Norris Square Mennonite Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

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The Norris Square Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church), formerly Mennonite Home Mission, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, began as a mission Sunday school in the spring of 1899. Joseph Bechtel, a building contractor, was the superintendent. It was sponsored by the Lancaster County Sunday School Mission (later called the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities), which sent Amanda Musselman and Mary Denlinger as full-time city missionaries. The Lancaster and Franconia conferences alternated in supplying preachers for Sunday services until 1922, when J. Paul Graybill was stationed there as pastor-superintendent (later he was bishop of the congregation). Originally at 1930 East York Street, the work was later relocated to 2147-51 North Howard Street; it belonged to the Lancaster Conference. The new name was adopted in 1938, an important year in the organization of the congregation, when a deacon, Joseph Bromley, Sr., was chosen from within the congregation. In 1946 Jacob Frederick was chosen minister in a similar way, to assist the pastor-superintendent, Clarence Y. Fretz. Teaching the Bible was a prominent feature of the work from the first; there was also large-scale literature distribution and open-air evangelism. The summer Bible school movement in eastern Mennonite churches had its beginning here in 1927, and the weekday Bible school movement in 1931. During the depression of 1932 1,800 families were helped. In 1956 the total baptized membership was 33, with Jacob Frederick as pastor.

In the 1960s and 1970s the surrounding community changed dramatically in composition. More African-American and Hispanic families moved to the area. By 1970 a separate Spanish-language congregation began meeting Sunday afternoons. By 1974 the Norris Square membership had dwindled to a few, and the congregation disbanded. The building became the responsibility of the Spanish-language congregation, Arca de Salvacíon.


Erb, Alta Mae. Studies in Mennonite City Missions Scottdale, Pa.: Mennonite Publishing House, 1937: 38-44.

Fretz, Clarence Y. "Mennonitism in Philadelphia." Christian Monitor (June-July, 1945): 133, 134, 165, 166.

Gingerich, Jeff and Miriam Stoltzfus. All God's Children: Philadelphia Mennonites of Lancaster Conference, 1899-1999. Leola, Pa., 2000: 26-27.

Landis, Ira D. The Missionary Movement Among Lancaster Conference Mennonites. Scottdale, Pa., 1938: 41-47.

Wenger, John C. History of the Mennonites of the Franconia Conference. Telford, Pa., 1937: 333.

Author(s) Clarence Y. Fretz
Samuel J. Steiner
Date Published 2007

Cite This Article

MLA style

Fretz, Clarence Y. and Samuel J. Steiner. "Norris Square Mennonite Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2007. Web. 25 Jul 2024.,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=177081.

APA style

Fretz, Clarence Y. and Samuel J. Steiner. (2007). Norris Square Mennonite Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 July 2024, from,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=177081.

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