West Union Mennonite Church (Parnell, Iowa, USA)

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West Union Mennonite Church, 1950s.
Scan courtesy of Mennonite Church USA Archives-Goshen X-31.1, Box 18/45

The West Union Amish Mennonite Church, Parnell, Iowa, USA, emerged from Amish Mennonites who had become dissatisfied with the restrictions of the Old Order Amish church. Some of these families met in private homes north of Kalona. In 1884 Preacher Christian Warey moved to the area from Indiana. The Old Order Amish in Iowa did not accept his folding-top buggy and raincoat. He also promoted Sunday schools. He began to preach for the dissident Amish Mennonites who formed a Union Amish Mennonite Church with adherents from a wide area. Sometimes people called it the Warey Church.

The Union Church built a meetinghouse in 1889 near Kalona. However, Amish Mennonites living in Greene Township found the distance to the Union meetinghouse difficult and began to hold services in the Greene Center School. This group met irregularly, depending on visiting ministers. On 11 December 1897, the Greene Center group formed a congregation. It built the West Union meetinghouse in 1898, holding its dedication on 5 June. An offering held on the day of the dedication cleared the outstanding debt of $232. Six years later the building was extended another 10 feet. This proved inadequate, however, and in 1917 the congregation dismantled the original building and erected a new one with a basement and hot air heating. It added a fellowship hall in 1964.

The dedication of this facility on 25 November 1917 during World War I encountered some local hostility. Outsiders placed American flags on the doors of the meetinghouse. They remained in place until the service ended. Sometime later disrespectful poetry was painted on the church's side that referred to it as Kaiserville, and Bishop Abner Yoder as its Kaiser. Only one person from West Union served in the military--as a non-combatant. During World War II a number of men served in Civilian Public Service; at least eight served in the military.

The church grew steadily over the years, often attracting Old Order Amish members or persons in the Upper Deer Creek and Lower Deer Creek congregations unhappy with the slow pace of change in their churches. In 1906, the congregation started a Sunday school in Daytonville. Over the years, this evolved into the Wellman Mennonite Church.

Initially, West Union was part of the Western Amish Mennonite Conference. When that body merged with Mennonites to become the Iowa-Nebraska Mennonite Conference of the Mennonite Church (MC) in 1921, West Union participated. As part of the realignment of the Mennonite Church (MC) and General Conference Mennonite Church into Mennonite Church USA, West Union Mennonite was among the congregations that joined the new Central Plains Mennonite Conference in 2000.

The first women's sewing circle began meeting in 1914. In the first years, work was done for war sufferers' relief. Approval of musical instruments and radios in members' homes came in 1927.

In 1948, West Union sponsored the new Parnell Mennonite Church. Parnell became independent in 1958 and finally closed in 1990.

In 2023 the congregation was part of the Central Plains Conference of Mennonite Church USA.


Bender, Lois. West Union Mennonite Church: a history, 1897-1976. Parnell, Iowa: The Church, 1976.

Yoder, Holly Blosser. The same spirit: History of Iowa-Nebraska Mennonites. Freeman, S.D.: Central Plains Mennonite Conference, 2003: 69-70, 100, 276.

Additional Information

Address: 3253 305th Street, Parnell, Iowa 52325

Phone: 319-646-6004

Website: https://westunionmennonite.org/

Denominational Affiliations: Central Plains Mennonite Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Pastoral Leaders at West Union Mennonite Church

Name Years
of Service
Christian Warey (1832-1914)(Bishop) 1897-1909
Samuel S. Erb (1873-1936) 1898-1900?
Daniel D. Kauffman (1864-1935) 1901-1911
Jacob K. Yoder (1852-1926)
Joseph Whitaker (1867-1929) 1906-1908/09
William S. "W. S." Guengerich (1877-1967) 1909-1923
Peter P. "P. P." Swartzendruber (1859-1939) 1914-1929
Edward Shetler (1879-1964) 1924-1932
Abner G. Yoder (1879-1842)(Bishop) 1924-1942
Edward Diener (1892-1953) 1927?-1935?
Christian J. Yoder (1890-1946) 1935-1946
Amos Gingerich (1880-1962) 1939-1962
Daniel D. Kauffman (1865-1944) 1942-1944
Paul T. Guengerich (1913-2011) 1947-1964
Herman E. Ropp (1919-2015)
Paul E. M. Yoder (1916-2003) 1954
Emery J. Hochstetler (1918-2004) 1964-1979
Mervin R. Birky 1979-1995
Dean Swartzendruber (1927-2011)(Interim) 1995-1996
David W. Boshart 1996-2010
Helen Yoder (Associate) 2006?-2008
Martha B. Yoder (Associate) 2008-2015
Ray Reimer (Interim) 2010-2011
Corey Miller 2011-2016
Firman Gingerich (Transitional) 2017
Martha Yoder-Schrock (Interim) 2017-2018
David Heusinkveld (Interim) 2018-2020?
John David Kenney 2020-

Membership at West Union Mennonite Church

Year Membership
1913 210
1925 308
1930 333
1940 330
1950 352
1960 373
1970 308
1980 293
1990 269
2000 305
2009 293
2020 202

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

By Paul T. Guengerich. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 929. All rights reserved.

West Union Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church), a member of the Iowa-Nebraska Mennonite Conference, located at Parnell, 9 miles north of Wellman, Iowa, was organized 11 December 1897 by part of the group that worshiped at the Union Meetinghouse northwest of Kalona and which had left the Old Order Amish in 1884 with Christian Warey as minister. They worshiped at the Greene Center Schoolhouse until their church was completed and dedicated 5 June 1898. In 1917 the present building with a seating capacity of 400-500 was erected. Approximately 50 members worship at the Parnell Mennonite Church, a mission church that was started by West Union in 1948. In 1906 West Union started a mission Sunday school near Wellman, which became the Wellman Mennonite Church in 1935. The membership in 1957 was 386, with Herman Ropp as bishop and Paul T. Guengerich and Amos Gingerich as ministers. Bishops Christian Warey, A. I. Yoder, J. K. Yoder, A. G. Yoder, and John Y. Swartzendruber have served this congregation.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published July 2023

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "West Union Mennonite Church (Parnell, Iowa, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2023. Web. 17 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=West_Union_Mennonite_Church_(Parnell,_Iowa,_USA)&oldid=176319.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (July 2023). West Union Mennonite Church (Parnell, Iowa, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=West_Union_Mennonite_Church_(Parnell,_Iowa,_USA)&oldid=176319.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.