As a church, East Petersburg Mennonite Church has been intertwined with the neighborhoods of East Petersburg ever since this faith community gathered first as local Mennonite neighbors. Oral tradition records that we first started gathering in 1720. Though we are now a faith community that is made up of a diverse collection of families from all over Lancaster County, there is no denying the connection of this church to its neighbors and neighborhoods.
By 1831, the faith community of East Petersburg Mennonite had their first meeting house on the corner of State Street and Lemon Street. Many church groups shared this location and collaborated together until their growth allowed them to purchase their own space elsewhere. Later Hempfield Church of the Brethren was built on that spot and now that Hempfield Church of the Brethren has moved, their former building serves once again as a home to several churches.
This original meeting house was an old log house that had formerly been a “Union Church Schoolhouse”. The Global Anabaptist Encyclopedia Online surmises that it would have been a building from Pre-Revolution days. Our community’s membership of this era was about 12-15 people as it started. However, numerous Mennonite families were steadily moving into the area and caused a rapid growth within our church family.
On March 28, 1867 the first pieces of land were purchased which the church building currently rests on. The first building that was built on this land was only 40×60 feet and served as a “Meeting House.”
As growth continued to happen, the need for space echoed throughout our faith community. On March 29, 1896 the last meeting in the original building was held with a time of communion together as a community. On March 27, 1902 more land was purchased and added to our space. By 1903, there was a demand for finding ways to do more together and Sunday School was started.
In 1933, our meeting house building was once again remodeled and enlarged. New benches were brought in. The next year (1934) people were working together to enlarge the space even more. This building was a traditional Mennonite meeting house, but wasn’t large. However, growth continued to happen despite the size of the building. By 1954, according to the Global Anabaptist Encyclopedia Online our faith community was home to 450 members. Our congregation experienced a decline in members in the 1960s as families left to join the more conservative Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church. However, our faith community continued to hold a strong membership averaging over 330. Our community was still over 300 members as we progressed into a new millennium. In 1997 our current building was enlarged and serves as the building we use today. The builders were able to incorporate our historic building into the new space they built.
East Petersburg Mennonite Church has now been in this neighborhood for over 296 years. Our story has had many different chapters, and more chapters continue to be written. We continue to press on as a community that is learning to live and love like Jesus.