Albuquerque Mennonite Church (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)
In 1948 Mennonite families in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, started a home Sunday School. With support from the Mennonite Board of Missions, the Bethel Mennonite Church was organized for fellowship and community outreach in 1950 and joined the South Pacific Conference of the Mennonite Church. The congregation’s first pastor was Joseph H. Yoder who was followed by Theron Welty. By 1956, the congregation had 13 members.
In 1966 the Bethel Mennonite Church became a member of the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference Under the pastoral leadership of Jacob F. Weirich, the church had an average attendance of 65 that year. During the late 1960s a Mennonite Voluntary Service unit was established in Albuquerque.
By 1977 the Bethel Mennonite Church had only 15 members and was without a pastor. Thus, the congregation began worshiping with the local Sandia Brethren in Christ Church which had been established in the late 1940s. In 1982 the two congregations merged, and the united church, co-pastored by Marion Heisy and Robert Bushnell, affiliated with both the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference and the Brethren in Christ.
In 1988 a group of young professionals in the University of New Mexico area established a reorganized Albuquerque Mennonite Church with support from the Mennonite Board of Missions and the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference. The new congregation, which was an outgrowth of the merged Bethel Mennonite and Sandia Brethren in Christ congregations, held its first public worship service on 20 November. The newly formed congregation’s vision was to promote a stronger focus on peace and social justice concerns in the community and to provide an enhanced Anabaptist presence in the culturally diverse city.
Early enthusiasm within the new congregation diminished as divergent opinions and attrition took its toll, and by the summer of 1990, attendance had dropped from around 40 to less than 20. With the help of the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference, Ken and Leona Gingerich of Hesston, Kansas, were called during the fall of 1990 to serve as half-time lay leaders of the struggling congregation. As a result, the congregation began to rebound and was soon meeting in the conference room of a family and children’s social agency with an average attendance of 45.
During the late summer of 1992, Michael Chandler of Harrisonburg, Virginia, became pastor of the church. That same year the Mennonite Board of Missions’ Evangelism and Church Development Division appointed Gingerich to the newly-created position of Albuquerque Urban Ministries Director to help raise the visibility of evangelism and church development projects throughout the metropolitan area. One outcome was the formation in 1996 of the Family of Faith Mennonite Church in nearby Rio Rancho, a Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference congregation that functioned until 1999.
In 1996 the Sandia Brethren in Christ congregation, which had been part of the merged Sandia Brethren in Christ/Albuquerque Mennonite Church, withdrew its affiliation from the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference. During the previous summer, the Albuquerque Mennonite Church began using the basement of the University Heights United Methodist Church for its services after meeting in a Messianic Jewish synagogue for a period of time. After Chandler resigned in 1996, Ralph Lind served as pastor from 1998 to 2001.
In 1997 a Voluntary Service program, known as the Albuquerque Service Adventure unit, was established in association with the Albuquerque Mennonite Church in part to support congregational development and community connections. Since its inception, Service Adventure members have continued to serve in various community-related ministries and services.
Anita F. Amstutz became pastor in March 2002 and was ordained in May 2006. Amstutz also served on the staff of Albuquerque’s Center for Action and Contemplation, and occasionally participated as an adjunct instructor in the Religious Studies program at the University of New Mexico. Her highly visible work in the community was noted as one reason for growth and interest in the congregation which continues to attract a high percentage (50%-60%) of local community attendees.
In November 2005 the congregation purchased a former Southern Baptist Church on Girard Boulevard near the eastern boundary of the University of New Mexico campus. Funding for the acquisition was provided in part when the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference in September 2005 endorsed a proposal to sell the property of the former Family of Faith Mennonite Church in Rio Rancho and donate the sale’s proceeds to the Albuquerque Mennonite Church. The 9,000 square-foot building also houses a non-profit day care program and serves as the meeting place for a number of 12-step groups.
In 2005 the congregation established an innovative Healing Ministries Team to meet congregational needs. Composed of a volunteer group of four church members with backgrounds in social work, pastoral care, hospital chaplain work, and health care under the guidance of Amstutz, the team included “adjunct members” with backgrounds in psychiatry, hospice work, and nursing.
In 2006 Albuquerque Mennonite Church became a charter member of the Mountain States Mennonite Conference. Currently, the congregation, under the pastoral leadership of Amstutz, has a listed membership of 75 and an average attendance of approximately 100.
“Albuquerque Mennonite Moves Up.” Conference Connections (December 2005): 2.
Anderson, Neal. “Healing in the High Desert.” “Albuquerque, N.M. (Mennonite Church USA) – Healing – it’s an ancient spiritual concept that one Mennonite Church USA congregation in New Mexico has taken to heart and put into the hands of its members.” Mennonite News Service (6 February 2007).
“Congregational News: Albuquerque Mennonite Church, NM.” Conference Connections (May 2006): 9.
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: 1300 Girard Boulevard, NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106
Mountain States Mennonite Conference
Albuquerque Mennonite Church Pastors
| Ralph Lind
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MLA style: Unrau, Harlan. "Albuquerque Mennonite Church (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2010. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/albuquerque_mennonite_church_albuquerque_new_mexico_usa.
APA style: Unrau, Harlan. (September 2010). Albuquerque Mennonite Church (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/albuquerque_mennonite_church_albuquerque_new_mexico_usa.