Gladstone Mennonite Mission (Cleveland, Ohio, USA)

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The Gladstone Mennonite Mission in Cleveland, Ohio began through the efforts of Tillie Yoder, a native of Holmes County, Ohio. In 1946 she had worked with James Lark at the African-American Bethel Mission in Chicago 1946. Yoder wanted to develop a summer Bible school ministry in an African-American community in Cleveland, and with the support of the Plainview Mennonite Church in Aurora, Ohio, developed a Voluntary Service (VS) unit in the Gladstone area of Cleveland. Over 330 children enrolled the first summer. A similar Bible school program followed in 1949 combined with a camp experience for African-American children at Camp Ebenezer, located on the farm of Tillie Yoder's parents.

Ray and Vada Stutzman began to hold Sunday school in Gladstone at the local public school in August 1948 after the first Bible School ended. By 1951 the VS unit had a house for living quarters together with a center for youth activities. This provided a more permanent location for the growing ministry.

Vern Miller, a Goshen College graduate who had earlier assisted the Summer Bible School program in Gladstone, moved with his bride, Helen Hostetler Miller, to the VS house in summer 1952 and began to provide leadership. He was ordained as a pastor for the new congregation in 1953. Gerald Hughes was another early worker at the unit. Gladstone organized its first church council on 26 April 1953. That summer the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities purchased a property for a church building at 5208 Julia Avenue. Construction began in September 1953 and was completed in late fall. The membership had reached 35 by that time, mostly composed of community residents.

A federal urban renewal program soon made it the certain the church location would not continue long term. Vern Miller began to look for a location in a new community to which Gladstone members could move. In 1956 the Mission Board bought a home in Cleveland's Lee-Seville area, and Vern and Helen Miller moved there in September 1956. By the end of December they had begun services in a local school, and by September 1957 the new Lee Heights Mennonite Church had begun.

Gerald Hughes assumed leadership responsibilities in the Gladstone congregation after the Millers left. The Gladstone Mennonite Mission closed on 22 July 1959; many of its 50 members became part of Lee Heights congregation.


Bechler, LeRoy.The Black Mennonite Church in North America,1886-1986. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1986: 98, 124-128.

Stoltzfus, Grant M. Mennonites of the Ohio and Eastern Conference; From the Colonial Period in Pennsylvania to 1968. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite history, no. 13. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1969: 312, 317. Available in full electronic text at

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published November 2011

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Steiner, Samuel J. "Gladstone Mennonite Mission (Cleveland, Ohio, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2011. Web. 21 Jan 2021.,_Ohio,_USA)&oldid=164983.

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Steiner, Samuel J. (November 2011). Gladstone Mennonite Mission (Cleveland, Ohio, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 January 2021, from,_Ohio,_USA)&oldid=164983.

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