Ambler Mennonite Church is located on the corner of Mount Pleasant Avenue & North Spring Garden Street in the Borough of Ambler, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Nearby Wissahickon Creek and SEPTA Railroad run southward for fifteen miles into the city of Philadelphia.
During the WWII era, young adults from larger congregations in the Franconia Conference of Eastern Pennsylvania felt God’s call to pioneer church planting in “Judea and Samaria” along side their traditional religious practices in “Jerusalem.” Ambler Mission was one of a number of emerging congregations resulting from this new missionary zeal.
Abram Godshall, John Ruth, Samuel Landis, Lauretta Walters, and others began holding Sunday School classes on Sunday afternoons in an alley garage on Center Street, Ambler, in 1952. Help was solicited from the Franconia Mission Board, but a representative who attended a service reported that the children were too unruly to warrant further assistance.
In a few years, the group outgrew the small garage, so Abram Godshall purchased a house on Tennis Avenue, rented it to Paul & Esther Long, a newly-wed Mennonite couple from Harleysville, and opened the doors on Sunday mornings for a growing house church. “Workers” (as they were called) regularly traveled the fifteen miles to Ambler from the Souderton/Franconia area to teach Sunday School and Summer Bible School classes, hold street meetings, and gather for weekday “cottage meetings” (a rural term for meeting in homes for singing, Bible study, and prayer).
The upstart congregation caught the attention of the Franconia Mission Board once again, this time with a positive response. Norman Hunsberger of Souderton was called and ordained to pastor the young congregation in 1958, so he and his family moved to Euclid Avenue in Ambler.
The house church continued to grow, due mainly to the friendship of Norman & his wife Mary with Burnes & Lillian Rose, an African-American couple from Rieffs Mill Road in Ambler. Norman & Burnes would roam the streets of the town, making friends and inviting them to church activities. Other faithful workers were Shirley Sell, Floyd & Gladys Kulp, Abram & Edith Allebach, Henry & Sara Kulp, Vernon & Miriam Derstine, Naomi Moyer, and Betty Allebach.
In 1961, the Franconia Mission Board authorized the construction of a new meetinghouse on a parcel of ground owned by Abram Godshall, located on the corner of Mount Pleasant Avenue and North Spring Garden Street. The congregation continues to worship, witness, and serve the surrounding community from this location to the present.
From its origin as a program attractive primarily to children, church growth was fueled from several other sources – persons from the surrounding community looking for personal relationships provided by a small church setting, adults and their families wanting a more progressive approach to church life and ministry, college and graduate students choosing to worship in a Mennonite congregation during their years of study in Philadelphia, and members of larger churches in Franconia Conference who wanted to exercise their gifts more actively in congregational worship and service.
Over the years, the congregation has been blessed by capable leadership and a gifted laity. Resources have been invested in people and programs rather than buildings. Young pastors have started their life-long church vocations in this affirming group of believers. Women in leadership, both pastoral and lay, have been the norm for many years. Key church issues have been processed with fervor but without serious division. The congregation has remained faithful to its Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage while welcoming a rich ethnic diversity – Caucasian, African-American, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, and others.
Currently, the congregation is a diverse suburban fellowship with an average attendance of 65 for Sunday morning worship. Organizationally, the congregation is a member of Franconia Mennonite Conference, Mennonite Church USA, African-American Mennonite Association, and the local Wissahickon Faith Community.
07/15/2012 (gb) First published as an article for the Global Anabaptist-Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO)
Ambler Mennonite Church Pastors
1955-1965 – Norman Hunsberger
1965-1972 – Gerald Benner
1972-1979 – John Ehst
1979-1988 – Barry Loop
1988-1990 – Barry & Susan Loop
1991-1998 – Joseph Haines
1998-2002 – Melvin Thomas
2002-2003 – Michael Schaadt (interim)
2003-2009 – Sharon Wyse Miller
2009-present – Donna Merow
Ambler Mennonite Church Membership
Year-Number of Members
1955 – 17
1960 – 25
1965 – 27
1970 – 34
1975 – 51
1980 – 62
1985 – 88
1990 – 61
1995 – 52
2000 – 82
2005 – 93
2010 – 65