by Janet M Kelly
No… that wasn’t a church organ malfunction. It was the sound of bowling balls rolling down the lanes in the bowling alley that shared the location of our fledgling church, The Kingsburg Mennonite Brethren Church. The Mennonite Brethren Church? You mean that strict group of saints that would frown on Sunday morning bowling? Yes… but our little church wasn’t in the building to bowl but to worship Jesus Christ. It had a congregation large enough to move from the living room of the Luther Linda farm house to the building shared by the VFW (Veteran’s of Foreign Wars) including their bowling alley and restaurant. It was the same building that now houses KCAPS. Strange location for a church, yet it was an exciting grassroots start for the church now located across the street from Rafer Johnson Junior High.
The Kingsburg Mennonite Church Beginnings
The Kingsburg Mennonite Church started with a core group of families, some of whom have family still living in Kingsburg: Abe Ens (Don), Ed Ratzlaff (Ruth and Lois), Harry Thiesen (Leland), Delbert Wiest (Steve), Charles Neufeld (Tom), Luther Linda (Janet) to name a few. The reason for starting the church was simple… it was for the kids. “A church in Kingsburg will create new opportunities for our children to worship in the community where they attend school and where they live,” explained a spokesman in 1962. Eventually the congregation built a church building and had its first service on February 16, 1964.
Who Were The Mennonites?
The Mennonite denomination started during the 16th century in Europe, deciding that faith in Jesus Christ was a mature decision and could only be made by people who were aware of their own sin. They understood that baptism was an outward sign of a decision to follow Jesus Christ, and argued against infant baptism, so they were called “Anabaptist” meaning “re-baptizers.” The Mennonites’ primary allegiance was to the God and Jesus Christ, not to any government authority or church hierarchy. They were pacifist and law abiding, but their beliefs led to great persecution, often leading to death. They found their greatest acceptance in Holland, where Menno Simons became their pastor and leader. The Mennonites’ name comes from Menno Simons.
Over the centuries The Mennonites migrated to Germany, then to Prussia (Poland), and to Russia looking for the promise of religious freedom and at the behest of Katherine the Great who hoped the Mennonites could help her peasants with farming methods. Russia’s political landscape changed and these Holland-to-Prussia-to-Russia believers now migrated to America where they could be free to worship as they wished.
As children, we heard frequent stories of religious persecution and harrowing escapes from Russia to the free world. The Mennonite commitment to religious freedom and personal responsibility both spiritually and professionally, have made for a group of loyal American citizens committed to God and country.
Hope Kingsburg Mennonite Church Today
The Kingsburg Mennonite Brethren Church recently changed its name to Hope Kingsburg. Interim Pastor Dennis Fast explained, we changed our name in the fall of 2018 to Hope Kingsburg. Our desire is to be a place of hope for our regular attendees and members as well as to offer hope for anyone in our community. We are still a part of the Mennonite Brethren denomination. Hope Kingsburg is a place where we celebrate what God has done, what he is doing, and what he will do though us. Our desire is to learn from our past, live dynamically in the present, and anticipate a bright future. We welcome all who would want to join this journey with us. We value being part of the Kingsburg community and desire to offer hope to all those around us for years to come.
On June 6, 2021, we will welcome a new Lead Pastor, Clayton Paull. We are excited to welcome this young man and his family. He has a wife, Kim, and two elementary school-aged daughters.
Hope Kingsburg is active and alive today, bringing the joy of faith to the Kingsburg Community.
- Weekly services in both English and Spanish
- Happy Days School, Preschool and Day Care
- Every other year, at Christmas, The Hope Church presents “The Bethlehem Experience” in both English and Spanish where the story of Jesus’ birth is reenacted in a realistic setting. An amazing experience for all who attend.
- A Community Garden: We started a Community Garden a few years ago. Neighbors, or anyone from the community, can rent a garden plot for $60 per year and enjoy gardening along with others from the community. We currently have sixteen plots in use and there is room for more. Dennis Fast
- Youth Ministry: We also have a vibrant youth ministry that serves junior high and high school students from the community. This group meets on Monday evenings at 6:00 p.m. and is led by our Youth Pastor, Matt Duffy. Dennis Fast
What started in a bowling alley is now a thriving congregation of committed believers sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.