Reidenbach Mennonite Church (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA)

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In 1946 a small group of members left the Groffdale Conference of the Old Order Mennonites in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and formed Reidenbach Mennonite Church (also known as the Reidenbach Old Order Mennonites). A few years earlier, during World War II, conscientious objectors from Amish, Mennonite, and other nonresistant groups were assigned to government-run Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps. However, some members of Groffdale Conference opposed their members participating in any government program. These traditionalists believed that if a church member received a draft notice, he should refuse to participate not only in military combatant and non-combatant services but also in CPS camps. Instead he should accept a prison sentence, just as the early Anabaptists did for their nonresistance. A faction of about 35 Groffdale Conference people, led by Mrs. Rufus (Lydia) Martin, demanded that Bishop Joseph O. Wenger excommunicate those who went to CPS camps instead of going to prison as true non-resistant Christians. The group became known as the "Thirty-Fivers."

Wenger refused the demand of the group. He allowed the drafted men and their families to decide whether to go to a CPS camp or go to prison. To the traditionalists, this response suggested that Wenger was acting as a dictator because the congregation was not allowed to vote on whether to accept Wenger's policy of leaving the choice about CPS up to individuals and their families. The Thirty-Fivers refused to attend services. Martin and her son-in-law, David B. Hoover, withdrew from the Groffdale Conference and established their own congregation.

In the summer of 1947, Amos M. Martin was chosen by lot and ordained minister by one of the group's lay members. He was later chosen as bishop. Sometime later, Peter O. Nolt was ordained minister, and David B. Hoover was ordained deacon. In 1948 they built a meeting house near Reidenbach's store in the Weaverland Valley, where they continued to worship. The congregation adopted the name Reidenbach Mennonite Church. The church has no Sunday school, no missions, and has attempted to hold to the traditional practices of their ancestors. The church has avoided using rubber tires and many household appliances. Following a rigid dress code for both men and women, women’s dress styles especially receive close scrutiny.

About 1956 the congregation could not agree on Nolt’s preaching and his view of the role of the state according to Romans 13, so the congregation divided. About 17 percent of the members continued to follow Nolt’s leadership and met in homes for worship. Nolt’s group affiliated with a small group in Canada named the Orthodox Mennonite Church. This affiliation with the Canadian group was not successful. In 1966, the Aaron B. Reiff family and the Phares Martin family split from the Nolt family over disagreement about the teaching and use of Matthew 18. This left the Nolt group all alone. The Reiff-Phares Martin group has died out. In 1973, the Nolt family moved to Versailles, Missouri, where their small church was located in 2010.

After Nolt’s group had split away, the original 1947 Reidenbach church members became known as the Amos Martin group. The group ordained John J. Martin to replace Peter O. Nolt. John J. Martin was a seeker of peace although traditional in his views. Around 1966 this group and a member from Virginia affiliated with a Canadian group called the Noah Brubacher group. In 1967, that union dissolved. By then, the Reidenbach Mennonite Church had 150 members.

Another division took place when the Reidenbach church members had a disagreement over using bottled gas or propane. One side, 43 percent of the membership, stayed with the Amos Martin group. The other 57 percent became the John J. Martin group. The Amos Martin church grew and now has members in Lancaster and Northumberland counties in Pennsylvania, and in Christian County, Kentucky. In 2010 it had two bishops, four ministers, and two deacons. The John J. Martin church group also grew, but split into many different subgroups. Nearly all the people in these subgroups remained farmers.


Albertsen, Karsten-Gerhard. The History & Life of the Reidenbach Mennonites (Thirty Fivers). Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 1996.

Archival Records

Muddy Creek Farm Library (Archives), 296 Wheat Ridge Drive, Ephrata, Pennsylvania 17522.

Additional Information

Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia

Vol. 4, pp. 275-276 by Ira D. Landis

Reidenbach Mennonite Church (Old Order Mennonite) (also called the "Thirty-Fivers") is a small group who in 1946 left the Groffdale Conference of Old Order Mennonites in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to form a separate congregation. During World War II, the Groffdale Conference had some boys in Civilian Public Service and some in jail. By 1946 a group of their constituency, led by Mrs. Rufus Martin, demanded that the Civilian Public Service boys be excommunicated. When Bishop Joseph Wenger refused to take this action, the Mrs. Martin group refused to attend services. This led to their excommunication. Mrs. Martin and her son-in-law David Hoover moved to organize a separate group. By lot in the summer of 1947 Henry Martin was ordained by one of them to the ministry, and later to the office of bishop. Another minister and a deacon were also ordained. In 1948 they built a meetinghouse near Reidenbach's store in the Weaverland Valley, where they now worship with possibly forty members. The official name of their church is Reidenbach Mennonite Church. They have no Sunday school or missions, but are attempting to hold to the practices of the forefathers, using nothing containing rubber and no conveniences, not even poultry brooders. They are farmers.

Author(s) Jonathan H Martin
Date Published April 2010

Cite This Article

MLA style

Martin, Jonathan H. "Reidenbach Mennonite Church (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2010. Web. 16 Apr 2021.,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=114111.

APA style

Martin, Jonathan H. (April 2010). Reidenbach Mennonite Church (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 April 2021, from,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=114111.

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