Pastor Merle Christner
and his wife Evie
have been at
Stephens City Mennonite Church
since October 2016
Stephens City Mennonite Church---Then and Now
Mennonites moved to the Stephens City, Frederick County, Virginia area as early as the 1700s. Joist Hite, one of Frederick County’s earliest settlers, along with 16 other Mennonite families had moved from Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that Mennonites began to settle the second time in Kernstown and the surrounding area.
Stephens City Mennonite Church began in 1953 when Mark Showalter began holding home Bible study meetings with his friends Maude and Robert Hartley. The group grew, and eventually Showalter rented a basement room in the old Stephens City Post Office on the corner of Main and Fairfax Streets. The Virginia Mennonite Conference recognized the group by 1955. Pastoral leadership was provided by Northern District while Teddy Rollins and J. Otis Yoder preached.
In January 1960 Mark asked the Northern District Council for permission to build a church. There were 217 in attendance when the current building was dedicated on 27 November 1960. The young church included a group of about 30 Mennonite men who were exempted from the draft as conscientious objectors and came to the area to fulfill their alternate service at Winchester Medical Center. Attendance and membership numbers have varied over the years and currently the congregation is few in numbers but quite active in service to the church, conference, and community.
The congregation meets for worship each Sunday morning in a traditional though informal service. Approximately once every 2 months, a participatory service called “Ekklesia” replaces the usual format. The congregation enjoys music and sings a variety of musical styles during worship services.
Adults also meet together for Sunday School classes prior to the worship service which may involve a discussion of a book, a theme, or Bible study. Some people are organized into small groups for Bible study and fellowship which meet at various times during the week. The Service & Witness Commission collaborates with other churches in the area and coordinates the involvement of the congregation in helping meet local community needs.
A Prayer Garden was started in 2002. A pavilion was built in 2004 and is used for meals, worship, the Just4Kidz after school program, and other outdoor events.
(Information obtained from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online)