Allentown Mennonite Church (Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA)
Evangelistic ministries in Allentown, Pennsylvania, by preacher David L. Gehman and other interested persons from Franconia Mennonite Conference began as early as 1930. Evangelistic services by Elias W. Kulp were held at 810 St. John Street, a building rented by the Franconia Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. The work was discontinued for a time, but was revived in 1945, led by Walter and Ruth Hackman, Mark and Sara Frederick, Henry Musselman and others. Community distribution of The Way and prison visitation were part of the evangelistic ministry. A three-story building was purchased for meeting space and parsonage at 811 South Sixth Street near the Good Shepherd Home in 1948-49. A new auditorium with basement classrooms was added in 1955, with dedication services on 11 March 1956. Alvin Detweiler was ordained by lot to serve as pastor in 1949; Kathryn Detweiler supported her husband in ministry and was known as a great hostess. Many who supported the development of the church commuted from the Souderton area. Attendance in the early 1960s exceeded 200 persons.
An important ministry of the congregation from 1949 to 1964 was a large annual two-week summer Bible school, later expanding into two separate two-week sessions. Teachers came from many other congregations. Well-behaved children who had perfect attendance and memorized scripture were rewarded with a week’s camping experience at Camp Men-O-Lan, Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Throughout the year many of these children and youth were involved in crafts activities and Sunday school. Decades later many people in the Allentown area testify to the Christian teaching they received through the church’s ministries during this era.
|Allentown Mennonite Church in 1974 (top) and after it closed in 2001
(bottom). Photos courtesy of Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville,
In 1951, when the federal government required conscientious objectors to perform civilian service in lieu of military service, many young men found employment at the Allentown State Hospital, Allentown General Hospital, and the Good Shepherd Home. Alvin Detweiler and Walter Hackman served as counselors to these men. A few of these men stayed in the area and became active in the church. Having residents of Good Shepherd involved in congregational life introduced everyone to the special needs and gifts of persons with disabilities.
In 1961 the congregation purchased seven acres bordered by woodland along Brunner Road near Vera Cruz, Pennsylvania for a cemetery. However, this “Mountain View” property was used primarily as a summer day camp, and congregational worship and recreational activities were held here. Around 1980 a pavilion was erected. In 1992 the property was sold and the five graves removed.
Stanley Beidler, Winfield Ruth and Robert Walters served the congregation as Franconia Mennonite Conference overseers. Scores of former church members have gone on to other church ministries.
With dwindling membership, the congregation disbanded with Martin Sauder preaching the last sermon on 2 January 2000. Other church and ministry groups rented the building for a time. The Vietnamese Gospel Mennonite Church began meeting here in April 2004 after Franconia Mennonite Conference deeded the property to the church.
There was a more recent Allentown Mennonite Church. Around 2007, the Hope Mennonite Fellowship, after several years of ministry in the Lehigh County Prison, rented a small unused church building at South Seventh and St. John Streets and established the Allentown Mennonite Mission. After purchasing and renovating the building, it was dedicated on 29 November 2009, taking the name Allentown Mennonite Church.
Allentown Mennonite Church Pastors
|Alvin F. Detweiler||1949-1964|
|Elmer S. Yoder||1965-1967|
|James R. Armstrong||1967-1970|
|Ray L. Landis||1971-1975|
|Luke S. Martin||1977-1988|
|Robert G. Walters
Allentown Mennonite Church Membership
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 57. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Martin, Luke S. and Quintus Leatherman. "Allentown Mennonite Church (Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2012. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A44467.html.
APA style: Martin, Luke S. and Quintus Leatherman. (April 2012). Allentown Mennonite Church (Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A44467.html.