A bit of our history…
Our history is about real people who understood God to be working in and through them.
Marion Methodist Church closed her doors in 1941 because of an inability to pay a minister. However, because of the strong interest in having an active church in the community, one of the Marion Methodist Trustees contacted Oscar S. Hostetler. Oscar served as bishop of the Shore Mennonite Church. As a result Ora Schrock was asked to begin a Sunday School program at Marion and serve as Superintendent. John Mishler, who lived close to the church , and Ora visited all the families in the area. Their purpose was to invite people to come to Sunday School and the Sunday morning worship service. John and Ora were not always well received since this was during World War II and some people did not have a favorable view of conscientious objectors. However, the congregation flourished! Each Sunday a Mennonite minister from one of the area congregations came to preach. Lee Miller, pastor at Shore, had a vital role in this efforts. The average attendance was 100 persons per week.
Then in 1942 Bishop Oscar Hostetler called a meeting of the Shore congregation, and a decision was made to close the work at Marion. Apparently the Methodists wanted to sell the church building, but the Shore congregation was not ready to assist in the purchase. Interestingly, a neighbor also wanted to buy the church and use it for a hay barn. However, the local Methodist Trustee, Lewis Wagoner, refused to accept the money. Consequently, the neighbor forbid his family to attend any of the church services.
After the doors were officially closed, Tobe Schrock, who was serving as treasurer, gave Ora the remaining balance of $400. This was deposited in the bank to be withdrawn only in order to reopen the church at Marion. Even though services were not being held at the church a faithful group of people continued to gather in homes for prayer meetings. They eventually resumed meeting in the church just prior to its purchase. In 1943 the Methodist District Board, located in Syracuse, IN, agreed to sell the building, contents, and land to the Mennonites for $4,000. During this same time Oscar Hostetler was able to persuade the Indiana-Michigan Mission Board to become involved in reopening the church by providing pastoral leadership. Then in 1944 the congregation became known as the Marion Mennonite Church, and Willard Sommers, from the Howard-Miami congregation in Kokomo, IN, served as the first pastor.
The first Sunday School was organized on December 10, 1944. The congregation was officially organized on June 10, 1945 with 18 charter members. We were granted independent status as a congregation by the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference in June 1950. The charter members and families were: JB Miller, John Mishler, Dan Christner, Eli Miller, Alvin Miller, William Schlatter, Willard Sommers, and Barbara Wagoner. Doris Mast, daughter of John Mishler, is still actively involved in our church today.
During the 1950’s the church was very active in Vacation Bible School. There were times when as many as 150 children from the community attended classes for two weeks.
The original building was built in 1889 and was 28’x40’, by the Marion Methodist Protestant Church at a cost of approximately $2,000.00.
The entry had double doors that faced SR 120 and had a belfry on top. There was a large stained glass window on the north side of the church. A raised platform extended from side to side at the south end of the sanctuary which the pulpit sat on. In 1949 a small basement was added by removing the soil under the church. A three foot width of soil was left to support the foundation. A furnace was also installed in the new basement. This eliminated the potbellied stove in the corner of the sanctuary. The basement also contained four small children’s classrooms. These rooms were separated by cloth curtains. We now had indoor plumbing as two small bathrooms were built at the north end of the basement.
It wasn’t long until we needed more classrooms. So we decided to remodel. In 1956 the rest of the basement was dug and a new foundation put under the old part. An additional 24’x38’ basement was dug and capped with a roof with the intention of building on top at a later date. In 1964 the pulpit area was moved to the north end of the sanctuary. This also created a small room on each side of the pulpit. At the same time we constructed a 16’x24’ entrance and nursery area. Finally, the sanctuary was enlarged by building on top of the basement that had been dug in 1956.
By 1976 Marion Mennonite Church was very much in need of better restroom facilities, classrooms and an entrance space. Thus a 40’x80’ addition with a full basement was built. This gave us a new kitchen, fellowship hall, restroom facilities and women’s sewing storage room. The basement contained 12 Sunday School classrooms, which meant we no longer had to use the sanctuary for those classes.
The building project was a very positive experience for the congregation. We had numerous committees for planning. We also had many work at night in order to do as much of the work as possible ourselves. The MYF helped build our beautiful fireplace by gathering and splitting field stone. The cost of this project was approximately $85,000. Our goal was to have it paid off in five years but we paid it off in less than three years.