Staunton Mennonite Church

2405 3rd St - Staunton, VA 24401

Paul & Evelyn Kratz

  "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." (John 20:21)


I guess we find ourselves at a considerable loss, not being able to dig out some of our records of our experiences in Staunton.  We are going to have to depend on our memories, and at this stage in life, we’re not altogether sure how reliable that is!!!

Roy Kiser and I sat beside each other in quite a number of classes at EMC, and we learned to know each other pretty well.  A month or so before Easter, 1959, when I was a sophomore, Roy asked Evelyn and me to consider coming to Staunton to help out over Easter break, when the EMC students would travel home for the holidays.  We had been dating since the previous summer, and Evelyn was a senior at EMHS.  After giving the request serious consideration, we agreed to the proposal.  I think it was a commitment for two weekends.  But before that time was passed, Roy came back to say, that it wouldn’t be long until the summer vacation, and would we just continue coming to cover over that time as well.  So we agreed. 

At that point in time the church was meeting in the storefront on Stuart Street, beside the tracks.  Usually, at about the same point in the worship service each Sunday a fairly long train would go by, making enough noise to bring everything to a halt for some minutes. 

There was a significant number of YPCA students coming from EMC—usually three or more carloads.  The driver of each vehicle would drop his load of students at the storefront, then go to an agreed upon part of the city to pick up persons and bring them in.  So the EMC students who waited at the meeting place had at least half an hour of free time before the service would begin.  Afterwards, it was the same period of time until the drivers would return for lunch together.  What usually happened was, that these times became times of singing, learning new songs, and learning to know each other better. 

It was not unusual for a bit of tomfoolery to surface from time to time!  For example: everyone knew J. Mark Brubaker was into the natural sciences.  For whatever reason, one Sunday someone dared him to swallow a live spider.  He took the dare—to everyone’s amazement!  He swallowed the spider and lived!  I think for a short time he may have had some second thoughts about what he had done.  But he needs to speak for himself!

The focus in the early days seemed to be to reach lower classes of people for Jesus.  Many of them were on welfare.  But they would come to church if a way was provided for them.  We remember one older woman, who lived by herself and had a questionable reputation.  It could be that her shack was not connected to Staunton’s water system.  At any rate, we were of the opinion that she did not take enough baths!  For it was always obvious when she was present.  One didn’t even need to look.  You could smell her even from the other side of the room!

We well remember a Mr. Maybush, whose family was large enough to totally fill up a car (before the days of seatbelts!).  He had an excellent voice, and occasionally would sing a solo during the service.  One Sunday he began singing, but it soon became evident that he had it pitched too high.  As he approached the really high notes, and he couldn’t go any higher, he dropped an octave without hesitating, and continued until he got to the lower notes where he couldn’t go any lower.  At that point he jumped up an octave and finished the verse.  He did the same for all five verses, making his switches down an octave and up an octave in perfect pitch and at the exact same spots each time through.  He didn’t even seem to realize that he was making those switches.  But Evelyn and I were greatly amused and unable to hide it!  It wasn’t that he had done anything wrong.  It was just that it was so unusual, and it didn’t seem to phase him at all!

Quite a number of YPCA students had their initial experience of preaching in the Staunton church.  Many students also taught Sunday School, led in worship, oversaw activities for the youth.  On Sunday afternoon the students also divided into groups to visit homes in the community, to give a witness to prisoners, hold services at Western State Hospital, and in other settings.  There was an evangelistic zeal that demonstrated itself in many ways.  There was a regular Sunday evening service, as well as a Wednesday evening prayer meeting, and a Saturday evening youth activity.  The YPCA provided a Rambler station wagon for some of the students.  Several others drove their own vehicles without remuneration, probably putting at least 60 miles for the Sunday services and witness alone!  That was also before the days of scholarships!

Because of conscription, at some point during my college experience I had to register and verify annually that I was in college.  That qualified me for a student deferment.  As graduation approached, and Evelyn and I were anticipating marriage, I became very aware that I would need to perform some sort of service to satisfy Uncle Sam.  We looked at a number of options, and did some research, but then the Staunton church asked me to become assistant pastor along with Roy Kiser, knowing that I could also get a deferment for that.   So after serious consideration we accepted.  We were married about a month after I graduated.  The Sunday after we returned from our honeymoon, I was installed as assistant pastor.  That lasted less than a year, when Roy accepted a call to pastor Mountain View Mennonite Church.  So without fanfare, I became the first resident pastor of Staunton Mennonite.

Before Roy and Charlene left, negotiations were made to purchase the church building on Third Street from a Baptist church that had outgrown the facilities.  The Virginia Mennonite Mission Board, as VMM was known then, assisted in the purchase.

There were several EMC students who were so committed to the Staunton effort that they got summer jobs in the city and helped with the ongoing efforts of Sunday School and Summer Bible School.  Elton Nussbaum, Lois Weaver, Ron Moyer, and Naomi Kolb are several that come to mind.

Three students who committed themselves to the church long-term were Glenn and Kathy Zendt and Peggy Halterman, who married Nelson Blosser.  They have obviously been long-term blessings to the church over the years since their coming.

There were others who came to participate from other Mennonite churches.  Oliver and Frieda Weaver, Danny and Frances Weaver, Herman and Thelma Wilfong, Glenn and Lois Blosser, Nelson Driver, A. D. and Joyce Strickland, J. Ward and Mary McNeal  Trissel, George and Grace Weaver and numerous others that don’t come to mind just now.

Numerous persons who helped in the work at Staunton went on to become church leaders, pastors, and missionaries.  It would be impossible for me to name them all.  But persons like Roger and Flo Richer, Ed and Edie Bontrager, Paul Zehr, Milton Zehr, Ron and Joyce Moyer, Elton and Frieda Nussbaum, Paul Wenger, Jr., Jim Burkholder, Bob and Anna Nolt, Jim and Charlene Duncan.  I am sure there are many more.

Danny and Frances, I don’t know what you plan to do with the above, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask.  If you want to edit, or use bits and pieces to write up something else, you are welcome to do so.  I really don’t think this should stand alone.  Some of you who have been there over the years should add to (and subtract from) what I have written.  Maybe this can simply add to the broader story that is being written. 

If I get an inspiration, I might try to sit down again and write some more.  But these are the remembrances that come to mind at the moment.  Evelyn has added some suggestions, which I have incorporated.

Blessings as you work toward this special anniversary!  We are looking forward to being present!


Paul (& Evelyn)