Hope Mennonite Fellowship

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The roots of the Hope Mennonite Fellowship are in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. A conservative portion of Lancaster Conference cooperated to establish the Mennonite Messianic Mission (MMM) in the early 1960s and opened two voluntary service units in Danville, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, and a Bible school for young people at Numidia, Pennsylvania.

In 1968, the Lancaster Conference adopted a new church discipline which relaxed earlier standards and allowed members to own televisions. Almost immediately, the five conservative bishops of MMM resigned from the Lancaster Conference and founded the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church (EPMC). Some of those who formed the EPMC wanted to maintain a consistent application of the 1954 (pre-1968) Lancaster Conference discipline but others wanted to add regulations and take a more conservative path. The 1954 discipline was adopted but was subject to review in three years. This practice of reviewing and expanding the EPMC rules and discipline every three to five years continued throughout the remainder of the 1900s.

In June 1981, Earl B. Horst (1923-2010), who had been ordained as bishop in the Richland District of EPMC in 1970, left EPMC along with Minister Edwin H. Gehman (1901-1997) to form what would become Hope Mennonite Fellowship (HMF). They wanted a more open relationship between the ministry and the laity in policy making and discipline review. In HMF the rules and discipline cannot be amended without the consent of 75 percent of the laity.

Eighty-seven people attended the first service in the rented Millbach Meeting House near Klinefeltersville, Pennsylvania. This meeting house along with the rented Grace Chapel near Denver, Pennsylvania became the first HMF houses of worship, referred to as Millbach and Muddy Creek. When the Millbach congregation outgrew their facility in 1982, they built a meeting house north of Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania. After a fire destroyed this building on 1 May 2000 the congregation rebuilt upon the same foundation and expanded the size of the building by adding a wing. The story of this fire and rebuilding project, along with many photos, are recorded in the book Tried by Fire published in 2001. After the rebuilding of this structure, the congregation that had been first called Millbach, then Hope, now took on the name Schaefferstown Mennonite Church. Hope Mennonite Fellowship then became a fellowship-wide name for the group which at that time numbered four congregations. The Muddy Creek congregation constructed a new school house in 1991 and attached a meeting house to it in 1997 on Beam Road near Fivepointville, Pennsylvania.

While Hope Mennonite Fellowship has never grown rapidly, it has grown steadily to nine congregations by 2016 with 623 members. Many of these members came from EPMC and other conservative Mennonite conferences in southeastern Pennsylvania. In 2016, HMF has 3 bishops, 16 ministers, and 11 deacons. Most of the congregations have their own Christian day schools mainly using curriculum published by the Anabaptist publishers, Christian Light Education and Rod and Staff Publishers. Because of teaching on brotherhood cohesion, homeschooling is greatly discouraged but not forbidden to families of HMF.

Each time Hope Mennonite Fellowship congregations filled their facilities, a new congregation has been formed. The Garbers congregation joined HMF in 1992; the Rehrersburg congregation formed in 2002; Allegheny Valley was established in 2008; and Troxelville formed in 2011. An inner city mission work begun in 2007, which grew out of prison ministry in Lehigh County Prison, was established as a HMF congregation in Allentown in 2009. The Sunnyside Mennonite Church in Illinois had joined HMF in 1982, but withdrew again in 1993 to become unaffiliated.

Hope Mennonite Fellowship maintains a strong evangelistic effort by supplying board members for Caribbean Light and Truth in Belize, Mennonite Air Missions in Guatemala, and Alleghany Boys Camp in Maryland. Since the founding of HMF, many members have served on the field in these efforts. HMF Prison Ministry, conducts services in Lehigh County Prison twice each week. The HMF committee, Beacon of Hope, temporarily places the children of prison inmates, and of other families facing misfortune, in Mennonite homes until their families are able to care for them again.

Hope Mennonite Fellowship provides church sponsored activities for its youth. HMF and the Cumberland Valley Mennonite Churches cooperate in the operation of Ebenezer Mennonite Bible School near Hanover, Pennsylvania, a winter Bible school for youth in their late teens and early twenties. HMF has two youth choruses which give programs in retirement homes and rehabilitation centers. HMF does not participate in special singing, such as chorus programs, in church houses. Many HMF youth participate each week in evening Bible classes for urban children in Hanover and Allentown, Pennsylvania. HMF youth also help annually with several days of street meetings in Los Angeles, California; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and New York City, New York, and with Orphans for Jesus in Tijuana, Mexico.

Each summer committee members from Pilgrim Mennonite Conference and Weaverland Mennonite Conference assist Hope Mennonite Fellowship in conducting the Hope Teachers Institute, a three-day training seminar for school teachers.

Hope Mennonite Fellowship adheres to the Christian Fundamentals (1921, Garden City, Missouri), a confessional supplement to the Dordrecht Confession (1632). Nonconformity to the world and nonresistance are core doctrines. HMF believes that only marriage between a man and a woman is sanctioned by God, and does not accept divorce and remarriage. Although members are forbidden to use radio or television, internet usage is allowed under the mandate that a HMF approved content filter or blocker is used, and accountability of usage is closely monitored by the fellowship. Women wear head coverings and have uncut hair. Male church members wear the regulation plain coat. Although members may play musical instruments in their homes, singing in worship services, schools, and youth chorus programs is a capella.

Hope Mennonite Fellowship does not participate in Mennonite Church USA assemblies nor attend MCUSA regional conferences. The fellowship's members enjoy fraternal relationship with the Cumberland Valley Mennonite Church, Pilgrim Mennonite Conference, Southeastern Mennonite Conference, and various other churches of similar faith and practice.

At the end of 2016 the following congregations were members of the Hope Mennonite Fellowship:

Congregation Location State Founded Members
Allegheny Valley Mennonite Church Schellsburg Pennsylvania 2008 46
Allentown Mennonite Church Allentown Pennsylvania 2009 17
Cocolamus Mennonite Church McAlisterville Pennsylvania 1991 100
Garbers Mennonite Fellowship Spring Grove Pennsylvania 1814 70
Living Springs Mennonite Fellowship East Berlin Pennsylvania 2016 23
Muddy Creek Mennonite Church Denver Pennsylvania 1982 110
Rehrersburg Mennonite Church Bethel Pennsylvania 2002 131
Schaefferstown Mennonite Church Myerstown Pennsylvania 1981 108
Troxelville Mennonite Church Troxelville Pennsylvania 2011 20
Total 625


Burkholder, Lester M., compiler. History of Hope Mennonite Fellowship, 1981-2015. Myerstown, PA.: Little Mountain Printing, 2016.

Scott, Stephen. An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups. People's Place Book #12. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1996: 186.

Additional Information

Official Mailing Address: Hope Mennonite Fellowship, 137 Chapel Road, Newmanstown, PA 17073

Author(s) Lester M Burkholder
Date Published May 2016

Cite This Article

MLA style

Burkholder, Lester M. "Hope Mennonite Fellowship." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2016. Web. 4 Aug 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hope_Mennonite_Fellowship&oldid=166306.

APA style

Burkholder, Lester M. (May 2016). Hope Mennonite Fellowship. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 4 August 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hope_Mennonite_Fellowship&oldid=166306.

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