During the World War II era, young adults from larger congregations in the Franconia Mennonite Conference felt God’s call to pioneer church planting in a non-Mennonite area. Ambler, a suburban community 15 miles north of the city of Philadelphia, became the site of a mission resulting from this new missionary zeal.
Abram Godshall, John Ruth, Samuel Landis, Lauretta Walter, and others began holding Sunday school classes in 1952 on Sunday afternoons in an alley garage on Center Street, Ambler. They solicited help from the Franconia Mission Board, but a representative who attended a service reported that the children were too unruly to warrant further assistance.
In a few years, the group outgrew the small garage, so Abram Godshall purchased a house on Tennis Avenue, rented it to Paul and Esther Long, a newly-wed Mennonite couple from Harleysville, and opened the doors on Sunday mornings for a growing house church. “Workers” (as they were called) regularly travelled the 15 miles to Ambler from the Souderton/Franconia area to teach Sunday school and Summer Bible School classes, hold street meetings, and gather for weekday “cottage meetings” (a rural term for meeting in homes for singing, Bible study, and prayer).
The upstart congregation caught the attention of the Franconia Mission Board once again, this time with a positive response. Norman Hunsberger of Souderton was called and ordained to pastor the young congregation in 1958, so he and his family moved to Euclid Avenue in Ambler.
The house church continued to grow, due mainly to the friendship of Norman and his wife Mary with Burnes and Lillian Rose, an African-American couple from Rieffs Mill Road in Ambler. Norman and Burnes would roam the streets of the town, making friends and inviting them to church activities. Other faithful workers were Shirley Sell, Floyd and Gladys Kulp, Abram and Edith Allebach, Henry and Sara Kulp, Vernon and Miriam Derstine, Naomi Moyer, and Betty Allebach.
In 1961, the Franconia Mission Board authorized the construction of a new meetinghouse on a parcel of ground owned by Abram Godshall, located on the corner of Mount Pleasant Avenue and North Spring Garden Street. The congregation continued to worship, witness, and serve the surrounding community from this location in 2012.
From its origin as a program attractive primarily to children, church growth was fuelled by several other sources – persons from the surrounding community looking for the personal relationships provided by a small church setting, adults and their families wanting a more progressive approach to church life and ministry, college and graduate students choosing to worship in a Mennonite congregation during years of study in Philadelphia, and members of larger churches in Franconia Conference who wanted to exercise their gifts more actively in congregational worship and service.
Over the years, the congregation has been blessed by capable leadership and a gifted laity. Resources have been invested in people and programs rather than buildings. Young pastors have started their life-long church vocations in this affirming group of believers. Women in leadership, both pastoral and lay, have been the norm for many years. Key church issues have been processed with fervor but without serious division. The congregation has remained faithful to its Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage while welcoming a rich ethnic diversity – Caucasian, African-American, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, and others.
In 2013 the congregation was a diverse suburban fellowship with an average attendance of 65 for Sunday morning worship. Organizationally, the congregation was a member of Franconia Mennonite Conference, Mennonite Church USA, African-American Mennonite Association, and the local Wissahickon Faith Community.
Address: 90 East Mount Pleasant Ave., Ambler, PA 19002
Ambler Mennonite Church Pastors
|Michael Schaadt (Interim)||2002-2003|
|Sharon Wyse Miller||2003-2009|
Ambler Mennonite Church Membership
|Author(s)||Gerald A Benner|
|Date Published||December 2012|
Cite This Article
Benner, Gerald A. "Ambler Mennonite Church (Ambler, Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2012. Web. 22 Jan 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ambler_Mennonite_Church_(Ambler,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=115725.
Benner, Gerald A. (December 2012). Ambler Mennonite Church (Ambler, Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 January 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ambler_Mennonite_Church_(Ambler,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=115725.
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