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First Mennonite Church, 1939, Paso Robles, California.
Source: Mennonite Church USA Archives - North Newton Photo Collection 2007-0054.

Paso Robles First Mennonite Church in Paso Robles, California, was originally organized in 1897 as part of the San Marcos Mennonite Church, the earliest Mennonite church in the Pacific District Conference in California. Six Mennonite families from Beatrice, Nebraska, founded the church near Paso Robles. At the same time another Mennonite settlement was established in the Estrella district with Jacob Hege as the minister. Though the two groups were located some distance apart, they decided to organize a congregation with Jacob Hege as the elder and A. J. Wiebe as his assistant. In 1898 the congregation built a new church, but since the two settlements were far apart travel was difficult. Consequently, Wiebe’s group met in the new church while Hege’s group met in an adobe church in Estrella, albeit with monthly joint meetings. The adobe church building has survived to this day. Originally the sermons were in German only, but they changed to both German and English, and over the years to English only. In 1903 the congregation disbanded, and the Estrella group organized as the First Mennonite Church of Paso Robles with Jacob Hege as the minister. The group dismantled an old Methodist Church building in Adelaida and moved it to town where they reconstructed it as their meeting house.

The San Marcos group, with F. F. Jantzen as the elder and A. J. Wiebe as the continuing minister, organized in 1904 as the San Marcos Mennonite Church. The meeting house was moved to Willow Creek in 1911, and in 1943 the name changed to Second Mennonite Church of Paso Robles. In 1954 the name of the San Marcos Church changed once again to become the Willow Creek Mennonite Church. When the original church, San Marcos Mennonite Church, was organized in 1897, it joined both the Pacific District Conference and the General Conference.

In January 1967 the Willow Creek Church burned to the ground. Though the church is gone, the Mennonite Cemetery, dating back to 1911, still serves the churches in the area. After the fire, numerous meetings were conducted, and the congregation decided not to rebuild. Representatives from Willow Creek and First Mennonite Church concluded that the two churches would unite. The merger took place with a special service in September 1967.

The Paso Robles First Mennonite Church celebrated 115 years of the Lord’s Blessings in November 2012.

The Willow Creek Church and the Paso Robles First Mennonite Church have supported foreign missions and Mennonite Central Committee relief work throughout the years. Their youth and adults have participated in the camping programs at Lake Sequoia and later at Camp Keola in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A Christian message titled "Light for the Way" is aired every Sunday morning (2013) on the local radio station. The Hopi Mission Station in Arizona is supported by the congregation with clothing donations. In 2013 the church also sponsors a Christian preschool titled Rainbow Bright. In addition to serving the children of the community, they have held church services in the local nursing home on Sundays.

A memorial marker was erected at the site of the Willow Creek Mennonite Church. The bronze plaque on the marker has been engraved with the revered scripture verse which prefaced many of the writings of Menno Simons, our 16th century Anabaptist forebear: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." -- I Corinthians 3:11.

Bibliography

Burkholder, H. D. The Story of Our Conferences and Churches. 1951.

Toevs, Robert and Phyllis Bergman. History of the Mennonites in the Paso Robles Area. 1997.

Archives

Located at Mennonite Library and Archives – North Newton, Kansas

Additional Information

Address: 2343 Park Street, Paso Robles, California 93446

Phone: 805-238-2445

Denominational Affiliations:

Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Paso Robles First Mennonite Church Leading Ministers

Minister Years of Service
Jacob Hege 1903-1907
John K. Lichti 1907-1913
Jacob Hege 1915-1920
Christian Hege 1920-1944
Orlo Kaufman 1944-1947
Ben Rahn 1947-1950
M. J. Galle 1950-1957
Alfred J. Schwartz 1957-1961
Robert D. Suderman 1961-1964
Milton H. Ewert 1964-1969
Herbert M. Dalke 1969-1977
James Voth 1977-1985
Timothy Kliewer 1986-1993
Michael Peak 1994-1999
Kenneth Pults 2000-2001
Ed Bedrosian (interim) 2001-2002
Stanley Friesen (interim) 2002-2005
Andrew Johnson (interim) 2003-2005
A. Romero 2005-present

Paso Robles First Mennonite Church Membership

Year Members
1925 46
1930 41
1935 68
1940 70
1945 67
1950 89
1955 85
1960 89
1965 95
1970 193
1975 193
1980 158
1985 161
1990 172
1995 143
2000 116
2013 40

Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia

Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 122. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.

Paso Robles First Mennonite Church was organized in 1903 by twenty-five charter members. Originally this group was a part of the San Marcos Mennonite Church which dissolved on 26 November 1903, and reorganized as the Willow Creek Mennonite Church and the First Mennonite Church of Paso Robles. The group dismantled an old building 15 miles west of Paso Robles and moved it to Paso Robles where the church was erected. Some of the members lived at Estrella, where worship services were conducted on alternate Sundays for a while. The preaching was originally in German, then in German and English, and at present it is in English only.

Jacob Hege served the congregation until 1906, when he moved to Idaho. John K. Lichti succeeded him and was ordained as elder by Michael Horsch. Hege returned to Paso Robles and served as elder 1915-1919, succeeded by his son Christian C. Hege 1919-1944. Since that time the church has been served by Arlo Kaufman, Ben Rahn, M. S. Galle, and Alfred J. Schwartz, pastor in the late 1950s; the membership at that time was 69. -- Cornelius Krahn, 1959


Author(s) Corrina Siebert Ruth
Date Published August 2013


Cite This Article

MLA style

Ruth, Corrina Siebert. "Paso Robles First Mennonite Church (Paso Robles, California, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2013. Web. 12 Jul 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Paso_Robles_First_Mennonite_Church_(Paso_Robles,_California,_USA)&oldid=102375.

APA style

Ruth, Corrina Siebert. (August 2013). Paso Robles First Mennonite Church (Paso Robles, California, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 July 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Paso_Robles_First_Mennonite_Church_(Paso_Robles,_California,_USA)&oldid=102375.




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