DISTRICT: Weaverland-NE PA
LOCATION: 975 Benders Church Road, Pen Argyl, PA 18072
DATE OF FOUNDING: 1955
AVERAGE SUNDAY WORSHIP ATTENDANCE: 48
SUNDAY WORSHIP SERVICE: Sunday School – 9:00 a.m.; Worship Service – 10:10 a.m.
PASTOR: Brent Stoy
In early 1952, three men from the Goodville and Lichtys congregations in eastern Lancaster County and one from the Mission Board felt a call from God to start a new church. They drove to northern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but were not successful in finding a building to hold a vacation Bible school (VBS). On their way home, coming down Route 191 between Bangor and Stockertown in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, James Sauder saw a church steeple across the fields. They drove to the church and found this note on the door: “Anyone interested in using the building should contact Harvey Miller.” They contacted Miller at the listed phone number, and he encouraged them to use it for a VBS. That summer they visited homes in the area. Their conversations with the community people encouraged them to hold a Bible school. Teachers from the Goodville and Lichtys congregations came for two weeks. The first morning they were expecting about 35 children, but 70 children came.
On January 1, 1956, a Sunday morning service began. Teachers from Lancaster County drove to northeastern Pennsylvania every Sunday morning for the service. Later that year, Paul and Althea Martin moved to the area, followed by Marty and Jean Sauder moved in 1957. The next year Marlin and Katie Burkholder arrived, and Marlin was ordained as pastor. Bruce Bender was ordained as assistant pastor in 1975.
The VBS ministry at Benders is still a popular community event. The surrounding community expects this summer program. Some years over 100 children attend. Another important ministry at Benders is a monthly food bank. Ninety families receive food and clothing on a regular basis.
Members from Benders started two other Mennonite congregations in northeastern Pennsylvania. Maranatha in Nazareth started in 1985. Bethlehem Community Fellowship in Bethlehem began in 1988.