Waterford Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana was created as a seed project of Yellow Creek Mennonite Church. Led by Pastor Peter Wiebe, Yellow Creek began considering a new church plant in 1956. Yellow Creek was outgrowing its building, and Joseph Daniel Graber, president of the Mennonite Board of Missions, had used the slogan "a mission outpost for every congregation" to encourage the formation of new churches. The first Waterford service was held on 5 October 1958 at Bethany Christian High School. Peter Wiebe led both Yellow Creek and Waterford until Virgil Brenneman became lead pastor and Sanford Yoder became bishop in 1959. Waterford Mennonite Church was formally organized on 4 October 1959, with 79 original charter members.
Early church activities included a Mennonite Youth Fellowship, which began meeting in 1958, and a summer Bible School which began in 1959. Waterford used and financially supported a Bible Memory Program created by members Harvey and Prudence Birkey. Mennonite women met as part of the Women’s Mission and Service Auxiliary. Church members held weekly potlucks after Sunday morning services. The congregation also helped lead quarterly services at the Hope Rescue Mission, located in South Bend.
In 1962, the Waterford congregation purchased property in Goshen at 65975 Indiana 15th Street, although the church stayed at Bethany Christian High School until 1973. Also in 1962, pastor Virgil Brenneman resigned due in because of his differences with the more conservative church council. Theron Weldy became lead pastor in 1963, and served until 1965, when Weldy asked to be released from his contract early. Weldy was replaced by Elno Steiner in 1966.
In the 1960s, Waterford Mennonite Church was a "big brother" to a congregation in Smith School, Kentucky. Waterford also partnered with the Lake Bethel and Community Mennonite Church congregations. The congregation continued supporting the Bible Memory Program and Hope Rescue Mission. In 1965, Waterford members assisted with rebuilding after Elkhart County was struck by a series of severe tornadoes that destroyed two local Mennonite churches. Also in 1965, member Donna Hartman became the first woman to preach to the congregation, in a speech entitled "What Motherhood Means to Me." In 1966, Bishop John Zehr, who had served since 1961, and one of his sons were killed in a car accident. Waterford housed Zehr’s wife and her three surviving children in a house on church property until the house was torn down in 1972.
The 1970s were a time of both celebration and change. Waterford Mennonite Church moved out of Bethany Christian High School to the location at 65975 15th Street, which was dedicated on 11 November 1973. In 1974, the first piano and organ were installed. Beginning in the late 1960s, Waterford assisted local Spanish-speaking migrant workers with housing and transportation, and Waterford supported the Spanish-language Iglesia del Buen pastor, which opened in 1970. Church members also experienced economic hardships during the early 1970s, and the church focused on tending needs of its own members. The church discussed changing issues of dress, such as women wearing jewelry and no longer wearing head coverings.
Del and Charlotte Holsopple-Glick became co-pastors in 1980 and helped create a new church constitution in 1982. New service activities in the 1980s included a women’s jail ministry, supporting and hosting Southeast Asian and Latin American refugee families, and Sunday school at the Greencroft retirement home. Waterford elders discussed controversial issues, including women in leadership, divorce, homosexuality, and evolution. In 1984, Carol Lehman became the first female elder. Waterford supported another church plant in the 1980s, the Mennonite Church of Warsaw.
Waterford began holding two Sunday Worship services in 1988, and the congregation continued to grow in the 1990s. Between 1992 and 1994, the church expanded the northwest corner of the building, and redesigned or built new office spaces, Sunday school rooms, and restrooms. New Waterford service work in the 1990s included support for missionaries in Benin, hosting homeless persons through Interfaith Hospitality Network, and partnership through Christian Peacemaker Teams with a Palestinian family in the city of Hebron. Tim Weaver, Lloyd Miller, and Joe Miller served as lead pastors during the 1990s.
In 2002, declining membership prompted Waterford to return to holding one Sunday Service, instead of two services. Also in 2002, Waterford adopted five explicit core values- "Christ-centered spirituality, integrity, love, stewardship, and evangelism." The church continued connections with Benin through a partnership with the Benin Bible Institute. Pastors from both organizations traveled between countries for yearly visits and sermons, and several Waterford members lived and worked in Benin while a Beninese couple likewise spent time in Goshen. Other new church activities included several free Bluegrass concerts for the community at the start of Summer Bible School, and connections to local organizations such as The Window, a soup kitchen, and Walnut Hill Early Childhood Center. In 2005, Neil Amstutz was chosen as lead pastor.
Hollinger, Wilmer I. Pillars along the Way: Waterford Mennonite Church’s Fifty-Year Story. Goshen, IN: Waterford Mennonite Church, 2009.
Waterford Mennonite Church Directory 1976-1977.
The Archives of the congregation are located at the Mennonite Church USA Archives in Goshen, Indiana.
Membership and pastoral records are located at Waterford Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana.
Address: 65975 Indiana 15th St., Goshen, IN, 46526
Website Waterford Mennonite Church
Mennonite Church (MC) (1959-2002)
Mennonite Church USA (2002-present)
Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (1959-present)
Waterford Mennonite Church Pastors
|Minister||Years of Service|
|Del and Charlotte Holsopple Glick||1980-1990|
|Tm Weaver (interim)||1990-1992|
|Bill Breckbill (interim)||2004-2004|
Waterford Mennonite Church Membership
|Date Published||May 2014|
Cite This Article
Geiser, Nathan. "Waterford Mennonite Church (Goshen, Indiana, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2014. Web. 23 May 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Waterford_Mennonite_Church_(Goshen,_Indiana,_USA)&oldid=122638.
Geiser, Nathan. (May 2014). Waterford Mennonite Church (Goshen, Indiana, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Waterford_Mennonite_Church_(Goshen,_Indiana,_USA)&oldid=122638.
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