We've been in Conestoga for over 200 Years.
River Corner Church has a two hundred-plus year history as a community of Jesus followers that gathers to - worship God, journey together in learning to live like Jesus, and to commit to partnering with the mission of God's Kingdom in our backyard.
As a church community, River Corner Church has been intertwined with the rolling hills and rural neighborhoods of Conestoga ever since this church community gathered first as local neighbors. We love being part of this community.
Followers of Jesus, known as Mennonites, first moved into the area of Conestoga around 1717. For many years, these families and individuals gathered and worshiped together in homes. As families steadily moved into the area it was also reflected in our church community’s growth. It became evident that a building was needed to use as a place of worship and community. Our first building, a log meetinghouse was built in 1760 on the land of a farmer named Benedict Eshleman. After his death, Benedict Eshleman granted the land our building sits on today to the benefit of this growing church community. In 1828, that original log meetinghouse was replaced by a larger stone building. The date-stone from this building can still be seen in the loft of the current structure, but it was fifty-years later, in the summer of 1882, this first stone building was replaced by the present stone building we gather in.
Throughout the years we have had eras in which we were fairly large numerically as we gathered together, and there also have been eras in which we were a smaller community of intimacy and intentionality. Though we are now a church community that is made up of a diverse collection of families from all over the Southern End of Lancaster County, there is no denying the connection of our church to its our Conestogian neighbors and neighborhood. We have been in this neighborhood for a long time and our story has had many different chapters, and many more chapters continue to be written.
Today, we are thankful for our history, but even more we are excited about the new ways God continues to move in and through our church community.
Who or What is a Mennonite?
Evangelical followers of Jesus, who affirm the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, are often labeled as Mennonites. Mennonites are found worldwide. In 2012, there were almost 2 million followers of Jesus who identified as Mennonite. Even though there are Mennonites around the globe, many people still don’t know our origins or our story.
Mennonites are a diverse group of followers of Jesus. Our story stretches as far back as the 16th century in Switzerland. During that century, the reformation brought conflict between the state controlled churches. Anabaptists were common folk who wanted to really understand what it meant to live and love like Jesus. They wanted to follow Jesus without the control of an oppressive government and oppressive government-controlled churches. They called themselves the “free church.” As a symbolic commitment to following Jesus for themselves, these individuals would baptize each other. Others called them, the Anabaptists, which means to “re-baptize.”
The government and government-controlled churches saw this symbolic act of baptism as an act of rebellion, since everyone was forced to be baptized as a baby in their churches. It was a way for them to keep control and collect taxes. The authorities also did not like the conviction of the Anabaptists, as they called for a separation of church and government. The Anabaptists did not believe in contributing to an oppressive government or taking up arms to fight a nation’s enemy. Anabaptists believed in following Jesus in every aspect of their daily life. This meant they could only be focused on the Kingdom of God and not the Kingdom of this world. Trying to balance the two would have been compromise. In following Jesus, they realized how important it was to be a community together. They also realized the essential importance of following Jesus’ call to love our enemies and our neighbors. It was because of these spiritual practices and disciplines, that the other churches and governments of their time found them to be rebellious. In fact, in the 16th century thousands of Anabaptist followers were martyred for their beliefs. Despite that, they continued to be peacemakers.
The onslaught of oppression did not stop our movement. Our communities grew and spread to the ends of the earth. In those early days, there was no central denomination or belief system that held these similarly convicted followers of Jesus together. As the oppression grew, various leaders arose from the diverse Anabaptist communities to give spiritual leadership and discipleship to the believers. One of those early leaders was Menno Simons. Menno Simons was a former Catholic priest who became a prominent leader in the Anabaptist movement. As a result, many Anabaptists became known as Mennonites, or those who follow the confession of faith as taught by Menno Simons.
Today, Mennonite practices vary widely. We continue to be a diverse group of followers of Jesus. There are also now more Mennonites on the continent of Africa than anywhere else in the world. However, our central values of following Jesus in our daily life and peacemaking continue to hold us all in community, despite our different disciplines and practices.
Our whole story as a people is not written yet and we invite you to get to know us as individuals. You might find that we have more in common than you realize.