For the past 168 years, Stauffer Pike Mennonites and Weaver Pike Mennonites have been gathering on alternate Sundays at the small, white church along the “Pike” — Route 322 just east of Hinkletown.
That will change around the first of the year when the 200-plus members of the two congregations move to a nearly identical structure being constructed 75 yards behind the existing church.
The new church will be slightly larger and will have higher ceilings to provide for better acoustics, but it will mirror the original structure in appearance and will be devoid of electricity and running water.
Builder Ralph Brubacker, himself a Stauffer Mennonite, said the original church is in bad condition.
“The floor is spongy,” he said, adding that the structure has had five additions.
The 9-foot ceilings throughout the building make it difficult to hear, as does the church’s location — a few feet from Route 322.
“One of the issues is noise,” Brubacker said. He said that a large motorcycle group passes by the church on the first Sunday of the month, making it impossible to hear.
“It’s so close to the road,” said church member Daniel S. Martin, a farmer who lives just west of Fivepointville, “and in summer, when you have the windows open, it’s so noisy, it’s annoying.”
The Stauffer Pike Mennonites are Old Order Mennonites who shun modern conveniences and travel by horse and buggy. They assemble every other Sunday and, although they speak English and Pennsylvania Dutch, their services are conducted in German.
The less conservative Weaver Pike Mennonites are the smaller of the two congregations and broke away from the Stauffer Mennonites. They use the church on alternate Sundays.
Jonathan Martin, who works at the Muddy Creek Farm Library and Museum, said the museum has documentation showing that the original structure was built in 1840 as a school house. The Stauffer Mennonites began using the building as a church soon after they were formed in 1845.
“The church was there already when the Pike church split away from the big Mennonite church,” Daniel Martin explained.
The Stauffer and Weaver Mennonites include the word “Pike” to distinguish their location.
Said Jonathan Martin, “It’s really a sense of identification.”
Brubacker said the horse sheds that line the north and east sides of the property likely will remain for the time being but may be moved in the future.
As for the old church, Brubacker said it likely will be razed once the new church is in operation.