Diamond Street Mennonite Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Diamond Street Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church USA), in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, began as a mission work among African-Americans on 1 July 1935, at 191 West Dauphin Street. It was known at first as the Mennonite Mission for the Colored. Sponsored by the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (MC), the work was transferred to Diamond Street in 1942. In 1954 Luke G. Stoltzfus was pastor and Emma Rudy and Alma Ruth were the mission workers. A large number of African-American children were being reached through Bible teaching activities held in homes, open lots, and in the mission. The total baptized membership, including workers, was 19 in 1954. The pastor in 2007 was Otis M. Banks and the membership at that time was 65.
In the early 1980s the congregation moved to a former masonic hall at 1632 West Diamond Street. There in a large structure of four floors the congregation launched the Diamond Street Community Center where it tried to serve a wide variety of community needs. The board of directors was composed of a majority of church members along with other like-minded adults from the neighborhood. They had became the new owners of the corner building in 1979 via the city’s Gift Property Program. The only cost was the $13.50 title-transfer fee, along with evidence of a viable plan.
A multitude of workers renovated the building and launched various ministries, including a health center. The church continued to grow, filling up the newly renovated space. A dynamic multicultural gospel choir blossomed, blessing many in the city and beyond, including Mennonite World Conference Assembly in France in 1984.
Further development of the site also increased programs. Local seniors enjoyed many meals as they made pottery and took field trips. An Alcoholics Anonymous group helped people stay sober. A career center prepared young and old to find and hold jobs. A local chapter of Habitat for Humanity took root. Weddings, concerts and community events were hosted. As the building increased in capacity, resource fluctuations were always an issue. Funding dried up, needs changed, people left or new people and funding became available. Viability, sustainability and relevance were ongoing issues.
In later years (2000s) the church dwindled in size and could not raise the funds to repay a sizable loan. Eventually the building was sold to a non-denominational ministry (Epiphany Fellowship). As the fallout from the stress of the later years, the Diamond Street congregation relocated, withdrew from the Mennonite Church, and became a non-denominational congregation.
Fretz, Clarence Y. "Mennonitism in Philadelphia." Christian Monitor (August 1945).
Landis, Ira David. The Missionary Movement Among Lancaster Conference Mennonites. Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Mennonite Publishing House, 1938: 46, 47.
Miller, Freeman. "Whatever happened to Diamond Street?" TheMennonite (November 2012). Web. 22 March 2014. http://www.themennonite.org/issues/15-11/articles/Whatever_happened_to_Diamond_Street.
Former Address: 1632 W Diamond Street, Philadelphia PA 19121-2313
|Author(s)||Clarence Y Fretz|
|Date Published||March 2014|
Cite This Article
Fretz, Clarence Y and Sam Steiner. "Diamond Street Mennonite Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2014. Web. 24 May 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Diamond_Street_Mennonite_Church_(Philadelphia,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=141013.
Fretz, Clarence Y and Sam Steiner. (March 2014). Diamond Street Mennonite Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Diamond_Street_Mennonite_Church_(Philadelphia,_Pennsylvania,_USA)&oldid=141013.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 51. All rights reserved.
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