In 1987 the 14 Mennonite congregations in New England were small, scattered, and diverse. Though largely the result of mission efforts by groups from Pennsylvania, only a few of the congregations had membership reflecting the Germanic background of sponsoring conferences. Significant groups responding to Mennonite church planting efforts included blacks, whites, Hispanics, Chinese, and Laotians. In 1987 the total number of people active in all 14 congregations was about 750.
The first structured Mennonite presence in New England appeared in 1947, when Franconia Conference (MC) began summer (vacation) Bible school missions in Vermont. The Bible school program helped establish three enduring congregations in the state: Andover (1947), Bridgewater Corners (1952), and Taftsville (1960).
While teaching at Harvard Divinity School in 1962, J. Lawrence Burkholder gave leadership at Boston to the first Mennonite fellowship elsewhere in New England (this congregation later affiliated with the Atlantic Coast Conference [MC] and the General Conference Mennonite Church [GCM]). Lancaster Conference (MC) came to the region with a mission church at New Haven, CT in 1968.
After a period of dormancy in outreach, the 1980s saw a major thrust of church planting. Lancaster Conference added two churches in Maine, two in Connecticut and four in Massachusetts. Franconia Conference began a new congregation in Vermont. Most of these groups started as house fellowships under the leadership of a "church planter" sponsored by conference mission boards.
The New England Fellowship of Mennonite Churches was formally organized in 1985. It had two objectives: to promote fellowship and communication among leaders of all congregations, and to foster vision for evangelism and church planting. All congregations continue to receive oversight from conferences outside the region. The New England Fellowship supplemented this by circulating a newsletter, sponsoring a variety of leadership seminars, and encouraging interaction among the scattered churches.
Horsch, James E., ed. Mennonite Yearbook and Directory. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House (1988-89): 20-42 passim, 88-89.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 624-625. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Kraybill, J. Nelson. "New England." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/N4917.html.
APA style: Kraybill, J. Nelson. (1987). New England. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/N4917.html.