Bally Mennonite Church (Bally, Pennsylvania, USA)

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The Hereford (Bally) Mennonite Meetinghouse in use 1790-1899.
Photo courtesy of the Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville, Pa.
Bally Mennonite Church, Bally, PA
Source: Franconia Mennonite Conference website

The Bally Mennonite Church has had a continuous presence in eastern Berks County, Pennsylvania, for almost 300 years. Originally a part of Hereford Township, the church was formerly known as the Hereford congregation. The first Mennonite settlers arrived in the area around 1720, with a meetinghouse being erected in 1732.

The first recorded pastors were Hans Jacob Bechtel and Daniel Longenecker. Subsequent pastors, together for 30 years—Hans George Bechtel and Peter Moll—ironically died on the same day, 29 March 1759.

A larger meetinghouse was erected in 1755 and enlarged in 1790. This log structure was used continuously until 1899, when it was replaced by a plastered stone structure, which still stands (2010) and is currently used as a church-sponsored community recreational center in Bally. A new meetinghouse was constructed in 1971 and is located along Route 100 at the southern edge of Bally. A large fellowship hall was added in 2001. Sunday morning attendance has varied from 100-150 over the past several decades.

Twentieth-century pastors who led the Bally congregation for an extended period of time included Andrew Mack, Elias Kulp, Paul Longacre, James Longacre, Roy Yoder and James Ralph. The first female lead pastor, Klaudia Smucker, from Goshen, Indiana, was scheduled to begin her pastorate at Bally in August of 2010.

The Bally congregation is a member of Mennonite Church USA and Franconia Mennonite Conference. There are two Mennonite churches in the small town of Bally as a result of the Oberholtzer schism of 1847. The other congregation, which retains the designation “Hereford Mennonite,” has close ties to the Bally Mennonite Church.

The peaceful town of Bally began as a settlement of mostly Mennonites and Roman Catholics. There are local accounts of cooperation between neighbors and church from these two branches of faith. This goodwill continues as persons of other faith traditions move into the expanding community.

The Bally congregation has sought engagement with the local community. Active programs have included the Bally Community Center, which has operated since the early 1970s, a pre-school program which has met daily in the church basement, a community garden next to the meetinghouse, and periodic pancake breakfasts which have drawn many participants from the surrounding community.

The Anabaptist emphases of discipleship, community, together with peace and justice, are a vital part of the Bally Mennonite Church agenda.


Gehman, Amy and Mary Bower. History of the Hereford Mennonite congregation at Bally, Pennsylvania. Boyertown?, PA: s.n., 1936.

Wenger, J. C. History of the Mennonites of the Franconia Conference. Scottdale, Pa.: Mennonite Pub. House, 1938. Reprinted Lititz, PA?: Publication Board of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church], 1985.

Additional Information

Address: 1481 Route 100, Bally, Pennsylvania

Phone: 610-845-7780

Website: Bally Mennonite Church

Denominational Affiliations:

Mosaic Mennonite Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Bally Mennonite Church Pastors

Name Years
of Service
Hans Jacob Bechtel 1720-1739
Daniel Longenecker 1725-1728
Hans George Bechtel 1734?-1759
Peter Moll 1734?-1759
John Bechtel 1759?-1795
John Boyer 1795-1814
Abraham Bechtel 1814?-1815
Henry S. Funk 1815?-1826
John C. Bechtel 1816-1843
John Z. Gehman 1827-1882
Christian G. Clemmer 1842-1847
John B. Bechtel 1848-1889
Andrew S. Mack 1863-1917
John M. Ehst 1886-1923
John S. Kriebel 1917-1950
Elias W. Kulp 1923-1974
Paul E. Longacre 1950-1974
James C. Longacre 1966-1980
Winfield M. Ruth (Interim) 1981
Roy K. Yoder 1981-1999
David Shalaway (Youth) 1992-1999
Robert L. Petersheim (Interim) 1999-2000
James Ralph 2002-2007
Sallie L. Reed (Youth) 2002-2007
Wayne R. Speigle (Interim) 2009-2010
Klaudia Smucker 2010-2016
Duane Hershberger (Interim) 2016-present

Bally Mennonite Church membership

Year Membership
1905 46
1930 91
1940 110
1945 117
1950 105
1955 94
1960 110
1965 106
1970 112
1975 128
1980 127
1985 132
1990 158
1995 183
2000 191
2005 168
2010 160
2016 110

Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia

Vol. 2, pp. 708-709 by John C. Wenger

Bally Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church USA; earlier known as Hereford Mennonite Church), located in the village of Bally, Washington Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, is a member of the Franconia Conference. The first meetinghouse is supposed to have been built here in 1732, replaced by a larger log structure in 1755, enlarged in 1790, and used continuously until 1899 when it was razed, and succeeded by a stone structure plastered both inside and out. As in many other congregations of the Franconia Conference, English was first introduced about 1900. The Bally (Hereford) congregation was never large, seldom being much over 100 even including those who worshiped in the Boyertown meetinghouse. (The Bally and Boyertown worshipers constituted but one organized congregation historically, and were served by one set of Sunday-school officers.) Members worshiping at Bally in 1956 numbered 95, while 33 worshiped at Boyertown. Elias W. Kulp was the pastor in 1956, assisted by Paul Longacre; the deacon was Abram M. Ehst.

In the division of 1847 one of the Hereford ministers withdrew from the Franconia Conference and took a portion of the members with him into Oberholtzer's new conference. In 1851 this Hereford General Conference Mennonite congregation ceased to use the old meetinghouse on alternate Sundays as they had done since 1847, having built a new meeting house. It became much larger than the old group, reaching 202 members by 1895.


Map:Bally Mennonite Church (Bally, Pennsylvania)

Author(s) Abraham K Gehman
Date Published July 2010

Cite This Article

MLA style

Gehman, Abraham K. "Bally Mennonite Church (Bally, Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. 18 May 2022.,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=168866.

APA style

Gehman, Abraham K. (July 2010). Bally Mennonite Church (Bally, Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2022, from,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=168866.

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