Cressman, Arnold W. (1928-1998)

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Arnold & Rhoda Cressman, Family photo

Arnold W. Cressman: church leader, visionary and entrepreneur; born 11 September, 1928 to Joseph and Ida (Gingrich) Cressman on the New Hamburg, Ontario, Cressman homestead, built by his great-grandfather, Amos and grandfather, Osiah, both Mennonite ministers. Arnold, the second child, had one younger brother and two sisters. He died on 8 July 1998 at the Latrobe, Pennsylvania hospital.

At age 14, Arnold left school to work on the farm where his entrepreneurial spirit expressed itself in building things from scrap metal, wood or machine parts and experimenting with new ideas in agriculture.

Arnold was baptized at the Geiger Mennonite Church in his teens. He studied at Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute (OMBS & I) in Kitchener, Ontario. There he met Rhoda Garber, daughter of John F. and Anna May (Wenger) Garber, whom he married on 13 July 1956 in Burton, Ohio. They lived near New Dundee, Ontario.

In 1951, Arnold graduated from OMBI and was ordained to the ministry at the small, rural Blenheim Mennonite Church which granted him several leaves to study at Eastern Mennonite College. He earned BA degrees there in Bible and English Literature (1956) and a BA from Western University, London, Ontario (1960).

Arnold was pastor at Blenheim Mennonite Church (1951-1961) and at Baden Mennonite Church (1959-1961). Despite his youth, he gained respect for conciliatory efforts during a conflict which saw two bishops and several pastors leave the conference in 1960. In 1990, Arnold  returned to Ontario to be interim pastor at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church for fifteen months. Alongside early ministry, Arnold taught at OMBI, edited Evangel, a monthly conference magazine, served on committees, did carpentry work and designed and built an innovative, cost-effective and environmentally friendly house for his family.

In 1961, the Cressmans moved to Scottdale, Pennsylvania, where Arnold worked for the Mennonite Publishing House and as Field Secretary for the binational Mennonite Church's Commission for Christian Education until 1970. He shaped and promoted Christian education across North America and wrote curriculum and worship material. He articulated his vision for the church in numerous published pieces, including his weekly "Nurture Lookout" column in Gospel Herald and in vanguard magazines like Festival Quarterly.

In 1962, Arnold and Rhoda purchased a small, rural property "with possibilities" but no amenities. Over three decades, they upgraded the cottage for the family - daughter Jenny and sons Eric and Jon Robert - gouged out several spring-fed ponds, planted a forest of 10,000 trees, a small orchard and garden, all in tune with a fundamental philosophy: taking care of God's earth.

In 1968, Arnold was named  executive director of Laurelville Mennonite Church Center while still carrying his Scottdale jobs. His dreams, visions, well-honed practical skills and risk-taking transformed Laurelville. Association membership doubled, old buildings were redesigned and new ones added. Innovative programs trained youth and addressed critical issues in the church, business, society, the arts and families. Arnold proposed long-term goals but also kept Laurelville flexible to respond to immediate challenges. "Aiming at a moving target" was his style. Ill health forced his resignation as director in 1977, but he assisted with programming for ten more years.

Arnold's passion for Anabaptist faith and history permeated Laurelville's program and  resulted in the founding of TourMagination in 1970 by Arnold, Rhoda and Jan and Barbara Gleysteen. On European tours the Cressmans led, hundreds of North Americans discovered their Anabaptist roots and renewed their faith. Gradually tours to six continents were added, connecting thousands of members of global Anabaptist-related churches. When Arnold's transplanted kidney quit functioning in 1993, he and Rhoda left TourMagination.

Arnold served on the Eastern Mennonite College and Seminary Board of Trustees (1977-1984), the Mennonite Publication Board (1979-1987) and in numerous positions at Scottdale Mennonite Church where he was a member for 37 years.

Arnold's life was like a tapestry, its separate segments woven together by common threads of creativity, passion, faith and a desire for shalom. Never hobbled by the obvious, always striving for what might be, he encouraged others  "to join him in new expressions of faithfulness to Jesus Christ."


Notes from Rhoda (Garber) Cressman)

Lehman, Harold D. and Ruth K. Lehman. Where There is Vision: The Laurelville Story 1943-1993. Mt. Pleasant, PA: Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, 1993: 45-54.

Plaque presented by Laurelville Mennonite Church Center.

Author(s) Ferne Burkhardt
Date Published January 2006

Cite This Article

MLA style

Burkhardt, Ferne. "Cressman, Arnold W. (1928-1998)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2006. Web. 30 Jul 2021.,_Arnold_W._(1928-1998)&oldid=143269.

APA style

Burkhardt, Ferne. (January 2006). Cressman, Arnold W. (1928-1998). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 July 2021, from,_Arnold_W._(1928-1998)&oldid=143269.

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