Akron Mennonite Church (AMC) in Akron, Pennsylvania, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009. It began in October 1959 when a group of 89 adults and children gathered in a fire hall in nearby Brownstown for a worship service with the intent to found a church that would serve the community where many of them lived and worked. The congregation began with the blessing of its mother church, Monterey Mennonite Church, now Forest Hills Mennonite Church.
About half of the founding group were not native to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They came from other parts of the United States and Canada to work with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Many had been overseas as missionaries or part of the Pax program, an alternative to military service. Others had come from Civilian Public Service camps. Monterey had been a safe haven for these outsiders, who did not fit comfortably in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference churches because of lifestyle differences, including the way they dressed.
Glenn Esh, pastor of the Monterey congregation, served as part-time pastor for AMC until Kermit Derstine was called in August 1961. The Brownstown fire hall was the congregation’s home for three-and-a-half years, until they could build a church.
Of the 89 who had gathered for that first service, 46 became charter members on 8 May 1960. The congregation was affiliated with the Ohio and Eastern Conference of the Mennonite Church until the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Later they established dual denominational membership, joining the General Conference Mennonite Church.
In 1977, a small group of members left the Akron congregation, with its blessing, to start Pilgrims Mennonite Church, also meeting in Akron, offering a loose church structure with no paid leadership. Pilgrims joined the Lancaster Mennonite Conference.
Another group of 26 members and their children left in 1985, with Akron’s blessing, to form a church in the city of Lancaster. Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster chose to affiliate with the Atlantic Coast Conference, as well as General Conference. They have experienced significant growth and in 2009 held two worship services each Sunday.
This church plant briefly relieved AMC’s space issue, but after long and controversial discussions, the congregation in 1987 began building a 500-seat sanctuary, with additional office and classroom space. The building was dedicated in 1989. This was a major step for members whose priority had been contributing money to "people causes" rather than to building.
AMC has been a diverse congregation. Peace and justice themes have been a beacon to its members. It has provided an environment that welcomes questions and resists easy answers. The AMC position on women in leadership was a positive factor in attracting new members. The strong connection to MCC offered a broad worldview and an expanded awareness of global needs. At any given time, congregational members have served with MCC or various church programs in other countries.
Beyond the MCC connection, AMC has included people from diverse walks of life in the business and professional world. Members have served on the boards of international agencies, and headed church and secular organizations. AMC members played an active role in the merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church to form Mennonite Church USA.
Akron Mennonite began with a mission to be a light in the community, and throughout these years it has continued to serve the community. Members serve in volunteer positions, are active in helping community folks in need, and support a day-care center in the educational wing. This program began in the 1960s and has expanded to an accredited preschool center with more than one hundred children enrolled.
Kaufman, Gerald W. Pilgrims on a journey : Akron Mennonite Church, 1959-2009 : a social history. Akron, Pa. : Akron Mennonite Church, 2009.
Address: 1311 Diamond Street, Akron, Pennsylvania
Website: Akron Mennonite Church
Akron Mennonite Church Pastors
|Beryl Jantzi, Youth||1982-1986|
|Dawn Yoder Harms||1997-2009|
|Jim S. Amstutz||2001-|
Akron Mennonite Church Membership
|Author(s)||Gerald W Kaufman|
|Date Published||December 2009|
Cite This Article
Kaufman, Gerald W. "Akron Mennonite Church (Akron, Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2009. Web. 16 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Akron_Mennonite_Church_(Akron,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=79178.
Kaufman, Gerald W. (December 2009). Akron Mennonite Church (Akron, Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Akron_Mennonite_Church_(Akron,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=79178.
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