Kern Road Mennonite Church (South Bend, Indiana, USA)

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A house gathering in South Bend, Indiana, on 18 February 1959, marked the first meeting of future members of Kern Road Mennonite Church. This group, led by Hope Rescue Mission director Tobe Schmucker, referred to itself as the South Bend Mennonite Fellowship, worshiped biweekly, and planned for a new urban church that would be part of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference. Carl J. Rudy was installed as pastor in 1960, and served until 1962. The group’s first Sunday morning worship service was held at Hope Rescue Mission on 17 January 1960. In 1961, the congregation decided to purchase land at 18211 Kern Road, and called itself Kern Road Chapel. The name intentionally omitted the word "Mennonite" not only because of a desire to welcome community members unfamiliar with Mennonite tradition, but also because the Kern Road community was sometimes at odds with wider Mennonite circles. The use of women’s head coverings were one such controversial issue. Kern Road did not require coverings, but the conference encouraged the church to change this stance. The building was dedicated in 1962, and the first Sunday service at the new location took place on 14 April 1962.

An early challenge for Kern Road was finding a long-term pastor. An interim committee served from 1962 until 1964, when Arnold C. Roth left Shore Mennonite Church to lead the Kern Road congregation. Early mission work included volunteering with the Hope Rescue Mission, which served the homeless. The homeless served by the Mission returned the favor by helping to construct the Kern Road Chapel building. Other church activities included the Women’s Missionary Service Auxiliary and a Men’s Fellowship.

In 1970, the church began monthly "area groups," small groups that met in homes to worship, provide fellowship, and perform outreach. Roth continued as pastor until 1975, when he was replaced by Elvin R. Stoltzfus. The 1970s also brought expansion; in 1978, a new wing was added to the church, which included a fellowship hall, classrooms, a nursery, and new kitchen. In the 1970s, Kern Road Chapel increased the use of instruments in worship services, and sang folk songs in addition to hymns. In the 1970s, the church continued volunteer activities with the Hope Rescue Mission.

Edwin F. Rempel became pastor in 1979, and helped draft a new church constitution, which included a name change from Kern Road Chapel to Kern Road Mennonite Church. Rempel also favored a move from one pastor to a pastoral team. The pastoral team included part-time work by Kathrine Rempel, Edwin’s wife, and member Jean Hawk. Mission work in the 1980s included hosting Southeast Asian refugee families and a church plant in 1984 that later became North Side Mennonite Fellowship. Also, members formed a Center for Peace and Nonviolence, and Kern Road Mennonite Church was part of the South Bend Area Mennonite Evangelism Task Force. Leroy E. Kennel served as an interim pastor from 1985 to 1987, and Dennis Hollinger from AMBS preached in 1988.

In 1988, Kern Road Mennonite Church found long-term pastors in husband and wife pair David L. Sutter and Janice Yordy Sutter. The congregation contributed to Habitat for Humanity building efforts beginning in the late 1980s, and the congregation also worked on behalf of the Mennonite Central Committee SELFHELP Crafts program. In 1996, Kern Road worked with the St. Paul Bethel congregation to host The Learning Center, a tutoring program, at the St. Paul Bethel Building. Kern Road also sponsored a Service Adventure program. In 1997, the church finished construction of a new sanctuary, classrooms, and offices.

In the 2000s, the church continued to be led by Janice and David Sutter. The church continued a deep connection to the community, in part through continued support of Hope Ministries (which included the old Hope Rescue Mission building), Ten Thousand Villages, and Habitat for Humanity. Around half of attendees at Kern Road in 2014 were raised outside of the Mennonite Church, and in the 21st century the church has continued a tradition of welcoming outsiders.


"Missions." Kern Road Mennonite Church. Web.

Mennonite Yearbook and Directory. Mennonite Church USA.

Nolt, Steve. Building a Community of Faith: A History of Kern Road Mennonite Church South Bend, Indiana. South Bend, IN: Kern Road Mennonite Church, 1999.

Weldy, Barbara. History of Kern Road Mennonite Church 1959-1984. South Bend, IN: Kern Road Mennonite Church, 1984.

Archival Records

The Archives of the congregation are located at the Mennonite Church USA Archives in Goshen, Indiana.

Additional records are located at Kern Road Mennonite Church, South Bend, Indiana.

Additional Information

Address: 18211 Kern Road, South Bend, Indiana

Phone: (574)-291-0924

Website: Kern Road Mennonite Church

Denominational Affiliations:

Mennonite Church (MC) (Until 2002)

Mennonite Church USA (2002-present)

Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference

Kern Road Pastors

Minister Years of Service
Carl J. Rudy 1960-1962
Arnold C. Roth 1964-1975
Elvin R. Stoltzfus 1975-1979
Edwin F. Rempel 1979-1985
LeRoy E. Kennel (interim) 1985-1987
Janice Yordy Sutter 1988-present
David L. Sutter 1998-present
Andre Gingerich Stoner 1994-?
Matthew Insley (youth pastor) 2010-present

Kern Road Church Membership

Year Members
1963 17
1970 57
1975 65
1980 113
1985 142
1990 147
1995 172
2000 179
2005 242

Author(s) Nathan Geiser
Date Published April 2014

Cite This Article

MLA style

Geiser, Nathan. "Kern Road Mennonite Church (South Bend, Indiana, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2014. Web. 12 Aug 2022.,_Indiana,_USA)&oldid=138872.

APA style

Geiser, Nathan. (April 2014). Kern Road Mennonite Church (South Bend, Indiana, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 August 2022, from,_Indiana,_USA)&oldid=138872.

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