History of PMC
The Pittsburgh Mennonite Church (PMC) began in 1968 when Jim and Marian Burkholder invited everyone interested to meet in their home several times in April and May. Jim told this group “Having a common background is not enough ‘glue’ to hold a group together as diverse as ours. Isn’t a common, vital, relationship with Jesus a more basic uniting force? We need to find each other in the context of mission . . . The church is what happens when a group gathers around Christ. A caring, reconciling, sharing community is the result. Couldn’t we, by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, develop such a group, and as we grow — share it with others?” By June, a group of twenty was ready to commit themselves to regular Sunday morning worship and the Rodef Shalom Synagogue on 5th Avenue had offered their chapel without rent for the summer.
Other aspects of becoming a church took more time . . . Jim Burkholder became the first pastor; Sushil Ganguly was elected treasurer; the name “Pittsburgh Mennonite Church” was chosen and the new church requested membership in the Allegheny Mennonite Conference. In June of 1969, they bought a building at 7210 Meade Street to house a Voluntary Service unit (1969-73) and provide a place of worship. During the 1970s a number of persons served the congregation in leadership. When there was no formal leadership, John and Miriam Beachy, Scottdale, provided support to the group. In the late ’70s, the congregation began a student center in the Oakland area.
Spurred by church wide interest in urban work, the decision was made to strengthen the Mennonite witness in Pittsburgh. In August 1981, the Harold and Christine Wenger family arrived with support to give themselves full-time to being a part of the leadership team of Pittsburgh Mennonite Church and to expand the mission and outreach in this city. In September 1982 Allegheny Mennonite Conference helped PMC buy a larger building at 7211 Thomas Boulevard just one block from their former location on Meade Street. The new meeting room was more than twice the size of the old one.
The new house on Thomas Boulevard seemed wonderfully big and spacious when PMC moved into it. Yet as soon as 1989, the congregation’s vision statement noted the need to locate another building to allow for growth in numbers of people. God was working among us! In September1988, John and Milonica Stahl-Wert came to pastor the congregation. By 1990, the congregation was working hard to locate a larger meeting place. The 75 chairs in our meeting room were frequently too few for the Sunday morning attendance. We looked at large church buildings that needed a lot of repair. We considered renting a space. We asked about buying land on which we might build a new structure. Then God led us to the church building on Murray Avenue. It did not have space for Sunday school classes, but the combination of buying a well-maintained building and adding an education wing seemed a much better option than any of the others available to us. The rapidity with which events moved from our first look at the building on Murray Avenue to purchase, closing, and moving affirmed our sense of God’s leading and simultaneously left many of us breathless. I hope you have your breath back, now, because it is now time to move ahead again.
In 1968, just after PMC held its very first Sunday morning service, Jim Burkholder wrote to the church words that are just fine today. “I know that many of us are finding that this undertaking involves more work and sacrifice than we had imagined. But I want to thank each one of you for the way you have participated and cooperated in the successful launching of this most recent stage of our growth together. May you receive the deep satisfaction that comes to those who stand with God on the cutting edge of history and are used by Him to make things happen and to help people become persons.”
Luke and Carmen Schrock-Hurst served as co-pastors for five years until August, 2002 when they took the position as Mennonite Central Committee country representatives in the Phillipines. During their time with us, PMC started an intern program. PMC’s first intern was Jodi Hochstedler who served through the Mennonite Urban Corps program. Peter Eash-Scott was the second intern and served as interim pastor as we searched for a new spiritual leader for our congregation. John Bender now serves as our pastor and guiding us to vision how PMC can better serve Pittsburgh.
In 2009, The Pittsburgh Mennonite Church Family started worshiping at a new meeting house at 2018 S Braddock Avenue in Swissvale. As the church continues to become acclimated to the new building and new location, the congregation still seeks to continue to keep Jesus the center of our faith, community the center of our life, and reconciliation the center of our work.