Lichtenau-Petershagen Mennonite Church (Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine)
Lichtenau-Petershagen Mennonite Church, situated in the Molotschna settlement, Taurida, South Russia, and known as the "Reinflämische Gemeinde," originated as the result of a division in 1824 in the Ohrloff-Petershagen congregation, which was the first and only congregation at the beginning of the Molotschna settlement except for the Kleine Gemeinde which separated in 1812. It was also called "Grosse Gemeinde," since about three quarters of the population of the Molotschna belonged to it, 430 families in contrast to the 142 which remained at Ohrloff. Its first elder was Jakob Warkentin, who served from 1824 to 1842, when because of differences with the colonial administration (Johann Cornies) he was deposed from his duty as elder by the Fürsorgekomitee in Odessa on the charge of unauthorized interference in civil affairs. After this event the large Lichtenau congregation was divided into three smaller ones: Lichtenau-Petershagen, Margenau-Schonsee, and Pordenau, each with its own elder. This was also an order from Odessa.
After the division of 1842 the greater part of the population of the following villages belonged to the Lichtenau-Petershagen congregation: Altonau, Münsterberg, Blumstein, Lichtenau, Lindenau, Fischau, Schönau, Tiegenhagen, Petershagen, Ladekopp, some from Ohrloff and Tiege, making a total of approximately 5,000. The first meetinghouse at Lichtenau was built in 1826, a second and larger one, of brick, in 1860. In later years it was surrounded by mighty chestnut trees. There were also meetinghouses at Petershagen (built in 1831), Schönfeld, Rosenhof, and Blumenfeld. After Jakob Warkentin the following elders served the Lichtenau-Petershagen congregation: Dirk Warkentin 1842-1869, Jakob Töws 1869-1908, Bernhard Epp 1908-1922, David Epp 1922-1926, and Peter Nickel 1926-1931. In 1887 the total baptized membership numbered 2,388, and 2,496 children.
In former times only Sunday morning services were held, but in later years, before and after World War I, church life became more varied. Song festivals and Bible conferences attracted many visitors, especially under the last two elders, D. H. Epp and P. Nickel. Sunday school was also introduced, as religious instruction had been banished from the schools. As in most other Mennonite churches in Russia there was no instrument to accompany the singing. Services were conducted in German. Church discipline was limited to temporary expulsion for moral misconduct.
In the early 1920s the church building and everything in the church became property of the state, but services still continued although they became more and more difficult because of ever-increasing church taxes. In 1931 Elder P. Nickel was compelled to leave and the church was closed.
In 1905 the total membership, including children, was about 4,000, and in 1926 it was 5,000. The General Mennonite Conference (Allgemeine Mennonitische Bundeskonferenz) met three times in the Lichtenau church: 1889, 1899, and 1918. On 31 October 1926 the congregation observed its centennial.
Epp, David H. "Hundertjahresfeier der Lichtenauer Gemeinde." Unser Blatt II: 75, 79.
Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911.
Gorz, H. Die Molotschnaer Ansiedlung. Steinbach, 1951.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 648 f.
Mannhardt, H. G. Jahrbuch der altevangelischen Taufgesinnten oder Mennoniten (1888): 70 f.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 335. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Epp, David H. and Heinrich Goerz. "Lichtenau-Petershagen Mennonite Church (Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/lichtenau_petershagen_molotschna_mennonite.
APA style: Epp, David H. and Heinrich Goerz. (1957). Lichtenau-Petershagen Mennonite Church (Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/lichtenau_petershagen_molotschna_mennonite.