Salem MB Church marks 125 years on mission

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Anniversary celebration includes special offering for North Carolina churches

by Myra Holmes

Read the extensive post-weekend story published in the Freeman, SD., Courier. 

For 125 years, Salem MB Church, Bridgewater, SD, has been a sending church, commissioning missionaries, church planters and pastors. The congregation will celebrate their rich history July 9-10 with a weekend of worship, food, reminders and challenges.

Salem began as a congregation of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren (KMB) in 1884 when “10 souls” were baptized in the Little Vermillion River near Dolton, SD. By 1900, the growing congregation had dedicated their first church, which served as the center of a farming community.

“Today, there are fewer farming families and bigger farms,” says current pastor Mike Petts, “so the range of ministry must go out into the surrounding towns in all directions.”

Salem became part of the U.S. Mennonite Brethren family when the KMB Conference merged with the Mennonite Brethren in 1960.

Even before they had dedicated their first building, Salem was involved in beginning churches in other communities, sending elder Henry Goosen to plant Salem Church in Waldheim, Sask., in 1899. The congregation had a hand in planting at least five more churches, including: Emmanuel Church, Langham, Sask.; Bethel Church, Yale, SD; Zion Church, Dinuba, Calif., now known as Dinuba MB Church; Emmanuel Church, Onida, SD; and Ebenezer Church, Doland, SD.

Not only did Salem train and send many church planters, the congregation also had a part in training and sending a number of overseas missionaries, leaders and pastors. As a perfect example, two current U.S. Mennonite Brethren leaders claim Salem as their home. Jules Glanzer, president of Tabor College, the MB liberal arts college in Hillsboro, Kan., was ordained into ministry at Salem. Lynn Jost, vice president of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, the MB school for graduate-level theological education in Fresno, Calif., is the son of former Salem pastor Franklyn Jost.

“Remarkable, exception, notable and significant are words that describe the fact that two young men who grew up together in the Salem MB Church, attended Sunday school together and were leaders in the youth group would become presidents of MB institutions of higher education in the same time frame,” says material promoting the anniversary celebration. “This is a demonstration of a major contribution that a small rural church has made to the work of the Mennonite Brethren Conference.”

Both Glanzer and Jost will return to Salem as guest speakers during the anniversary celebration. Franklyn Jost’s other two children, Walton Jost and Elaine Stangohr, will also be sharing during the weekend.

Of particular note is the congregation’s missionary involvement in North Carolina. In 1903 Jacob and Katherine Tschetter left their two sons with grandparents in South Dakota to administer an orphanage for African American children in North Carolina. They served there until 1912.

Joseph W. and Kathrina Tschetter were sent from Salem in 1911 to continue this pioneer work with orphan children in Elk Park, NC. They established the first Krimmer MB Church in North Carolina, and today six MB churches comprise the North Carolina District Conference.

Terry Hunt, district minister of the NCDC, writes, “We are so thankful to Joe W. Tschetter for starting these churches 100 years ago. The labor of those faithful people has not been in vain and will never be forgotten.”

In recognition of this historic connection, the offering taken during Salem’s anniversary celebration will benefit the NCDC, purchasing furnishings for the newly built district facility in Lenoir, NC, known as The Life Center. The Life Center houses the Lenoir congregation and is also used for district events and youth activities.

Anniversary festivities begin Saturday evening with a potluck, exploration of the church’s history by Salem native Wesley Tschetter, a message by Jules Glanzer and the dedication of a time capsule. The focus will be on “Our History—Reminders of God’s Grace and Goodness.”

Sunday’s schedule will continue the celebration with both morning and afternoon services featuring reflections from former pastors Carl Carlisle, George Klassen and Wildred Fadenricht. The theme for the morning service will be “Praise and Thanksgiving—A Response to God’s Grace and Goodness.” The Salem choir will provide music and former pastor Phil Glanzer will preach.

After a traditional lunch with zwiebach and jam, Lynn Jost will speak on “Our Mission—Christ’s Charge to His Church” and the offering to benefit NCDC will be taken. Terry Hunt will present the work of the NC churches and accept the offering on behalf of the NCDC. The celebration will close with a mass choir and a catered meal.
During the celebration, various artifacts and photos from the church’s past will be displayed. A book on the church’s history will be available.

According to Petts, celebration organizers hope the weekend will be “a reminder of our past history—where we have come from and what we have done for the glory of God.” In addition, guests will be challenged to continue the work started by past members, bringing light into their community and world.

For more on Salem’s 125th anniversary, see www.salemmbchurch.com.

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