GRACE HILL MENNONITE CHURCH
200TH ANNIVERSARY “HOME COMING” CELEBRATION
Saturday September 3rd and Sunday September 4th
This is a special time in the history of the Church from 1811 until today. Grace Hill has continued to be a place of worship, a place for the church to come together as community to celebrate birth, life and death. It is right that in this 200th year of this fellowship that we came together to celebrate and pay tribute to those who paved the way for us today.
The 200th Anniversary “Home Coming” Celebration on Labor Day week-end was special in that participants were able to trace their family heritage, if they came with the group in 1874. With an updated cemetery information book it was possible to locate burial sites of relatives.
It was also a time to reconnect with other relatives, friends and persons that were here when you were.
Saturday’s (September 3, 2011) schedule included a variety of activities that kept us busy all day, from assisted cemetery tours to a storytelling hour to practice time for singing in the choir for the evening program, to the hymn sing festival to free time to interact with those persons that we may not have seen in years. There was also an opportunity for self-guided tours of current and former locations of homesteads and one-room school house locations, as well as a self-guided tour of the route from Grace Hill to Peabody the immigrants took in 1874. The evening program told the story of the people who moved across Europe and then to America to find freedom of religion and a better life. From the low county of the Netherlands to Polish Prussia to Volhynia Russia (western Ukraine) and then to this place called Grace Hill (Gnadenberg, the German name of the Church until 1953).
Sunday morning worship (September 4, 2011) service was a celebration of the past and present and a look forward. There was a social hour before lunch. The afternoon featured a local storytelling time, with assisted cemetery tours for those who wished to locate burial spots of relatives, and self-guided tours of homestead locations and one-room school locations.
For those who are interested in the church cemetery, you may download the Grace Hill Mennonite Church Cemetery Master File. (5Mb file download). This master file was updated with new information received during the 200th anniversary celebration.
The 200 Year Journey
In 2011, Grace Hill Mennonite Church celebrated the 200th anniversary of the founding of the congregation. The congregation was founded in1811 near Berditchev in Polish Russia, in what is now Ukraine. The church and settlement were known as Michalin. All members of the congregation emigrated to America in three groups from 1874 to 1878.
Leading up to the 200th celebration, a series of speakers provided a background and setting for the Anabaptist faith of this congregation, from the beginning of the Anabaptist movement and into the 21st century. Following are the presentations by these speakers. More of these presentations will be added over time.
Presentation 1 & 2 -
Lois Barrett, M.Div, Ph. D., is Director of the AMBS Great Plains Seminary in North Newton, and Assistant Professor of Theology and Anabaptist Studies. Her presentation provided insight into the 16th and 17th century Anabaptist history and church life. Her presentations were entitled “Reformers and Martyrs” on June 12 and “Freedom and Restrictions” on June 19.
Presentation 3 & 4 -
Mark Jantzen, Ph. D., Associate Professor of History at Bethel College, North Newton, Ks., spoke on 18th and 19th century history, presenting “Seeking Out the Crevices of a Rigid Society” on June 26 and “Squeezed Between Nationalism and Opportunity” on July 17.
Presentation 5 & 6 -
James Juhnke, Ph. D., Professor Emeritus of History at Bethel College, North Newton, spoke on 19th and early 20th century history, presenting “Migration: Go East, Go West or Stay at Home” on July 24 and July 31.
Presentation 7 -
Dale Schrag, Vice President of Church Relations at Bethel College, North Newton, spoke on August 7 on middle to late 20th century, presenting “From Nonresistance to Justice: Crossing the Jordan or Crossing the Rubicon.”
Presentation 8 -
Gordon Houser, Associate Editor of The Mennonite, the denominational magazine of Mennonite Church USA, spoke on August 14 on the 21st century, presenting “Who Are Mennonites in a Time of Diversity and Change?”
Grace Hill Heritage - Living Stones ©
Grace Hill Mennonite Church history, including stories of founding members of the church. Written by Lisa Schmidt and Doreen Harms. Directed by Lisa Schmidt.
Grace HillStories and Slide Show
Stories and memories of Grace Hill Mennonite Church from members and friends of the church.