Who are the Mennonites?
The Mennonites are a religious group adhering to the principles of the Anabaptist movement, which began as the left wing of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. Regarding the Bible as the foundation for Christian faith and practice, they believe that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and that its teachings take priority over the old. Members are received by baptism upon voluntary adult confession of faith. They endeavor to follow the peace teachings of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and believe it encourages nonviolence, and forbids the swearing of oaths, and the holding of offices that require the use of force. As a practical expression of their Christian discipleship, they strive to promote peace and justice and alleviate the sufferings of the poor.
Why did they come to Weaverland?
To escape religious persecution and achieve greater economic opportunity, the Mennonites accepted Penn’s invitation to settle in the New World. Arriving in Germantown as early as 1683, some of these immigrants moved westward to establish their homes. Early in the 18th century, several Webers emigrated from the Palatinate to Lancaster County. The brothers Jacob, Henry, George, and John Weber are known to have arrived before 1718. In 1723 the first three established a settlement in the fertile valley along the Conestoga Creek that we know today as Weaverland. Other families soon followed. By 1733 a congregation was formed and organized, with ministers from the older settlements preaching and reading the Word of God in the private homes of the early settlers. While there is no town named Weaverland, the community and Weaverland Mennonite Church have been a strong Mennonite center since these days. History records the growth of this congregation by documenting the size and capacity of its meetinghouse throughout the years.
Where did they worship?After an initial period of worshipping in homes, tradition claims that a log meetinghouse-schoolhouse may have been built prior to 1740, but by 1766 there was a 34- by 50-foot meetinghouse built of native limestone with a seating capacity of about 240 people. With a new addition in 1853, the building seated nearly 400 people. Due to increasing membership, a new stone meetinghouse was built in 1883 with a seating capacity of over 600. In 1926 the existing structure was too small for fast increasing attendance on special occasions, so the stone meetinghouse was replaced by the present brick meetinghouse with a full basement for special meetings, an automatic water system and Sunday school rooms. Growth continued to prompt expansion and remodeling again in 1972, 1987, and 1997. Each of these additions provided more room for Sunday school classes. Many generations later, the Weaverland Mennonites continue to worship at the location selected by the forefathers of this growing congregation.
To read more about our Anabaptist and Mennonite heritage: Martyr’s Mirror.
To read more about Weaverland Mennonites:
1723-1973 250th Anniversary, First Mennonite Settlement, Weaverland, Lancaster Mennonite Conference Historical Society, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1973.
1723-1998 275th Anniversary Weaverland Mennonite Church, Masthof Press, Morgantown, Pennsylvania, 1998.
Be Not Conformed To This World by Roy S. Burkholder, Masthof Press, Morgantown, Pennsylvania, 1997.
Mennonite Encyclopedia, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, and Waterloo, Ontario, 1959.
Mennonites of Lancaster Conference by Martin G. Weaver, Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1931.
The Earth Is the Lord’s A Narrative History of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, by John Landis Ruth, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania and Waterloo Ontario, 2001.
The Weaverland Mennonites by Eli D. Wenger, Ensigner Printing Service, Adamstown, Pennsylvania, 1968.