Generations of Faith

Established in 1879, East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church was the first Mennonite congregation in downtown Lancaster. East Chestnut Street combines a sense of history and tradition with a commitment to being an inviting, engaged, and vital congregation where members are encouraged to live out their faith commitments. Visitors are always welcome.

Our goal is to be an active part of our community, and a source of life and peace in our neighborhood. While many of our members live in the surrounding communities, we continue to have a strong commitment to ministry in Lancaster city.

East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference of Mennonite Church USA. We deeply value connections to the broader Mennonite/-Anabaptist world, partnering with our sisters and brothers in witness, mission and peacemaking. We also value our relationship to the larger Christian Church. We see ourselves as grateful servants of Jesus Christ and ministers of his gospel in our neighborhood and the larger world.


Timeline

1870s: rural Mennonites began leaving farms to find employment in cities, part of a larger movement in the United States; city Mennonites asked rural ministers to come into the city to hold worship services for them
1879: “Lancaster Mennonite Church” is built as a meetinghouse on corner of East Chestnut Street and Sherman Street (present location); the land was given by lawyer Christian H. LeFevre;  it was the first Mennonite church in Lancaster City
January 4, 1880: meetinghouse is dedicated, membership is about 40 people
1894: first Sunday school is conducted
1895: membership is nearly 300 people and the meetinghouse is overflowing
1904: John H. Mosemann is ordained as minister
1906: new church building erected and church is newly named East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church
1907: David Mosemann is minister
January 28, 1907: new church building is dedicated; this is the church building in current use today
1918: Jacob E. Brubaker is minister
1934: Paul Mosemann begins preaching on the radio in 15-minute segments, breaking a Lancaster Conference rule that did not permit its members to be involved in religious broadcasting; Paul is excommunicated by Lancaster Conference, which included his father Bishop John H. Mosemann; Paul and his brother Daniel consequently organize Calvary Independent Church
1935: Ross Goldfus is minister
1947: Maurice E. Lehman is minister
1947: metal banks made from a pattern of the church building by Jacob E. Brubaker of Hubley Manufacturing; inscribed inside are the names of all ministers, deacons, and missionaries from ECSMC who served under Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities or the Mennonite Central Committee; “God Loveth a Cheerful Giver/ Self-Denial Missionary Fund-Bank”
1950s: ECSMC is considered a progressive church in Lancaster Conference compared to the rural churches because it had a balcony, Sunday school rooms, and carpeted floors; additionally, there was special music, couples sitting together instead of separated into men’s side and women’s side, prayer without kneeling, and young peoples’ meetings; fewer women wore cape dresses at ECSMC
June 1951: Brunk Brothers Evangelistic Tent Meetings are held in a vacant lot on East Chestnut Street across from the church; the enthusiastic response and attendance required the Brunks to move their meetings to a larger location at the old Lancaster Airport on Fruitville Pike so they could add another tent
1952: church split at ECSMC which results in the formation of Neffsville Mennonite Church; the Neffsville group wanted a more democratic church and a less authoritarian conference
1953-1956: Mylin Shenk and Noah G. Good serve as interim pastors
1956-1959: A. Don Augsburger is minister
June 1958: James M. Shank becomes pastor of ECSMC
1960s: ECSMC sponsors Saturday night youth programs for Lancaster Conference youth; the youth even went roller skating at a rink with James M. Shank!
1962: ECSMC gives a warm welcome to members of Rohrerstown Mennonite Church who were excommunicated for having televisions; ECSMC receives them as members without the conference protocol of letters of transfer; this helped ECSMC to heal a bit from the pain of the Neffsville split in 1952
1967-1972: Luke Shank is assistant pastor
1974: James R. Hess is installed to assist James M Shank
1978: FOCUS (Friends Out Caring, Understanding, and Sharing) is begun as a neighborhood women’s program with Bible study and fellowship
1982-1987: Glen Roth is minister
1987: Melvin Thomas is minister
1998-2011: Ron Adams is minister
1999: new quilt installed behind pulpit incorporating worship symbols chosen by the congregation; Cheryl Benner designed the quilt and Myrna Eitzen implemented the design
2000: yearly women’s retreats begun by Marilou Adams
2001: ECSMC begins hosting a weekly community meal in its basement, a program of Lancaster County Council of Churches
2002: front of building is renovated with a foyer added, as well as an elevator and other accommodations to make the building handicapped-accessible
August 2005: Sue Conrad is assistant pastor
October 30, 2005: ECSMC celebrates 125 years with a special service and speakers
May 16, 2009: Sue Conrad is ordained
2010: Chestnut Housing Corporation is begun and begins to acquire rundown houses in Lancaster City, renovating them with church volunteers
2012-June 2013: Dawn Yoder Harms is interim pastor
August 2013: Todd Friesen is minister
February 2015: Don Sharp is interim pastor


“When I started visiting ECSMC, the welcome drew me in. I soon discovered that the selections of music, vocal and instrumental, spoke to me. The sermons communicated in a meaningful way about scripture and life in the city. I was impressed by how well members were informed about local and world-wide need and also contributed.”
– Janice