Pleasant Grove Mennonite Church had its beginning in 1885, started as a missions outreach of the Northern District churches of the Virginia Mennonite Conference. Today the building is still usable, but no congregation meets there, except for the occasional special service. At the time of this photo, 2015, the pews were still in place inside, with hymnbooks, and a pulpit up front. One hundred and thirty years after it started, the church is closed, begging for research and study on the factors that led to its decline.
Pennsylvania 2015 brought together over 7000 Anabaptists from around the world, representing some 80 countries. Worship was inspiring and the speakers spoke of their lives in the global south. The Brethren Choral Sounds Choir from Zimbabwe (pictured) thrilled the audience with their lively and energetic music. Nearly five centuries later, from their early 16h century origins in Switzerland, Mennonites are now a global people speaking many different languages, but testifying to a common faith in God.
A middle level adjudicatory body met at the Big Spring Mennonite Church, March 9, 2015. The Northern District Council, consisting of around 25 representatives from about a dozen churches in the Virginia Mennonite Conference, welcomed a new congregation, heard overseers reports, and listened to a mission worker present new ideas for church growth.
The Historian found a Mennonite meetinghouse on Mutton Hollow Road, Greene County, Virginia, on a recent forray off the Skyline Drive. Established as a mission station by the Middle District of the Virginia Mennonite Conference in the early 20th century, the church today, Mt. Hermon Mennonite, is a part of the Southeastern Mennonite Conference.
During a family walk through the historic campus of Hesston College, established in 1909 on the plains of Kansas, a former high school history student was sitting on the lawn making a call home to Virginia. Hesston College continues to serve the Mennonite Church as an institution of higher learning in an outstanding manner. The historian was pleased to make another visit to the two-year college.
An Eastern Mennonite High School exchange student from Paraguay read Psalm 23 in German from Simon L. Yoder’s German-English Bible, March, 2014. Beachy Amish Minister Simon L. Yoder, the Historian’s grandfather, lived 1902-1993, and the German Bible was given to Simon’s grandson. The student was enrolled in the Historian’s Global Christianity class.
In 2001, the good folks at Crest Hill Mennonite Church, Wardensville, West Virginia, invited a group of gospel bluegrass musicians to their church for an outdoor summer performance. The church invited Daphna Creek band in 2002 and 2003, the last performance during Sunday morning worship. Daphna Creek went on to play in over 200 venues, but the first show was at this church in West Virginia.
Historians met at Mennonite Church USA Convention in Phoenix Arizona. It’s clear there’s a new era of regional collaboration among Mennonite historians rather than the former centralization of historical resources in one place. The Historian sat next to Jake Buhler, President of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan, Canada. He shared stories about Russian Mennonites and in turn he heard stories of Swiss-South German Mennonites in Virginia. Buhler and others publish the Saskatchewan Mennonite Historian periodical, similar in name and format to the Shenandoah Mennonite Historian of Virginia.
Mennonites met in Phoenix, Arizona, in early July, 2013, for their biennial convention. A sign at a Vietnamese restaurant welcomed visitors from Virginia and beyond to good food, friendly greetings, and sweltering heat in the downtown area. The Historian has several meetings focused on historical studies to attend at the convention.