First Mennonite Church of Normal (Normal, Illinois, USA)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

The First Mennonite Church of Normal, Illinois, USA, began as the vision of Peter Schantz, senior pastor of the East White Oak Mennonite Church northwest of Bloomington/Normal. On 24 July 1910, he gathered 25 persons for Sunday school in an upstairs room of Baumgart's store. This number increased to 50 in several weeks. The group soon moved to the Smith School, located a block south of Hovey Avenue. Schantz began to preach at this location.

Mission supporters approved the purchase of two lots at the corner of University and Plum streets. They erected a small frame building in the summer of 1911 and dedicated it on 2 July 1911. Finally, on 27 March 1912, 35 persons became the charter members of the First Mennonite Church of Normal. The congregation remodeled the church in 1926. Another substantial expansion took place in 1950/51. Lightning struck the church in 1971, causing $15,000 in damage to the roof, attic, and exterior stone at one corner.

Initially, the congregation's core consisted of retired Mennonites now living in Normal. During the 1920s, more professionals became part of the congregation. The Central Mennonite Conference's accepting attitude towards inter-marriage with non-Mennonites attracted some members. The church never had dress regulations for women and readily accepted the use of musical instruments in the church. It began to give a salary to its ministers in 1919. This more assimilated perspective also meant that most men from the congregation drafted in World War I willingly served in the military. In the 1920s, the congregation also purchased its first parsonage and decided to allow women to become deaconesses. The first was Minnie Anderson.

In the early 1970s, First Mennonite Church and the Bloomington Mennonite Church began to consider uniting in an era when General Conference Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church (MC) cooperation was increasing.

Formal conversations increased when both churches had recently gone through pastoral transitions. First Mennonite and Bloomington formed an inter-church task force in 1975 to recommend alternatives for greater unity. The churches began to meet together for worship in September 1975, and they structured another task force. On 26 September 1976, both congregations voted unanimously to merge and become the Mennonite Church of Normal.

See Mennonite Church of Normal for the history of the merged congregation.


Goossen, Rachel Waltner. Meetingplace: A History of the Mennonite Church of Normal, 1912-1987. Normal, Ill.: Mennonite Church of Normal, 1987

Additional Information

Address: 918 South University Street, Normal, Illinois



Denominational Affiliations: Central District Conference

General Conference Mennonite Church

Pastoral Leaders at First Mennonite Church

Name Years
of Service
Peter Schantz (1853-1924) 1910-1912
Lee J. Lantz (1873-1970) 1912-1918
LeRoy D. Hartzler (1881-1925) June 1918
Andrew S. Bechtel (1874-1968) 1919-1920
William H. Grubb (1879-1940) 1921-1928
Emanuel Troyer (1871-1942) 1928-1936
Irvin R. Detweiler (1873-1946) 1936-1941
Alvin J. Beachy (1913-1986) 1942-1946
Harvey "Leonard" Metzker (1917-1993) 1947-1953
Henry N. Harder (1905-1963) 1954-1963
Ernest J. Bohn (1894-1992) 1964
Walter A. Gering (1908-1996) 1964-1970
John "J. Leon" Martin (1922-2008) 1970-1971
James H. Waltner (1931-2007) 1972-1976

Membership at First Mennonite Church

Year Membership
1912 35
1950 224
1960 233
1970 281
1975 271

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

By Raymond L. Hartzler. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 913. All rights reserved.

First Mennonite Church of Normal (General Conference Mennonite), Normal, Illinois, was organized in March 1912. It had 35 charter members. It was established as a result of the interest and efforts of Peter Schantz, Sr., minister of the East White Oak Mennonite Church, not far from Normal, in providing opportunity for fellowship and worship for Mennonites who then lived in Bloomington and Normal. Services were held in rented quarters until a church was built at Church and University Streets. This frame structure was remodeled in 1951. The church had a membership of 230 in 1957, with H. N. Harder as pastor.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published November 2022

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "First Mennonite Church of Normal (Normal, Illinois, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2022. Web. 23 Jun 2024.,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=174340.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (November 2022). First Mennonite Church of Normal (Normal, Illinois, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 June 2024, from,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=174340.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.