Koerner Heights Church will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend with a reunion of past pastors, congregation members and music program participants.
Koerner Heights Church will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend with a reunion of past pastors, congregation members and music program participants.Wilmer Harms, a member of the congregation since 1974, attributed the churches longevity to young leadership and attention paid to the changing needs of the church community. The church has had eight senior pastors, and four interim pastors, all of whom are still living. Harms said young leadership has brought a youthful vibrancy to the congregation. The church conducts two services simultaneously. One is a contemporary service, and the other is a traditional service. An average 230 people attend Sunday morning services. Although two-thirds of the congregation still attend the traditional service, Pastor Tim Mace said the contemporary service has allowed the church to communicate in new ways to a younger generation. The church also has tried to reach out to children in the community through its Kingdom Village project. The church’s basement has been transformed into a replica of a village during biblical times. The central room of the basement is designed to look like a town square with a synagogue. Adjacent rooms include an artisan workshop, a tent room and a hillside room that might come from a scene from the Sermon on the Mount. The church conducts Sunday school and a Wednesday night programs for the children in the village. The church also has small groups for adults that meet in people’s homes throughout the community. A group started discussing forming the church in the late 1950’s. In late 1957, a group approached the Committee on Evangelism of the Southern District of the Mennonite Brethren Conference. Lynford and Ruby Becker of Engles helped plant the church, conducting their first service on May 4, 1958. Thirty seven people became charter members of the church. In June of the same year, the group decided to build a church. They bought land in the Koerner Heights Addition, and by Dec. 21, the congregation was able to move to the new building from where they were meeting in the city auditorium. In two years, the church built an addition, and by 1971, the church built a third addition, which includes the church’s sanctuary, which is large enough to accommodate 300 people. In 1978, the church helped 60 people leave the congregation to start a new church in Hesston — Hesston Mennonite Brethren Church. The church’s attendance peaked in 1984 with an average attendance of 550 people at Sunday services. In 1985, another group left to plant a church in Halstead, but that church is no longer active. Harms and Mace said they hope the congregation will continue to grow. “I hope we can go back to having two service on Sunday morning and have a need for a larger ministry staff,” Harms said. Mace said the delivery system of the church’s message may change, but the message will not. They will continue to teach the Bible is God’s word and personal salvation through Jesus Christ, he said. “The message is the same as it was 50 years ago,” Mace said. “This church will communicate the love and trust of Christ and encourage people to love with wisdom and the ways of Christ.”