by Liz Einsig Wise, Executive Director, Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust
The historic 1770 Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse is a powerful symbol of the origins of the Mennonite experience in America and an important touchstone of the Anabaptist faith. Now cared for by the nonprofit Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust (a Conference Related Ministry of Franconia Conference), the Meetinghouse hosts hundreds of visitors each year, from school groups learning about early Mennonite history to genealogy enthusiasts and others generally interested in American colonial life. Others discover the Meetinghouse in the context of visiting Historic Germantown, learning for the first time of the Mennonites’ central role in early Pennsylvania and about the Mennonite influences contributing to America’s first written protest against slavery.
With a very small staff (less than one full time equivalent) and a modest budget, most of the grounds upkeep for this historic site is done by volunteers. On June 9-12, GMHT’s Paint a Piece of History! Work Week hosted 50 volunteers from all over the region who donated over 237 hours of labor to spruce up the Meetinghouse and grounds.
Two primary tasks awaited: repainting the 1908 Sunday School Room and the wrought iron fence that runs the length of the property. With ready enthusiasm, volunteers from Souderton Mennonite Church, Boy Scout Troop 1719, Frazer Mennonite Church, Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Germantown Mennonite Church, Circle of Hope Brethren in Christ Church (Broad & Washington and Frankford & Norris campuses), VolunteerMatch, and others all pitched in. Skilled volunteers also began work on the exterior wood trim of the Meetinghouse.
Even with so many hands, work remained unfinished at the end of the official work week. Fortunately, during the last week of the month, another group from Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church, in Philadelphia for a work week with Kingdom Builders Construction, helped finish the project (and even more grounds work!) with another 175 hours during one of the hottest weeks of the summer.
Before the paint was even dry, the Meetinghouse hosted a tour group, a jazz concert and a game night! Coming up, the “Dog Days of Summer” on August 11 will feature GMHT’s 3rd Annual Rook Tournament & Barbecue sale, as well as live music and frozen treats on the lawn. Later this year, their beloved Christmas Candlelight Service, featuring special ensembles from several congregations as well as a cappella congregational singing, will be held on Saturday, December 8.
Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust welcomes individuals and groups for tours by appointment, or during Historic Germantown’s “2nd Saturdays” on the second Saturday of every month from May through October from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. A special presentation customized for your group may also be arranged at your location. For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact GMHT at (215) 843-0943 or firstname.lastname@example.org.