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The history of Hershey Mennonite Church

by Janet Gehman 2007 (updates by Jordan Martin 2013)

Although the present church building, sitting on a hill overlooking the Pequea Creek, dates from 1879, the congregation began many years before that.

Mennonites from Europe settled in the area during the last half of the 18th century.  Ministers for the group of believers were ordained before 1800, but evidently services were held in homes until a schoolhouse was built in 1814.  It was used for worship until 1837 when a meeting house was built.  Although the school and church were at first known by the name Hess, by 1862 when the meeting house was enlarged, the name had been changed to Hershey as the number of Hershey settlers outnumbered the Hesses.

A second meeting house was built in 1879.  The building was enlarged in 1947 and again in 1979.

Several major events in the history of the congregation brought significant changes.  For example, after Isaac Eby was ordained in 1876, the church began to hold its services in English since he did not speak German.  The result was new life for the church as young people who had left it, came back.

In 1887, the first Sunday schools were established in the Hershey-Paradise District.  They became the inspiration for mission outreach, both locally and farther afield.

From the beginning of the congregation, ministers were chosen from within the congregation and kept their full time employment, usually farming.  Most of the leaders were descendants from the early settlers.  In 2002, a major change for the church was the calling of Toshi Imchen, a native of India, as a full time pastor.  The church congregation welcomed a new leader in 2013, when Matthew Krebs was called as a full time pastor.

At one time, the churches in the Hershey-Paradise District worked closely together, sharing ministers, a Sunday evening meeting schedule, and youth group activities.  Now the churches remaining in the district are mostly independent of each other.  The name of the district has been changed to Pequea District, but still remains within Lancaster Mennonite Conference.

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