Walsenburg Mennonite Church (Walsenburg, Colorado, USA)
Allen and Ella Mae Wagner moved from Perryton, Texas, to a ranch at La Veta, Colorado, in 1957. As the only Mennonites in this ethnically diverse area of southeastern Colorado, the Wagners began promoting a vision for establishment of a Mennonite church. During the early 1960s, Huerfano County officials proposed to build a new hospital in Walsenburg, some 16 miles northeast of La Veta, but they needed an organization to operate the facility. Ella Mae Wagner wrote to Allen H. Erb, then living in Hesston, Kansas, asking if the Mennonites would be interested in operating the hospital. Accordingly, Erb initiated negotiations with county officials, and the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (Mennonite Church) contracted to administer the new Huerfano County Memorial Hospital which was dedicated on 5 December 1963.
Mennonite workers were encouraged to move to Walsenburg to help operate the hospital. At first the Mennonites at Walsenburg traveled some 50 miles to attend worship services at the Pueblo Mennonite Church. John E. Gingrich, the Pueblo pastor, also led mid-week services twice a month in both Walsenburg and La Jara for a period of time. However, with the 1 January 1965, arrival of Eugene Schulz, who had previously served as pastor of the Gospel Fellowship in Shallow Water, Kansas, the local group of Mennonites began to hold meetings in homes. With the aid of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities the Walsenburg Mennonite Church was formally organized on 5 December 1965, with 21 charter members, and Schulz, then employed as a teacher at La Veta, was installed as pastor. The congregation affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference.
For a short period all services were held in the homes of church members. Soon the group rented Walsenburg’s Congregational Church building. During the fall of 1968, initial contacts were made with the local Presbyterian Church regarding a united fellowship since that congregation was without a pastor. A trial agreement was reached, but before joint services could be held, fire destroyed the Presbyterian parsonage attached to the church building that had been scheduled to be the two groups’ joint meetinghouse. On 29 May 1970, both the buildings and land were deeded to the Mennonites in exchange for one dollar, and in March 1972 a Voluntary Service (VS) unit was established under the leadership of Tim and Carolyn Lichti to conduct service projects that supported local church programs and promoted community outreach efforts.
Beginning in the summer of 1970 the damaged part of the building was renovated under the supervision of Paul Weaver of Colorado Springs. Volunteers from Colorado Mennonite churches helped in this endeavor and on 16 September 1973, the fellowship hall and Sunday school addition which included an upstairs apartment were dedicated.
The Walsenburg Mennonite Church dedicated its remodeled sanctuary on 7 December 1976. Although the church had a membership of 37 in 1978, attendance declined after May 1979 when the VS unit was closed. Schulz remained as the continuing pastoral presence at Walsenburg into the 21st century—except for the pastoral terms of Edwin F. Rempel (1974-79), Gordon Kelley (1981-83, hosting a house fellowship at his residence), and various short interims. By 2006 the congregation’s attendance had declined to an average of 11. Schultz served as pastor of the church until it closed at the end of 2006, when he retired at age 87.
Rempel, Kathrine. “A Tribute to Eugene Schultz.” Conference Connections (February 2007): 1.
Rempel, Edwin F. Mennonites In Walsenburg, Colorado, 1963- ____ , Serving in the Name of Christ. August 2004.
“The Mennonite Church of Walsenburg.” The Echo (June 1971): 3-5.
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.
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MLA style: Unrau, Harlan D. "Walsenburg Mennonite Church (Walsenburg, Colorado, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2011. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/walsenburg_mennonite_church_walsenburg_colorado_usa.
APA style: Unrau, Harlan D. (November 2011). Walsenburg Mennonite Church (Walsenburg, Colorado, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/walsenburg_mennonite_church_walsenburg_colorado_usa.