First Mennonite Church (Chicago, Illinois, USA)

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First Mennonite Church, Chicago, Illinois, began as a mission on 5 March 1914, when the Mission Board of the General Conference Mennonite Church opened a city rescue mission at 727 West 63rd Street. The board called W. W. Miller as superintendent and Catherine Niswander as a mission assistant. On 22 April 1915, the work transferred to 7110 South Ashland Avenue, and it changed its focus to Sunday School and church work. The congregation moved to larger quarters at 7205 South Ashland two years later. It continued to grow, so in the summer of 1918, the mission board erected the present brick building at 73rd and Lafflin.

In April of 1919, W. W. Miller left Chicago but was recalled in October 1920. W. S. Shelly served as pastor for several months and J. F. Balzer served as supply until Miller returned. When Miller returned, the group organized into a church and received members.

Catherine Niswander left for mission work in Portland, Oregon in 1927; Jane Entz then served as an assistant for nearly three years.

In 1934 division occurred within the congregation. Seventy-five percent of the congregation withdrew with the pastor, William Rhea, and wished to take over the building and mission house. After extended negotiations facilitated by A. Hershey Leaman, the mission board retained the property, and Rhea surrendered the property after receiving some back pay the board had been unable to provide earlier.

For a time in the 1950s, students or recent graduates of Mennonite Biblical Seminary, then located in Chicago, served First Mennonite as pastor.

In the 1960s, the demographics of the area changed rapidly as more African Americans moved to the community. Arthur L. Jackson was the first African American pastor.

In 2022 the congregation was part of the Central District Conference of Mennonite Church USA.


Albrecht, Mrs. E. A. "First Mennonite Church." The Mennonite 58, no. 45 (16 November 1943): 3.

Gottshall, W. S. "Home Missions: What has happened in Chicago?" The Mennonite and the Christian Evangel 1, no. 21 (6 November 1934): 3-4.

Rich, Elaine Sommers, ed. Walking Together in Faith: The Central District Conference, 1957-1990. Bluffton, Ohio: The Conference, 2003.

Smith, Willard H. Mennonites in Illinois. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, 24. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1983: 155-156.

Additional Information

Meeting Address: 1477 West 73rd Street, Chicago, Illinois 60636

Mailing Address: 11014 Deblin Lane, Oak Lawn, Illinois 60453

Phone: 708-870-5260


Denominational Affiliations: Central District Conference Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Pastoral Leaders at First Mennonite Church

Name Years
of Service
Walker Wilson "W. W." Miller (1858-1941) 1914-1923
Menno M. "M. M." Lehmann (1883-1969) 1923-1928
William Clyde Rhea (1891-1971) 1928-1934
A. Hershey Leaman (1878-1950) 1934-1940
Erwin "E. A." Albrecht (1906-1994) 1940-1946
Aaron J. Epp (1918-1992) 1950-1952
Leland D. Harder (1926-2013) 1952-1957
Robert R. Coon (1931-2021) 1957-1961
Harry Spaeth (1931- ) 1962-1968
Arthur L. Jackson 1968-1972
John H. Burke, Jr. (1922-2009) 1973-2009
Lay Leadership? 2009-

Membership at First Mennonite Church

Year Membership
1930 58
1940 147
1950 57
1960 94
1970 44
1980 97
1990 153
2000 138
2007 35
2020 35

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published September 2022

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "First Mennonite Church (Chicago, Illinois, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2022. Web. 17 Apr 2024.,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=174177.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (September 2022). First Mennonite Church (Chicago, Illinois, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 April 2024, from,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=174177.

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