HistoryLearn more about our beginnings
Cedar Grove began from a mission-minded spirit among persons in Washington County who had conducted Sunday school at Shanks schoolhouse in Milnor, PA. Traveling preachers spoke on Sunday evenings in the schoolhouse, sparking a level of evangelistic energy that reached out to persons living in the area. In 1904, John H. Grove gave the original plot of land for what was to become a new meetinghouse for the Cedar Grove Mennonite Church , named for the grove of cedar trees next to the building site. On August 13, 1905, fifty charter members established the new congregation at Cedar Grove. In the fall of 1905, revival meetings were held for the first time, marking the evangelical spirit of the congregation. Renewal meetings, as they are now called, have been an integral part of church life at Cedar Grove ever since the beginning, featuring pastors and itinerant preachers from many places over the years.
In 1917, John F. Grove was the first ordained minister to serve exclusively at Cedar Grove. He was involved in local Sunday school meetings from the beginning, and was among the aggressive new generation of leaders in the conference. “Grove, who had a hard-hitting, flamboyant style gained popularity as an evangelist outside of Washington-Franklin, and was considered a ‘pretty good speaker’ by the folks at home.” Serving within the context of a traditional/conservative model for the church, men of like mind with John F. Grove and the “aggressives” of the conference soon experienced some tensions between themselves and the “traditionalists.” “According to Grove, the root problem was that Cedar Grove was evangelistic, whereas the other congregations in Washington County were not. By this, he meant that he and his members wanted to pursue an active program of evangelism, by way of Sunday school work, revivals, and other forms of outreach. He saw the leadership and many of the members in the rest of the district as opposed to such measures.” Besides Grove’s marked difference in ministry style, there were also theological differences. “Grove emphasized salvation by faith alone, whereas many of the other leaders tied salvation to obedience as fleshed out in the rules of the church. Grove talked about saving souls, the others about joining the church.” Under Grove’s leadership, Cedar Grove continued to represent ministry goals, methods, and patterns that were difficult for the Washington-Franklin Conference leaders to accept, resulting in several years of strained relationships within the conference.
In 1929, fire destroyed the meetinghouse, which was then rebuilt by the end of the year, and the Cedar Grove congregation continued its emphasis on local missions. In 1937, Cedar Grove became involved with the Hagerstown mission, which was evidence of its continuing desire to be active in local outreach and evangelism. “During the 1940s, they sponsored an active program of Sunday school, preaching, evangelistic meetings, and summer Bible school. In 1948, Cedar Grove purchased the North Locust Street building they had been renting and, after renovating the building, they dedicated Northside Mennonite Church . In 1954, the mission (church) organized as a self-supporting congregation.” Cedar Grove was willing to experiment with new forms of evangelism, including an eight-man singing group that broadcasted over WJEJ radio in Hagerstown . In 1948, Cedar Grove began holding services at Black Oak, with John Grove and Abram Baer alternating weeks in the pulpit. In 1949, Cedar Grove began another mission work near Black Oak, which later was known as Bethel . The two mission churches worked in conjunction with one another, and by 1954 had a membership of 46 persons.
In 1940, Glen Diller was ordained to ministry at Cedar Grove, serving just over two years before departing for membership in the Brethren in Christ Church . In November 1942, Abram Baer was ordained as the new minister at Cedar Grove. Baer ministered alongside of John F. Grove at Cedar Grove during the culminating years of transition in the congregation’s conference affiliation. In May 1950, Cedar Grove was formally accepted into fellowship in the Ohio and Eastern Conference, under the oversight of bishop Otis N. Johns. Disagreements with the administrative oversight of O.N. Johns led Abram Baer to resign as lead minister at Cedar Grove shortly thereafter, although he continued preaching for a few years. In 1957, O.N. Johns ordained Nelson L. Martin at Cedar Grove as an assistant to John F. Grove who, in 1960, was forced to retire at the age of seventy. Martin then “became the first salaried minister in a Mennonite congregation in the Cumberland Valley . In 1967, Martin was appointed as an overseer for the Pen-Mar district (a position that replaced the office of bishop). During the 1960s, Cedar Grove’s pace of acculturation kept ahead of similar trends in Franklin County .” Martin was considered a progressive leader who articulated the congregation’s mission as “a ministry for all people who accept Christ as Savior and Lord and to faithfully serve Jesus Christ until he returns for His church.”
In 1978, the Ohio and Eastern Conference formed the Atlantic Coast Conference of the Mennonite Church out of a concern for better geographic affiliation among congregations; Cedar Grove became a charter member of the new conference. Nelson Martin continued serving as pastor until retiring in 1993. In 1994, Rob Cahill became the new pastor, serving until 2001. Shortly thereafter, Clarence Strite, a recently retired minister who had served at Black Oak, was asked to assume the role of interim pastor at Cedar Grove, while a search was undertaken for another pastor. Clarence served for three years, providing leadership with the Board of Elders until 2004 when Stephen Fretz was called to assume the duties as pastor. Stephen Fretz continue as minister until 2011 when he had taken another pastorate. The Board of Elders as well as several visiting pastors had taken the role of pastoring until Wesley Boyer was called as intentional interim pastor from 2012 to 2014. From that time then our present pastor, Dennis Stutzman, was called to serve our congregation.
The meetinghouse that was rebuilt in 1929 served the needs of the growing congregation until 1953, when it was enlarged and renovated. In 1972, a new addition was built which housed the new sanctuary, nursery area, rest rooms, and Sunday school rooms in the basement. Adjoining parcels of ground were acquired by the congregation over the years, which enlarged the original cemetery and provided room for future facility expansion.
Over the years, Cedar Grove has remained committed to Jesus’ teaching regarding peace and non-resistance, while some of the other “traditional” elements of church discipline and lifestyle have slowly changed. Persons from Cedar Grove served in Civilian Public Service during WW II and in 1-W service and Voluntary Service in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, choosing these alternate forms of service to active duty in the military. Beyond this, persons from Cedar Grove have actively participated in the broader mission of the Mennonite Church through agencies such as Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, and Youth Evangelism Service.
While many things have changed over the years since Cedar Grove Mennonite Church began, its passion for evangelism, outreach, service, and discipleship has not. In June 2005, Cedar Grove celebrated its one hundredth anniversary, marking a century of God’s enduring faithfulness. Our primary desire is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ by growing in His likeness and by sharing His gospel with the world around us through tangible and relevant ways. That same year, the Spiritual Leadership Team developed a three-part missional strategy, which has since been implemented: Outreach – Inreach – Upreach. In September 2006, we unveiled a new Church Welcome Packet, including a DVD, introducing Cedar Grove and its ministries to persons in our communities. The slogan: “ A Place to Come Home To” was developed in conjunction with this brochure. We believe that our commitment to relational evangelism and cultivational hospitality will enable us to more effectively share the Gospel of Christ with others whose lives intersect our own every day.
A. Dorsey Martin 1911-1913
Conference Supplied 1913-1917
John F. Grove 1917-1962
Glenn F. Diller 1940-1942
Abram M. Baer 1942-1956
Nelson L. Martin 1957-1993
Marlin Lehman – interim 1993-1994
Rob Cahill 1994-2001
Clarence Strite – interim 2001-2004
Steve Fretz 2004-2011
Wesley Boyer-interim 2012-2014
Dennis Stutzman 2014-present