, 1/2 mile north of Moundridge on the west side of the road. This group of people were all a part of the Hoffnungsfeld congregation that immigrated from Russia in 1874 (often referred to as the Stucki Gemeinde whose leader was Elder Jacob Stucky). In the years between arrival in America and the time of separation, the group divided between those who wanted to remain conservative in their beliefs and those who were more progressive in their thinking; a division of only educating the children through 8th grade or sending them to high school and even on to college. Some other factors such as the death of Elder Stucky also added to the disagreements within the group which ended up in the development of two congregations. Elder Peter M. Krehbiel and Peter Stucky were the first pastors. We began as a historically strong peace church and that resulted in our non-violence response to war. We continue to be a peace church but it has evolved to include the way we interact with one another. We have a very vibrant and involved “young families” presence and a deep sense of love and care for all generations.
Faith Mennonite Church (Newton, KS)
Faith Mennonite Church began in 1956 (charted in 1958). It began in the Sister Frieda chapel and moved to its current location in 1962. We are often asked was this a church split. No it was not. It began in 1956 when First Mennonite Church decided to explore the idea of starting a daughter General Conference Church in Western District. At the same time Bethel College church was also thinking along the same line. Some of this was from a need that both churches were full and there were a significant number of people driving out of town to churches in the area. The two churches approached WDC and this lead to WDC having a meeting of 23 area churches. That group then asked WDC field secretary W.F. Unruh to plan for and start another GC church in Newton. After much planning and discussion Faith Church started meeting in 1957 and was chartered in 1958 with 104 people signing the Charter. On October 10, 1957, Rev. Howard Nyce accepted the call as the first Pastor, starting in April 1958. (Rev. Nyce’s daughter Jane Voth is currently an active member of Faith Church.) Our most unique feature is the architecture of our building – the sanctuary is in the shape of a diamond and the roof is a “hyperbolic parabolid.” We also have an amphitheater that is lovingly known as “the Pit.” Though the Pit has been ‘dormant’ for a few years, Popcorn in the Pit happens on the second Saturday of the month. This unique building is home to a congregation that has a strong commitment to service and to peace issues. We also enjoy singing and eating together.
First Mennonite Church (Beatrice, NE)
It was organized in 1877 following the arrival of Mennonites from Prussia in 1876. The congregation met at the Gage County Courthouse in Beatrice for about 2 years until they built their own building. They built on the current location of the First Mennonite Church in 1879, three miles west of town. The congregation named itself “The Mennonite Church of Beatrice”. In the following years since the congregation was so spread out, there were three meeting places: one in town, the main church, and one west of the main church, near the town of Plymouth. They would alternate between meeting at the main building and the more local buildings. It began after the influx of Mennonites to the area. Most of the people who came were from the church in Heubuden and the Elbing-Ellerwald church. The leaders who came from Prussia began organizing the church shortly after the emigration. Elder Gerhard Penner Sr. was the first pastor. Historically it is still very much known for the Mennonite Deaconess Hospital which today is the Beatrice Community Hospital. Our church is known for being willing to serve through almost yearly MDS projects around the country; for hosting its own MCC Mini-Auction annually; for work in the community with Mother to Mother; for being friendly and inviting and caring to the congregation itself. Generous, loving, service, are words I would use.
First Mennonite Church (Halstead, KS)
It was on Easter morning, March 28, 1875 that he Mennonites of the Halstead area met in the Detweiler Hotel for a worship service, and Valentine Krehbiel was installed as the first minister of this congregation.
Charter members had come from several places. Some had come from the Palatinate area, and had originally settled in Ohio and the Summerfield, Illinois community before moving to the Halstead area. Others came from South Russia and had been persuaded to migrate to Kansas by Bernhard Warkentine, who built a home on the banks of the Little Arkansas River, in Halstead.
Christian Krehbiel also was instrumental in bringing settlers to the Halstead area. It was he who preached the first sermon for the group on January 11, 1874.
At first, the Mennonite church consisted of two groups – the “north” group and the “south” group. When it became too difficult for the two groups to meet together for worship, because of transportation problems, the original group was dissolved and the “south” group became First Mennonite of Halstead, and the “north” – First Christian of Moundridge.
It soon became apparent that meeting in the Hotel was unsatisfactory, so a combination church and German school was built in 1878. Added membership made even this building inadequate and a larger building was erected and completed just in time for its dedication on Easter Day, 1885 – just ten years to the day after the church was organized. This building is still the basic structure today, with several renovations (caused largely by fires to the interior) and the addition of a brick education wing, completed in 1964.
Several things distinguish the Halstead Church in the annals of Western District Conference history. On May 5, 1883, David Goerz (minister from 1878-1897) and Bernhard Warkentine helped form the Halstead College Association, a seminary, was later moved to an area north of Newton, Kansas, and became Bethel College. Rev. Goerz also helped in the formation of the Bethel Deaconess Hospital and Home, and the Mennonite Mutual Aid Society.
The women of the congregation also were involved in new beginnings. Mrs. Bernhard Warkentine was the first president of the Senior Mission Society, the first such organization in the Western District Conference.
Our mission statement says, “We of First Mennonite Church, valuing the convictions of our faith, endeavor to: engage our members in ministry, expand community outreach, and embrace new people in the love of Christ”. We are a visible presence in the Halstead area, participating in many community events, co-sponsoring DVBS, organizing the ‘kids club’ for children in the area, doing service projects, etc. Every fall, the church puts on a fund-raising “Mission Supper”, the proceeds which help in other mission-supporting efforts. Members participating in service projects, both locally and around the country, are aided by funds earned at our annual “Verenike Supper”, held annually in February. These activities, with members of all ages participating, help unify our congregation, and help perpetuate our purpose, which is to be “the church across the street and around the world”.
Grace Hill Mennonite Church (Whitewater, KS)
Grace Hill dates its founding in 1811. In 1875 the congregation was incorporated under the name Gnadenberg Mennonite Church. The Grace Hill group migrated from Michalin (Polish-Russia) in 1874, arrived in Peabody, Kansas and settled in Pleasant Township where the church is now located. Church services were first held in the school building of District 38, a half-mile east of the present church. The first church was built in 1880 and dedicated on April 23, 1882. The name of the church was changed from Gnadenberg to Grace Hill on October 5, 1953. Lay ministers 1875-1900: Johann Schroeder, Andreas Harms, Heinrich Nickel, Jacob Toews. 1901-1941: G.N. Harms.
Hanston Mennonite Church (Hanston, KS)
This congregation began to worship together in 1885, the first building was dedicated in 1888. The first building was erected on land donated by Johann Ewy and stood very near to where the current church building in located. It was destroyed by a tornado in May 1900 and a second building was constructed with salvaged lumber. The current building was dedicated in 1924. The first Mennonite families moved from Galicia into the Hanston area in 1881-1885. When they began to worship together in 1885, they took the name Einsiedel, honoring their Galician origins. The first pastor was Johann P. Müller (Miller). Hanston Mennonite Church has never been a large congregation but its members have always been tenaciously committed to Christ and the church. In the Hanston community it is known as “The Friendly Church on the Hill” because the building is visible from town. Though few in number, the current members care deeply about the people of the Hanston community and eagerly participate in a variety of ministries in cooperation with other congregations in the area.
Hoffnungsau Mennonite Church (Inman, KS)
This congregation began in 1875. The first meetings were held at the Immigrant House, approximately 3 miles northwest from the current church building. Hoffnungsau was started by immigrants from the Molotschna Colony in Russia. They arrived in 1874 and desired to continue to church life they had known in “the old country”. The first Elder was Dietrich Gaeddert. Our mission statement (created in 1999) is: “We are determined to be people of God’s mission, through worship, fellowship and service.” The worship is guided by the teachings of Jesus, Anabaptist values and a commitment to peace. We fellowship by gathering for communion, monthly agape meals, weddings, funerals and other occasions. Special service projects include the “bag factory” (preparing school bags for MCC), the annual Mission Supper in October, the MCC Relief Sale.
Hope Mennonite Church (Wichita, KS)
This congregation began in 1985. The church began with small groups. The first meeting place was McCollom Elementary School. The second meeting place was in the basement of a medical building. The current church building was dedicated in 1989. Hope began as a Western District Conference church plant. The first pastor was Marvin Zehr. Hope Mennonite Church is a Christ-centered congregation that places strong emphasis on worship, service, believer’s baptism and Christian education. Worship is our cornerstone and we have active lay leadership who pay careful attention to its planning. Visual arts, music and participation from people of all ages are important to us. Visual arts in worship is important at Hope. That has included paintings, drawings, needle arts, cut paper, mobiles, banners and mosaics. Hopeful Blues performs across Western District. In 2016, the group released a CD to raise money for Camp Mennoscah. We put special emphasis on mentoring our youth in discipleship. We are blessed with strong youth ministry leaders and our middle school and high school groups are active in service projects and Bible studies. Once a year, our high school youth plans and conducts a worship service. Throughout the year, both high school and middle school youth participate in worship in readings, scripture dramas, prayers and music. Our high school students attend an MCUSA convention, two service experiences and a spiritual adventure trip during their high school years. Our high school students and sponsors area creative at raising money for service trips and convention. They’ve converted our church into a coffeehouse, provided dinner and entertainment, and made and sold bierocks. One of our favorite fundraisers is Flocking, where flocks of plastic flamingos show up in members’ yards. We can pay to forward the flock to someone or buy flamingo insurance to keep the flocks out of our yards. We bring Christ’s love and peace to our world through giving projects. We set aside at least 15% of our tithes and offerings to support MCC, Western District, Mennonite colleges and universities, and local programs that serve people in need. Hope’s annual craft bazaar raises money for missions and for the last 25+ years, hundreds of visitors have come to buy peppernuts and bierocks. We bring Christ’s love and peace through service projects. Among our many activities: For more than 20 years, Hope has provided school supplies for homeless children living in St. Anthony Family Shelter. For more than a decade, Hope has provided lunches to needy community members on the first Saturday of each month through St. John’s Episcopal Church’s Sandwich Saturday program. We recently joined Family Promise, a local program that works intensively with homeless families to help get them on their feet again. For four weeks a year, we host homeless families who live in our church while they receive services.
Iglesia Cristiana Comunidad De Vida (San Antonio, TX)
La congregacion actividades en 07 04 2001. 1443 S. San Mary’s St.San Antonio, TX 78210. Siempre se ha reunido en diferentes salones del mismo edificio. La iglesia de San Antonio Mennonite Church(SAMC), tenia doble afiliacion con SCC y WDC y Duane Beachey-pastor- participaba en el Comite Ejecutivo de SCC. En una reunion donde se visionaba sobre lugares para futuras plantaciones, Duane hizo la siguiente pregunta: Por que San Antonio, no esta siendo consideranda como lugar para plantar una nueva iglesia, mientras estan planeando hacerlo en otros tres lugares?. Como respuesta a la pregunta, Conrado /Esther Hinojosa (Ministro de Conferencia del SCC) y Lupe Aguilar, visitaron a San Antonio en 06 2000, para explorar posibilidades y dialogar con lideres de SAMC sobre ese proyecto. En la primera reunion participaron: Duane/Gloria Beachey, Elaine Miller y Stacy Blatz, miembros del liderazgo de SAMC. Despues de varias reuniones juntos donde visionaron e hicieron un plan, invitaron a Marco Guete ( Ministro Asociado para TX), para apoyar el proyecto. Pastor: Blanca R. Vargas, Copastor: Victor S. Vargas. Servicio a la Comundad, amor, ayuda mutua. Es una iglesia de RESTAURACION.
The congregation’s activities started on 7/4/2001 at 1443 St. Mary’s, San Antonio TX 78210. We have gathered in different halls of the samebuilding. San Antonio Mennonite Church (SAMC) has had double affiliation with SCC (South Central Conference) and WDC and Pastor Duane Beachey participated in the SCC Executive Committee. At a meeting where he looked over places for future church plants, Duane asked this question: “Why San Antonio is not considered a place where a new church could be planted, when plans are under way to do it in three other places? In response to the question, Conrado and Esther Hinojosa, SCC Conference Minister, and Lupe Aguilar, visited San Antonio in June 2000 to explore possibilities and to dialogue with SAMC leaders about this project. The first meeting was attended by Duane and Gloria Beachey, Elaine Miller and Stacy Blatz, members of the SAMC leadership. After several meetings where they envisioned and made a plan, they invited Marco Guete, Associate Minister for Texas, to support the project. First Pastor: Blanca R. Vargas and Co-Pastor: Victor S. Vargas. Church is known for service to the community, love and mutual help. This is a church for RESTORATION.
Iglesia Menonita Casa Betania (Newton, KS)
Iglesia Menonita Casa Betania tuvo su primer servicio de adoración el 30 de Marzo del 2008. 510 SE 2nd St Newton KS 67114. Es la casa pastoral de Iglesia First Mennonite Church, nadie la habita, actualmente se usa para estudios bíblicos los miércoles de 7:00 a 8:00 pm y el Instituto Biblico IBA los Viernes y Sabados por la tarde. Rosa Flores por años busco alguien que iniciara una Iglesia Menonita Hispana, desde mediados de 1990 que se mudaron de Guatemala con su familia, Rosa añoraba unirse a un grupo hispano para adorar a Dios en su primer idioma el Español. Rosa visito todas las Iglesias Hispanas en Newton, pero no pudo conectar con ninguna de ellas, pues ella ha sido menonita por mas de 30 años. Rosa Flores y Norma Stoltfuz lideraron los primeros dos meses y medio. Jaime Cazares Jr. fue llamado a continuar el pastorado de la Iglesia a partir del 15 de Junio del 2008. En Iglesia Casa Betania nuestra prioridad es la comunión con Dios, esto implica una genuina adoración, oración, conocimiento de la Biblia para ponerla en práctica y el discipulado. Contamos con Instituto Bíblico IBA con el fin de preparar lideres para que a su vez ellos puedan cumplir con la gran comisión Mateo 28:19-20. Se hace presencia en los lugares y actividades donde se reúne la comunidad hispana, invitamos a nuestras celebraciones a amistades y conocidos para que nos visiten y nos conozcan, con el fin de alcanzarlos para Cristo. Nuestro propósito es la salvación de las almas y la transformación de vidas.
Iglesia Menonita Casa Betania held their first worship service on March 30, 2008. It was located at 510 SE 2nd St Newton KS 67114. This was the pastoral home of First Mennonite Church. No one inhabits it. Today the house is used for Bible studies on Wednesdays, 7:00 to 8.00 pm, and for the IBA Anabaptist Bible Institute on Fridays and Saturdays afternoons. For years, Rosa Flores had been looking for somebody to start a Hispanic Mennonite Church. When by mid-1990 they moved from Guatemala with her family, Rosa longed for the possibility to join a Spanish speaking group to worship God. Spanish is her mother tongue. Rosa visited every Hispanic Church in the area of Newton, but she could not connect with any of them, as she had been a Mennonite for more than 30 years. The first pastors – Rosa Flores and Norma Stoltfuz led the church group for the first two and a half months. Jaime Cazares Jr was called to start the pastoral leadership starting on June 15, 2008. At Casa Betania Church, our priority is communion with God. This implies genuine worship, prayer, Bible knowledge to put it into practice, and discipleship. We have IBA, the Anabaptist Bible Institute in order to prepare leaders so that they in turn can fulfill the great commission: Matthew 28: 19-20. The church is present in places and activities where the Hispanic community meets, we invite our friends and acquaintances to our celebrations so that they visit us and get to know us, in order to reach them for Christ. Our purpose is the salvation of souls and the transformation of lives.
Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church (Wichita, Kansas)
In 1887, it came to the attention of the Western District conference that there were a few Mennonites who had moved to Wichita. When initial contact was made, it was discovered that they had mostly joined other denominations. In 1911, The Committee for Itinerant Preaching viewed Wichita as an urban mission, and further attempts at starting a congregation started, but again failed. By 1926, the population of Wichita had reached 110,000 and another attempt was made, Wichita being considered a home mission project. There was growing interest, and groups of Mennonites worshiping together, but Arnold Funk who served the group, was disappointed by the small numbers, and the many Mennonites who still joined other congregations. It was not until June of 1932 that a group of Wichita Mennonites took it upon themselves to form a church. The first pastor was Dr. C.E. Krehbiel. The first building was a combination church/parsonage which was built just west of the present site (but no longer standing). By 1946 the membership had topped two hundred, and on October 6 of that year the cornerstone was laid for the present church building at 655 S. Lorraine, on the northwest corner of Lorraine and Gilbert. Today we are a congregation of approximately 390 members, with an average weekly attendance of around 150. As a Mennonite church, we value and celebrate the faith traditions of our spiritual forebears, who placed allegiance to Jesus Christ above all else. As an urban church, we are actively involved in the world around us. Our mission statement reads: We are called to be followers of Christ seeking God’s will through the Holy Spirit sharing the good news of love, peace, healing, and hope through worship, fellowship and service in our community, our city, and beyond. And indeed, mission is of utmost importance to our congregation. New projects include providing a house on the church property for the use of Family Promise. The organization helps newly homeless families with a “home base” for job searching, where a permanent telephone number and a computer are important; a place for children to be picked up for school is provided; and volunteers help the participants with their needs. Another church building has recently been set aside for the International Rescue Committee to house recent immigrants in emergency situations, due to their serious health needs. Under our mission board home supplies are furnished to these and other new immigrants. These are the newest examples of outreach, but there are many other established programs of mission and outreach. We value and welcome all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, social status, education ability or any other factor subject to discrimination and exclusion in our world.
Manhattan Mennonite Church (Manhattan, KS)
The congregation was formally organized as Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship in June 1978. The name was changed to Manhattan Mennonite Church in 1993. Met in members’ homes through the summer, then rented space from Ecumenical Campus Ministries starting in August 1978. Our current building was purchased from a Nazarene congregation in 1991. The primary reason that Mennonites began to come to Manhattan was to pursue an advanced education. We know there were Mennonite students at Kansas State University at least by the 1920’s. In the 1950’s we know that some Mennonite students regularly met together for Bible study and other activities and called the group “Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship”. The strength and vitality of this loosely organized group varied over the years, but it never disappeared. In 1977, Rosie Epp was placed in Manhattan by the WDC Home Missions Committee as a half-time church planter for six months. Under her leadership, community residents with Mennonite leanings joined with students for Bible Study and fellowship on Sunday evenings. Christian Education classes for children also began. The idea of planting a church germinated. When the congregation formed, members came from Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church backgrounds. So the church joined all three of these bodies. We continued to be part of South Central Conference and the Southern District Conference of Mennonite Brethren until consolidating our membership into a single affiliation with WDC in 2008. The first pastor was Mike Klassen (1978-83). Manhattan Mennonite Church continues to be a church home for K-State students and employees from a variety of Anabaptist backgrounds. Since Ft. Riley is also nearby, we are also known as a Christian peace witness in a community with a strong military presence. At our annual German Mennonite Meal we serve around 500 guests each year, and offer Ten Thousand Villages items for sale.
New Creation Fellowship Church (Newton, KS)
This congregation began in February 1973. NCFC first met in a house at 500 West 11th St in Newton. A group of seven adults decided to start a church after a trip to a conference at Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston, Illinois, that brought together people interested in intentional Christian community. There were two elders: Jake Pauls and Steve Schmidt. NCFC began as an intentional community, with members sharing in a common treasury. That arrangement ended at the end of 1985, but the congregation has continued to emphasize the importance of honest relationships and accountability, much of that through small groups. NCFC also began a preschool in 1996 that is still operating.
Peace Mennonite Church (Lawrence, KS)
This congregation began approximately 1973. Originally PMC was a house church which met a member’s homes. By 1980, PMC began renting space at the Ecumenical Ministries Building near the University of Kansas campus. A number of former Bethel College students were either attending or teaching at the University of Kansas. As one of these individuals, John Janzen and a number of the students organized to form a house church centered around religious discussion. Although the majority of the congregation has historical Mennonite roots, a significant portion does not and have joined Peace Mennonite in response to the church’s commitment to Peace and Justice. Also we are known for our support for the inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the church community.
Rainbow Mennonite Church (Kansas City, KS)
This congregation was chartered on November 24, 1957. The Kansas City Mennonite Church (now called Rainbow Mennonite) first met at 3950 Rainbow Boulevard, KCK. Now the church meets at 1444 Southwest Boulevard, KCK. Prior to 1957, there were 1-W folks living in Kansas City, near KU Medical Center. That’s when discussions began around establishing a Mennonite fellowship in Kansas City. A steering committee was formed and soon after in 1956, with the assistance of Western District Conference Home Missions Committee, a building was purchased at 40th and Rainbow. The Mennonite congregation met there for Sunday morning worship until 1969, at which point the congregation moved to their current location. The former church building on Rainbow Boulevard, which came to be known as Common Ground, was eventually sold but before that, and for many years, it provided a facility for young adult ministries, an alternative school, a Gift and Thrift, a hospitality room, and lodging. Stan Bohn installed August 17, 1957.
Rainbow Mennonite has gone through three name changes: In 1957, the church was named Kansas City Mennonite Church. In 1964, Grace Mennonite Church from Mission, Kansas merged with the Kansas City Mennonite Church to become one of the first dual-conference membership churches (Kansas City Mennonite being from what was the General Conference and Grace being from Mennonite Church Conference). The name adopted by the merged congregation was Rainbow Boulevard Mennonite Church, named after Rainbow Boulevard. Years later, when Rainbow moved to its current location on Southwest Boulevard, the congregation dropped “Boulevard” from its name, and became “Rainbow Mennonite Church.”
History of ecumenical cooperation and community impact: Throughout the 60s and 70s Rainbow Mennonite congregation, together with a Methodist and Disciples of Christ congregation, worked together in cooperative community ministry and eventually formed a 501 (c)(3) together called The Sharing Community in Rosedale, Inc. This non-profit organization, while currently independent of Rainbow and the other churches, continues to partner with Rainbow to host an educational enrichment program for 100 area K-8th graders each summer. Many Rainbow members serve on that board. Rainbow has also been a Mennonite Voluntary Service site for 40 plus years.
History of inclusion: As early as 1979 the Rainbow Mennonite Council agreed that the congregation would accept as members all persons professing faith in Jesus Christ “regardless of sexual orientation.” This decision was reached after several sermons had been presented by the pastor dealing with biblical material and other issues related to sexuality and the Christian faith. In April 2014, Rainbow submitted a resolution to Western District Conference to protect WDC pastors who officiate at same-sex weddings. This resolution, which came to be known as the Rainbow Resolution was eventually passed by WDC delegates in October 2015. It read as follows:…be it resolved that the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA, out of respect for the responsibility and commitment “to seek to understand and interpret Scripture in harmony with Jesus Christ as we are led by the Holy Spirit in the church,” upholds the right of individual congregation to discern how homosexuality will be subject to Biblical interpretation, and Be it further resolved that pastors, with the affirmation of their congregations, consistent with Mennonite polity, and without fear of censure, may officiate or refuse to officiate ceremonies that consecrate before God, monogamous, life-long unions, regardless of the sexual orientation of those being united.
Music: In November, 2008, an 1869 E. & G.G. Hook mechanical action pipe organ built for a church in Troy, NY was installed in the Rainbow Mennonite Church sanctuary.
Green spaces: Rainbow Mennonite owns Whitmore Playground, a property directly across the street from the church building. In 1977 this playground was transformed into a neighborhood park, replete with play equipment for different age groups, basketball courts, and two small fields. The playground has become a year around recreational resource for lower Rosedale. Whitmore Playground was the start of many other neighborhood improvements and a joyful reminder that a community can help create its own future. Beyond the playground, Rainbow Mennonite also maintains a Remembrance Garden, Rainbow Community Garden and the Rainbow Orchard.
Salina Mennonite Church (Salina, KS)
A small group of people began meeting regularly for worship on Sunday evenings in March of 1979. Sunday morning services began in March of 1980. This group met in the home of Mark and Sherry Krehbiel in Salina. We worshipped in 3 other locations before purchasing our current building on State Street. Three couples with ties to the Eden Mennonite Church, Moundridge, KS, who lived and worked in Salina wanted to establish a Mennonite Church in Salina. First pastor was Eldon Epp. We have about an equal number of people who have attended a Mennonite church from birth and who began attending a Mennonite church as an adult.
Trinity Mennonite Church (Hillsboro, KS)
This congregation began in 1966. 50 years ago, we built a brand new building on the west edge of town, because a reservoir was being built that would “drown” one congregation’s building (Bruderthal), and another congregation (Johannestal) offered to join them. To do so meant to build a new building. They chose to leave the country and build near town. The first pastor was Victor Sawatzky. We are 2 blocks from the community swimming pool, so during the summer we cook meals for children at risk of hunger and give them a pool pass each day. We serve up to 75 children a day during the summer. The congregation is made up of 50-90 year olds. We have no children or youth… but we decided to build a playground on our campus due to all the children in the neighborhood. It is used every day by the neighborhood. So we feel that we have a children’s ministry.
Turpin Mennonite Church (Turpin, OK)
This congregation began in June 1907. They first met in the homes of church members, and then a dug out school one mile north of the Mennonite Cemetery in rural Beaver County. A white frame church building was erected on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. George Epp, 1/4 mile west of the current church building. The church building was consecrated on January 17, 1909. At the time it was called the Friedensfield Mennonite Church and its address was Lorena, an early town 6 miles west of the church. It was 4 miles north and 4 miles east of the present town of Turpin. The second church building was a Methodist Church building bought and moved to the present church site in 1940 on land donated by John Dirks. The church was dedicated on October 6, 1940. A parsonage was built beside the church building in 1948. The third and last building was a new building designed and built by church members on the present site in 1966 and dedicated on April 16, 1967. At that time it was given its present name, Turpin Mennonite Church. Mennonite families from South Central Kansas began homesteading in Beaver County, OK in 1903, glad for the free land, freedom of speech and worship. More arrived in the years following 1903 from such Kansas communities as Buhler, Inman, and McPherson. They were from various Mennonite groups, Krimmer Brethren, Mennonite Brethren, General Conference Mennonite, Peter’s Church. Due to their common German Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage, they united first to hold Sunday school every Sunday, and then later they alternated between a sermon read one Sunday and Sunday school the next. Then the traveling preacher committee of Western District Conference started to visit the group and they began to think about organizing as a church. They developed a constitution with the help of traveling minister H. R. Voth, and organized as a church on June 30, 1907 with the help of H. R. Voth. The first pastor was Reverend Jacob Dirks. Turpin Mennonite Church is known for its service-oriented mindset as we seek to help those in our church and in our community when they are in need. One unique thing about Turpin Mennonite Church is its “Bike to Church” Sunday in the Spring. This is a fundraiser for MCC that started as a call from an MCC Director to have a Bike to Church Sunday to raise donations for MCC’s Global Education Fund. Since we are a rural church and didn’t have very many bicycles, we invited people to come to church on our Bike to Church Sunday with a form of transportation that they don’t usually come to church in. So some people do ride bicycles, some walk, some ride motorcycles, occasionally some ride horses, some come on tractors, combines, sprayers, some in antique cars and trucks, and quite a few come on 4 wheelers. Each year we choose a country and a project to raise funds for and then ask people to donate for those project on that Sunday. We have a lot of fun watching how people come to church each year and then we worship and follow that up with a noon meal.
Zion Mennonite Church (Elbing, KS)
Congregation began in 1883. The initial building was located 1/2 mile east and 1 mile north of its present site in Elbing (near our present cemetery); a new building within the town of Elbing was constructed in 1924, which itself was replaced in 1963. Founding members had been part of the Emmaus congregation, but they found the commute to be lengthy when that church’s building was constructed toward the southern part of the region, and received release to separate and form their own congregation. The relationship with Emmaus has been cordial. Unlike many of the 1870 Mennonite immigrants in Kansas, Zion’s initial members migrated directly from Prussia (never having sojourned in Russia). First pastor was Peter Dyck. Diverse ages and perspectives, with significant involvement in agriculture. Zion maintains a strong peace and justice perspective in the region, choosing to support (most) conference and denominational initiatives and related institutions. A large percentage of members have mission or service experience.