October 25, 2014

Riverside Mennonite Church celebrating centennial anniversary

By James Kuch
News Editor | news@arenacindependent.com
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AuGRES — The congregation of Riverside Mennonite Church will be celebrating its centennial anniversary Friday, July 1 through Sunday, July 3.

The church, located at 3620 Twining Rd. in Turner, was settled by two brothers, Peter and Joseph Swartz, in October 1911.

Congregation member Norah Wolthuis, who, along with her husband David, has been a member since 1969, said the families of Peter and Joseph moved to the area from an Amish community near West Branch.

“They sent their wives and children to Turner on train and then followed them by using corduroy logging roads,” she said.

Wolthuis said the congregation started in 1911 and held services in the homes of different families before constructing its first church building in 1921. Riverside has been in its current building since 1993 after a remodeling of a second building that was built in 1965.

Pastor Ron Swartz, who has been the church’s pastor for six years, said surviving 100 years shows the strength of the congregation.

“It shows the faithfulness this congregation has in God,” he said. “We are looking forward to the next 100 years.”

Swartz said on Sunday, July 3, John Jantzi, a grandson of one of the early settlers and members of the congregation, will speak during the church service.

Wolthuis said the congregation has continued to grow and change over the years.

“In our community, the population just was not there,” she said. “There are less farming opportunities now. Farms used to stay in families and were passed down. There is not that option anymore.”

Wolthuis said the message of the church is the same but there are a number of new traditions that are there.

“Over the years there have been new names, new songs, new styles and new instruments,” she said. “If the church was going to stay viable, it had to grow from what was there.”

As Riverside approached its centennial anniversary, Wolthuis said its service to people is what continued to bring families back each year.

“That was one of the things that drew me to the Mennonite congregation,” she said. “I think service to the community is a theme you will find here.”

The centennial celebration will begin on Friday, July 1 at 5 p.m. with an ice cream fellowship and a visual history presentation.

Wolthuis said a couple of congregation members will play Peter Swartz and his wife.

“They will be making appearances throughout the weekend,” she said. “They will be performing historical (skits).”

Other activities will include singing, youth groups and a scavenger hunt.

For a list of times go to www.riversidehomestead.com.

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