The Lee Heights Community Church in Cleveland, Ohio emerged in 1956 when the Gladstone Mennonite Mission was threatened by a large urban renewal project. Vern and Helen Miller moved to the Lee-Seville area of Cleveland in September 1956 when the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities purchased a home at 4619 East 175th Street, part of a rapidly growing inter-racial middle class area. Their goal was to establish an inter-racial congregation that would also be a home for Gladstone members when that church would be forced to close. Miller's pastoral leadership at Gladstone was taken up by Gerald Hughes until that congregation closed in 1959.
The first service in the Lee-Seville community was held 8 December 1956 at the Clara Tagg Brewer School, but only two persons attended. The African-American portion of the community was skeptical about a European-American preacher starting a neighborhood church, and the European background portion of the community was largely Catholic. Nonetheless, within several months attendance grew to about 40 adults; Sunday school did not commence until local attenders could provide leadership as teachers.
Lee Heights formally organized on 29 September 1957 with 28 charter members. The congregation first called itself the Protestant Inter-Racial Parish, but later changed to Lee Heights Community Church. Lloyd Kenny was elected as the first elder.
The Mennonite Board of Missions helped to buy two lots on Lee Road while the congregation raised capital for a new building by selling bonds to members and friends of the congregation. Groundbreaking for the new building took place on 17 August 1958. The congregation first met in the building on 31 December 1958, but met in the school until February 1959. An educational wing was added in 1961, with further expansion of the facility in the 1970s.
On 2 August 1959, the Gladstone Mennonite Mission members were received into the Lee Heights church. Gerald Hughes became co-pastor and music minister at Lee Heights and remained in that role for more than 39 years, retiring in 1998. Vern L. Miller retired in 1993 after 36 years as pastor of Lee Heights Community Church.
From its beginning Lee Heights emphasized an interdenominational and community-based approach that was evangelical . Members in the congregation were not required to be members of the Mennonite Church; this eased the need to explain Mennonites in a context in which that group was largely unknown. The congregation's doctrinal statement was consistent with the Mennonite Confession of Faith, but also underscored the unity of humankind and the evil of racial bigotry.
On 17 February 1963 the congregation's Mission Committee approved a proposal to begin a new congregation at University-Euclid in Cleveland. Warner Jackson led the new congregation that first met on 8 September 1963 at the Charles Orr School. There was also an outreach in Cleveland Heights for a number of years.
Although the goal was, and continued to be, a multi-racial church, the local community largely became African-American. Buy in 2011 worship services continued to blend cultural backgrounds. Choirs included gospel, senior, men's, women's, and children's. Congregational ministries included family counseling, a hunger center, a retirement center, a day care, youth activities, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, tutoring programs, bible study programs, and prison ministry.
Bechler, LeRoy. The Black Mennonite Church in North America,1886-1986. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1986: 124-144.
Stoltzfus, Grant M. Mennonites of the Ohio and Eastern Conference; From the Colonial Period in Pennsylvania to 1968. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite history, no. 13. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1969: 317-318, 339. Available in full electronic text at.
Address: 4612 Lee Road, Cleveland, OH 44128
Website: Lee Heights Community Church
Pastoral Leaders at Lee Heights
|Name||Years of Service|
|Vern L. Miller||1956-1993|
|John C. Branham||1974-1984|
|Robin Dean Miller||1992-|
|Regina Shands Stoltzfus||1999-2001?|
Membership at Lee Heights
|Date Published||November 2011|
Cite This Article
Steiner, Sam. "Lee Heights Community Church (Cleveland, Ohio, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2011. Web. 28 Jan 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lee_Heights_Community_Church_(Cleveland,_Ohio,_USA)&oldid=95740.
Steiner, Sam. (November 2011). Lee Heights Community Church (Cleveland, Ohio, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 January 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lee_Heights_Community_Church_(Cleveland,_Ohio,_USA)&oldid=95740.
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