connection to the past
COMMITMENT TO THE FUTURE
The story of North Danvers Mennonite Church is ultimately about one man—Jesus. It is the story of a people on mission with Jesus to boldly proclaim the good news that Jesus saves sinners. It is the story of hundreds of disciples of Jesus who faithfully and sacrificially gave of their time, talents and treasure to grow and support the church, making disciples and planting churches in Illinois.
The church grew in size, complexity, and influence over the years, and, by God’s grace, the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to thousands of people.
The North Danvers Mennonite Church and congregation has a long history marked with several significant contributions to the community, the conference and the Mennonite Church as a whole.
From 1830 to 1850, a large number of Amish and Mennonite families settled along the Mackinaw River and in the northwest corner of what is now McLean County. These families worshipped in homes, as was the custom. In 1853, an Amish congregation led by Jonathan Yoder grew too large to meet in homes, and built a church just south of Rock Creek, in the approximate center of the church community. This church house was called the Rock Creek Meetinghouse, and the congregation was called the “Rock Creek Amish”, or “Yoder” Church.
GROWTH & BUILDING
By 1872, under the guidance of Jonathan Yoder and Joseph Stuckey, the congregation had grown too large for the Rock Creek Meetinghouse. A new, larger meetinghouse was built and named the North Danvers Church. The congregation was called the “North Danvers” or “Stuckey Amish” Church. Over time, the congregation became more progressive, demonstrating, "a concern for what people have in their heads and hearts, rather than for what they have on their heads ... an emphasis on heart attitudes, rather than on the outward forms ... church workers called to be ambassadors of Christ through the will of God."
From 1872 to 1926, remarkable activity was shown by North Danvers ministers in reaching out to congregations in Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, Kansas, and Nebraska, organizing Sunday Schools and counseling emerging churches. Joseph Stuckey traveled to the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Michigan, Kansas, and Missouri, in the interests of needy churches, ordaining ministers and bishops, dedicating churches, counseling emerging congregations, and establish new congregations. Peter Schantz assisted in organizing churches and starting Sunday Schools, mostly in central Illinois. At first, these churches were frequently referred to as the "Stuckey Churches".
Beginning in 1899, members from several of the churches in this group met together informally on an annual basis for "discussion and mutual guidance".
By 1907, twelve churches were involved in the annual meetings. At this time, the group formally organized as the Central Illinois Conference of Mennonites, and “Amish” was officially dropped from the North Danvers Church name.
Through the organization of the Central Conference, support was provided for ministers and Sunday School teachers, several rural and urban churches were established, as well as the Mennonite Nursing Hospital in Bloomington, Illinois and an elderly care facility in Meadows, Illinois. Bluffton College and Witmarsum Theological Seminary (reorganized in 1945 as the Mennonite Biblical Seminary) were founded.
In 1957, North Danvers helped host the conference in which the Central Conference and Middle District Conference merged to form the Central District Conference of the General Conference Mennonite Church.
The North Danvers Church building was renovated in 1910 and 1917. A new addition was added in 1965, and a heat pump installed in 2012.
In 1880, a cemetery was started to the east of the church.
In 1953, the North Danvers congregation held a centennial celebration of the 100 years since the Rock Creek Meetinghouse was built.
In 1982, A Goodly Heritage: A History of the North Danvers Mennonite Church by Steven R. Estes, was published, to help highlight North Danvers' homecoming celebration. The sequel, A Goodly Heritage II: Our Journey Continues, by the same author, was published in 2009.
In 2001, North Danvers Church celebrated their 150th anniversary, inviting all congregations with a Stuckey Amish origin to participate in the festivities. Nine churches planned and implemented a weekend of celebration and renewal.
The congregation has an active program of fellowship activities:
choir groups: men's choir, hand chimes, regular choir
God's Little Acre Preschool
Women of Worth - women's group
North Danvers joins with other churches for the following community activities:
Trailblazers - junior youth group
Angels Without Wings - high school youth group
Danvers Food Pantry
Vacation Bible School
Food Resource Bank
Habitat for Humanity
Through the Mennonite Central Committee, it:
provides Relief kits to families traumatized by war and disaster
provides school kits for children in need, and to refugee and displaced children
participates in the annual Illinois Mennonite Relief Sale, a fundraiser to alleviate suffering at home and abroad
The North Danvers Mennonite Church is well aware of its heritage and legacy, but even more so of its Christian mission within the communities it serves.
During the last 100+ years, North Danvers Mennonite Church has remained active in many areas. In 1908, it hosted the first session of the Central Illinois Conference of Mennonites. Since that time, it has hosted or co-hosted several Central Conference Mennonite Church conferences, the Middle District Conference sessions in 1954, and the joint Central District and Illinois Mennonite Conference in 1981.