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Church may become day care

Staff writer

It seems only natural that a congregation that has no children or youth among its members but has an active summer meal program for children would want to see its facilities used as a day-care center.

Still in the discussion stage, plans are in the works to make Trinity Mennonite Church, 211 S. Elm St. in Hillsboro, the site of a community center.

Because of declining numbers, the church may close. In 2021, a congregation of 36 people consisted of individuals age 50 or older.

Pastor Norma Duerksen said people are tired or no longer able to fill leadership roles. She has served the church for seven years.

Hillsboro Community Child-Care Committee is hoping to take over the building. The organization is in the process of applying for 501c3 status for the new nonprofit enterprise.

If and when the transfer is finalized, which may take two years, the two parties agreed that the congregation could continue to meet for Sunday services as long as they desire.

The process began Dec. 12, when members decided to find another user of the building. On Jan. 4, the church council met with the Hillsboro Community Child-care Committee, which indicated they wanted the building.

The congregation had a potluck Sunday after the worship service, and Stuart Penner passed out information about a meeting Friday between the child-care committee and the church council.

“We made it clear that we want them to have the building, and they made it clear that they want the building,” the information stated. “Now we wait for them to do the work they need to do and let us know when we need to move to new spaces within the building,”

Penner emphasized that a lot of work has to be done before the transfer can happen.

“They need money, they need 501c3, they need an architect,” he said.

The building would be named Trinity Community Center. The fellowship hall, kitchen, and restrooms would remain available for the congregation, CORE, and other community organizations in the evenings and on weekends. Basement space would be available for church offices, CORE, Everence, Salvation Army, and Care Portal.

The church’s playground would be fenced in but remain open to the public during non-school hours. The Food for Kids program could be continued at another location.

“When there is a death, there is a resurrection,” Duerksen said. “You could form a different group or join other churches.”

“It will be the congregation’s decision,” Kenton Kaufman said.

Duerksen’s pastorship will end after 2023. She said she and her husband, Phil, plan to join the First Mennonite Church.

Penner summed up the discussion by saying, “This gives us an opportunity to do something for the community, and it’s sorely needed.”

Trinity Mennonite Church began services in May 1966 as a merger of two country churches, Brudertal Mennonite Church and Johannestal Mennonite Church.

Located north and east of Hillsboro, the two churches were just four miles apart. Brudertal was comprised of immigrants from South Russia and West Prussia. Johannestal was comprised of immigrants from Polish Russia near Warsaw.

Brudertal was forced to move when the U.S. Corps of Engineers needed the property as part of Marion Reservoir. The congregation sold its property for $50,000 and decided to construct a new building on 2½ acres on the west edge of Hillsboro. Most of its members had moved to town.

The cost of the entire church building, including land and furnishings, was $225,000.

The Johannestal congregation soon joined them, and they named the new church Trinity Mennonite.

TMC had 325 members in 1966, but as people left for various reasons, membership decreased.

The church actively ministers to children in Hillsboro. Being two blocks from the community swimming pool, they cook meals for children at risk of hunger and give them a pool pass each day. They have served as many as 75 children.

They also constructed a playground on church property for neighborhood children.

The church also supports Mennonite Central Committee by creating craft projects and baking zwieback and pies for its annual MCC relief sale.

Last modified March 31, 2022

 

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