Mennonite Church to celebrate 150 years

Sentinel photo by ERIN THOMPSON
Betty Hartzler, of the Maple Grove Mennonite Church, displays books found in the church’s Heritage Center. The church will be giving tours of the Center during its 150th anniversary celebration Aug. 10-12.

BELLEVILLE –The 150th anniversary of Maple Grove Mennonite Church, 115 Maple Grove Road, is expected to bring hundreds from across the nation.

Current and past members will have the opportunity to learn about the church’s rich history and join in fellowship Aug. 10-12 for the celebration.

“It will be a festive atmosphere with balloons, lots of fellowship and celebration of the past history of our church,” said Betty Hartzler, who is on the committee for organizing the celebration.

Reservations for the weekend have already been made by past members who grew up in the church and have since moved to other parts of the country, she said.

Maple Grove Mennonite Church was founded in 1868 and was the first Amish church in the Big Valley. Hartzler said the Amish settled in the Big Valley in 1791 and met in houses and barns until the church was built.

One year later, Hartzler said, a sister congregation, the Allensville Mennonite Church. Allensville Mennonite Church is also still in operation, she said.


The weekend will kick off at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 10, with an acappella hymn sing, which will be comprised of songs from four hymnals that have been used over the church’s 150 years.

The hymn sing will be followed by storytelling by Julia Spicher Kasdorf.

According to Hartzler, Kasdorf, will speak about J.W. Yoder, an author and Juniata College professor, who wrote “Rosanna the Amish,” a fictionalized true story based on his mother’s life, and about singing schools that Yoder made popular in the Juniata Valley.

Hartzler said the release of “Rosanna the Amish” garnered much public interest in the Amish community. Kasdorf is responsible for researching and updating the story, “Rosanna the Amish.”

Kasdorf, of Lewistown, is known for the biography, “Fixing Tradition: Joseph W. Yoder, Amish American.”

She has also authored “The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life,” and poetry collections that include “Eve’s Striptease,” “Sleeping Preacher” and “Poetry in America.”

Saturday will begin with a review of Amish history throughout the Juniata Valley.

“We will be remembering our early roots and give tours of our Heritage Center,” said Hartzler.

Tours will begin at 9 a.m. and will be followed by a “typical Amish meal” of bean soup and moon pie lunch at noon.

At 1 p.m., John Sharp, author of “A School on the Prairie: A Centennial History of Hesston College, 1909-2009” and, a biography, “Orie O. Miller: Servant Leader (1892-1977)” will tell stories about bean soup and Maple Grove.

Sharp also interview Duane Kauffman, author of “Mifflin County Amish and Mennonite History 1791-1991” and “Christian Kauffman: His Descendants and His People.”

Kauffman and Sharp will also discuss the first Amish arrival in the Juniata Valley up to the first church building.

Lectures are followed by a 5 p.m. Amish wedding feast. Tickets are required to partake in the meal. They can be purchased for $15 by calling the church office, at (717) 935-2513.

In the evening, at 7 p.m., there will be discussion of Maple Grove history, 1868 to present day and more storytelling by Kaufman and Sharp.

The weekend concludes with a celebration during the 10 a.m. Sunday worship service, which will include previous pastors.

The service will be followed by a pot lock at noon that will emphasize Big Valley foods. Hartzler said anyone is welcome to attend the meal. The winning bid for a silent auction quilt will also be announced on Sunday.