Perryton Mennonite Church (Perryton, Texas, USA)
|Perryton Mennonite Church
In 1908 two Mennonite families—the Jake Birkeys and Thomas Pletchers—arrived in the present-day Perryton, Texas, area, a windswept region of the northern Texas Panhandle as part of the continuing search for cheap agricultural land. In 1919, the Perryton town site was laid out along the North Texas and Santa Fe Railway and designated the Ochiltree County seat, seven miles south of the Texas state line. On 30 September 1909, the Gospel Herald published an article by R. J. Heatwole regarding this fledgling Mennonite settlement:
Today I rode 160 miles with Gaines & Kauffman, the colonizing agent here, fifty miles northwest of Glazier near Kiowa and Ochiltree. The last is a little but promising village in sight of Bro. Thos. Pletchers and Pre. Jacob Berkeys and yet it is 15 miles distant. The railroad is expected by some to be finished to this place by Jan. 1910. We have four Mennonite families here in sight of this colonizing proposition near Kiowa and Ochiltree and many new settlers have built and moved here since I was down before who are not of Mennonite faith. The agents have also told me that when the Mennonite colony was once established that they would donate a church house to them.
The early settlers soon established a Union Sunday School in the Lone Tree Community southeast of Perryton. Jake Birkey, an ordained minister, took charge of the work. After the Birkeys left the area, the Pletcher family kept the Sunday School going, although services continued to be held irregularly. Many ministers of various denominations preached for the group, and Mennonite ministers came as often as possible. Without an organized Mennonite congregation, those who wished to be affiliated with a Mennonite church joined the La Junta Mennonite Church, more than 270 miles away. The 1922 report of the Missouri-Kansas Conference listed the presence of nine members at Perryton, while the Mennonite Yearbook listed no members during 1924-1936. The yearbook dropped mention of the congregation during 1937-1939, but it appeared again in 1940 under Guymon, Oklahoma, located some 45-50 miles northwest of Perryton.
Bishop Jacob A. Heatwole, of La Junta, conducted a ten-day series of meetings in the Lone Tree Community in 1936. Soon thereafter, Heatwole, Earl Showalter, and Allen H. Erb, all based in La Junta, Colorado, took turns traveling to Perryton on the first Sunday of each month. A congregation was soon formed, bringing together the Sunday School groups from Guymon and Lone Tree, and Richard L. Showalter became the group’s pastor on 12 July 1942. By that time, the group had a membership of 15 with an average attendance of 40, while a second location at Guymon had nine members. On 7 November 1943, the Perryton group organized formally with 22 charter members. The new congregation was affiliated with the South Central Conference of the Mennonite Church.
By 1944, the Perryton Mennonite Church was meeting in a country schoolhouse and had started a building fund to construct a church building in a central location convenient for all three groups Showalter was serving—Perryton and Waka (the Bethel Mennonite Church in Waka, Texas, some 20 miles southwest of Perryton, was organized as a Western District Conference congregation in 1922), Texas, and Guymon. In 1945, the church purchased a building in Perryton, and Showalter began holding one Sunday worship service a month in Hitchland, Texas.
Showalter continued to serve as pastor for all four locations through 1952. At that point, the Guymon, Waka, and Hitchland churches joined the General Conference Mennonite Church. After Showalter resigned in 1953, Earl Showalter, formerly from La Junta, provided pastoral leadership during 1954-1956. Richard Yordy and Paul H. Holdeman provided interim leadership until Wallace Jantz was ordained as pastor at Perryton on 21 September 1958, a position he would hold until 31 December 1966. In 1957 the congregation had 57 baptized members. Pastors serving the congregation since 1966 include Sidney Martin, Chrys Harms, Wayne Martin, and Don Stoll.
During the fall of 1961, the pastor of the Bethel Mennonite Church at Waka, with less than 20 members, resigned and moved from the area. Thus, the Perryton Mennonite Church, under Jantz’s pastoral leadership, invited the Waka group to merge with it. After discernment meetings, the Waka congregation relinquished its affiliation with the General Conference Mennonite Church, and both groups voted in favor of a merger. The first Sunday of combined worship in the Perryton church building was conducted on 26 August 1962, with commemorative merger services conducted some weeks later on 14 October. The merger resulted in uniting the 17-member Waka congregation and the 56-member Perryton church. In 1961 the congregation became a charter member of the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference. Thereafter, the united congregation, which had a widely dispersed rural membership with members living in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, constructed a new facility, and the new church building was dedicated on 4 January 1970.
In 2006 Perryton Mennonite Church became a charter member of the Mountain States Mennonite Conference. In 2007 the congregation, under the pastoral leadership of Don Stoll, had 35 members and an average attendance of 40. Jeff Staton currently serves the congregation as interim pastor, a role he has filled since 2007.
Jantz, Sylvia. "Perryton, Texas." Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference News Service, For Immediate Release, May 2, 1988.
Unrau, Harlan D. In Pursuit of Land, Health and Mission: A History of Mennonites in the Mountain States Region. Printed in Canada by Blitzprint Inc., 2007.
Address: 2821 South Ash, Perryton, Texas 79070
Perryton Mennonite Church Pastors
|Richard L. Showalter
|| 12 July 1942-June 1946
(left for school in Goshen, Indiana)
|Richard Showalter||1949-1953 (returned from school)|
|Paul H. Holdeman||1955-1957|
|Wallace Jantz||21 September 1958–31 December 1966|
|Sydney Martin||1 September1968–19 August 1973|
|Chryston Harms||2 September 1973–30 December 1979|
|John Steiner (Interim)|
|Roy Sauder (Interim)|
|Joshua Christiansen||13 June 1982–9 October 1983|
|Wayne Martin||25 December 1983–23 August 1987|
|George Leppert||August 1988–October 1992|
|Jeff Staton (Interim)||2007-|
1959 Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 147
Perryton Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church USA), located at 319 South Birch Street [see current address above], in Perryton, Ochiltree County, Texas, a member of the South Central Mennonite Conference, was organized on 7 November 1943. In 1957 there were 50 baptized members. The pastor was Wallace Jantz.
by Richard L. Showalter
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MLA style: Unrau, Harlan. "Perryton Mennonite Church (Perryton, Texas, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2010. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/P4744.html.
APA style: Unrau, Harlan. (September 2010). Perryton Mennonite Church (Perryton, Texas, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/P4744.html.