The Heilbronn (Germany) Mennonite Church, organized in 1890, is a member of the Verband badisch-württembergisch-bayrischer Mennoniten gemeinden. With a membership in (1953 of 122 and 35 children it was the largest congregation in the Verband. Elders in 1954 were J. Musselmann (1937), Walter Landes (1943), Friedrich Schneider (1948). The congregation long met (after 1914 exclusively) in a rented hall in Heilbronn, but after 1948 had its own meetinghouse in the form of a Swedish Red Cross barracks-church which was imported by the Mennonite Central Committee and used as headquarters for the committee's relief program conducted here 1947-1952. Heilbronn was the spiritual center for the Verband for many years and was the most common meeting place for the meeting of its quarterly elders' and ministers' conferences. In 1918-1940 meetings of the South German Conference were held frequently here also. In December 1944 it was severely bombed, being 80 per cent destroyed. However, most of the members being farmers, only one member lost his life in the catastrophe.
The congregation now called Heilbronn has, however, a much older history than its founding date of 1890 would indicate. It is actually the modern center of the easternmost end of the extensive eastern Palatinate Swiss Mennonite settlement, which, beginning around Mannheim and Heidelberg as early as 1664, had spread across the 20-30 miles (33-50 km) to Wimpfen and Mosbach by 1731, with centers at Zuzenhausen, Sinsheim, and Hasselbach. The eastward movement apparently did not cross the Neckar until about 1770. The Dutch [[Naamlijst der tegenwoordig in dienst zijnde predikanten der Mennoniten in de Vereenigde Nederlanden|Naamlijst]] of 1769 lists "the other side of the Neckar" with Eibingen as the name of the location (congregation) with Hans Kauffman and Abraham Krehbiel as preachers. By 1780 the Naamlijst calls the congregation "Roschingen," with David Musselmann as preacher. From 1786 on to 1810 the congregation is called "Willenbach, Prutzenhof, Durrhof, and Roschingen," with an Abraham Zeisset listed as elder in 1784 (elder since 1749) and a second Abraham Zeisset elder from 1790 on. A. Huntzinger's Religions-, Kirchen- und Schulwesen der Mennoniten (Speyer, 1830), with a statistical table of all Mennonite locations in Baden, omits all four of the above names in the Willenbach congregation, and reports Lobenbacherhof (near Willenbach) with 3 families and 21 souls; J. Mannhardt's Namens-Verzeichnis of 1857 reports a Lobenbach congregation with 40 baptized members, lacking an elder but with a Christian Funk of Kochendorf preacher (ordained 1848), and adds that the services were held alternately in the homes of two members (Deacon Daniel Neukem lived at Lobenbach). H. Mannhardt's Jahrbuch of 1888 calls the congregation Lautenbach-Lobenbach with 52 baptized members and 21 children, and lists Christian Funk of Kochendorf as still preacher, with also Heinrich Fellmann of Lobenbach (1885) and Heinrich Landes (d. 1918, elder in 1885) of Lautenbach, services being held on alternate Sundays at the two large estates of Lautenbach and Lobenbach. Christian Hege of Breitenau became elder in 1890. The congregation is called simply Lobenbach at the first (1898) listing of congregations in the Gemeinde-Kalender. By 1904 it is called Lobenbach-Heilbronn, by 1915 Heilbronn alone. The high point of membership before World War II was reached in 1914 with 166 souls. Philipp Hege was a prominent elder in the Heilbronn congregation 1904-1923. The Stuttgart congregation was formed out of Heilbronn in 1933. A prominent lay member in the 1920-1945 period was Gustav Lichdi, founder of the large Lichdi grocery chain store system, carried on by his son Kurt, later a preacher in the congregation.
The change in name of the congregation over a period of a century is explained by the fact that most of the members were renters of large estates, which were somewhat scattered and occasionally changed leases, hence they met as circumstances dictated in conveniently located farm homes. The congregation was then named after the most commonly and frequently used homes such as Willenbach, Lobenbach, and Lautenbach, all large farms within a few miles of each other and 5-10 miles (8-16 km) northeast of Heilbronn. After 1914 the meetings were held exclusively in Heilbronn, which was a convenient railroad center. The number of Mennonites living in the city itself, and mostly engaged in trade or professions, increased as follows: 1890-5, 1905-5, 1910-22, 1925-47. However the backbone of the congregation has remained on the rented farm estates such as Lautenbach, Willenbach, Breitenau, and Liebenstein.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 275-277.
|Author(s)||Harold S Bender|
Cite This Article
Bender, Harold S. "Heilbronn Mennonite Church (Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 28 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Heilbronn_Mennonite_Church_(Heilbronn,_Baden-W%C3%BCrttemberg,_Germany)&oldid=95163.
Bender, Harold S. (1956). Heilbronn Mennonite Church (Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 March 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Heilbronn_Mennonite_Church_(Heilbronn,_Baden-W%C3%BCrttemberg,_Germany)&oldid=95163.
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