Congregation History Stories

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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