Lockport Mennonite Church bridges the century
by Myrna Grove
Lockport Mennonite Church, located on County Road 21N, near Stryker, celebrated its 100th Anniversary as a congregation in 2008.
With the theme “Bridging the Century”, a weekend of activities was planned and held by the committee on September 20 and 21.
Two publications to honor the occasion are still available for purchase. The Days of My Years, a memoir of the life and work of Walter Stuckey (1909-2005), has been published in book form.
Walter’s role as a Mennonite pastor and bishop closely parallels the history of Lockport Church. The book, edited by Myrna Grove, contains 97 chapters and 120 historical photographs. Walter penned the book over a period of 13 years.
A 100th Anniversary Lockport Mennonite Church cookbook with 660 recipes was also published. The cookbook project was coordinated by Jeanne Stamm and her committee. A variety of unique recipes in many categories is included.
Lockport Church history really began with the first Amish settlement at Lauber Hill north of Archbold in 1843. Six families from the Alsace-Lorraine area of France had first settled in Wayne County, Ohio. The first church service in Northwest Ohio was held in the cabin of Christian Lauber in 1835.
In 1876, at a meeting in Peter Short’s barn west of Archbold, the Old Order Amish ways were abandoned. Central Church, built in 1870, was the first permanent meetinghouse. All Amish-Mennonites in the area came to worship in that central location. Services were held bi-weekly, and Sunday School was held in members’ homes to the west and to the east on alternate Sundays.
From 1888 to 1910, membership in the Amish-Mennonite Church doubled from 265 to 560. Growth was influenced by evangelistic meetings, more use of the English language rather than German, four-part harmony singing and better roads for travel.
Around 1900, there was much discussion about building a new church in the west end settlement (Stryker area). After the death of Bishop Christian Stuckey in 1907, members at an annual business meeting decided to build two new churches. One would be in the west end (Lockport), and the other in the east end (West Clinton).
The first Lockport Church was built at a cost of $2,897 in the village of Lockport. It was built just south of the already existing Lockport Cemetery. Land was purchased for $100 from Joe B. Short. The white frame meetinghouse was 36 by 52 feet with four rows of benches. There was a center partition to divide the men and women. Dedication of the new building was held on August 23, 1908, with 850 persons in attendance and 161 rigs at the hitching posts.
For the next 35 years, the three existing Mennonite churches, including Lockport, Central, and West Clinton, functioned as one body. In January of 1922, Lockport was finally granted the privilege of holding its own services every Sunday. Three ministers rotated among all three churches.
In 1930, the original Lockport building was remodeled and enlarged. Expanded to 36 by 70 feet, the frame structure now had a basement, balcony and central heating system. More rows of benches were also added.
Much growth occurred during the depression years. Revival meetings, Winter Bible Schools, increased interest in missions, and religious instruction in the schools all took place.
Simon Stuckey and Walter Stuckey were ordained to the ministry in 1938. By 1944, the division from the Central Church was complete, and Lockport had 345 members on its roll.
In 1956, Lockport built a separate fellowship hall. The current brick sanctuary was built in 1962 and dedicated on Palm Sunday of 1963. Later, side additions were added to the main church in 1976 and in 1995, including classrooms, office space and an elevator.
Lockport Church currently has a thriving membership of 416. Current pastor is Cliff Brubaker, and he is assisted by a group of four elders. Sunday morning worship is at 9:15 a.m. followed by Sunday School at 10:30 a.m.
A blended worship service involves scriptural readings, prayer, instrumental music with several praise bands and choirs, four-part a cappella hymn singing, children’s lessons, drama, and sermons.
Bible schools have been held every summer since 1946. Among other current church programs are Mennonite Women, Missions Committee, Christian Education Committee, Visitation and Caring Ministry Team, Caring Christian Committee, Life Planning, Mennonite Youth Fellowship, Quiz Teams, Goldenaires, Ladies Bible Study, Prison Ministry at CCNO, Lockport Bus Tours, and participation in the Black Swamp Benefit Auction.
Lockport Church was responsible for planting two new churches including Pine Grove Mennonite Church in Stryker (1951) and Salem Mennonite Church in Waldron, MI (1960). Lockport Church has most recently been involved in a ministry-based church structure and a culture of call intern program to train potential ministers.
Pastors who have served Lockport Church through the years as lead pastors and assistant pastors have included Simon Stuckey, 1944-1970; Walter Stuckey, 1944-1974; Earl Stuckey, 1955-1960; Art Zehr, 1971; Keith Leinbach, 1973-1987; Jim Groeneweg, 1983-1994; Allen Rutter, 1988-2006; Charles Gautsche, 1994-1996; Mark and Wendy Miller, 1997-2004; Pamela Short, 2005-2008; and Cliff Brubaker, 2007- .
Our thanks to Myrna Grove for supplying this history, the paintings and the photos!