Mennonites to open a church and school in Charlestown
What used to be Little Man's Chill Out family arcade on the Claremont Road in Charlestown has been sold to the Mennonite Fellowship, which is planning a church and a school for about ten children.
The Mennonite church in Charlestown may be the first one in the state.
Up until now, there appear to be no other Mennonite or Amish schools in New Hampshire. Many “plain” Anabaptists gather to worship in each others' homes rather than in churches. There are two Mennonite schools in Vermont, in Bennington and Wolcott, and one Amish school in Brownington. Nine Amish families moved to Brownington, Vermont, this year according to the Caledonian Record (May 25 2018).
According to Charlestown selectman Tom Cobb, the church plans have been approved after inspection of the property.
Until recently, Anabaptists – commonly and incorrectly lumped together under the term “Amish” – were rarely seen in New Hampshire, but a handful of families have been quietly moving in and purchasing property in the last two years.
The closest Mennonite fellowship, in Taftsville, Vermont, notes on its website that many congregants travel a long way to get there. The Bethany Mennonite Fellowship in Bridgewater, VT claims about 80 members.
Anabaptists are a religious group that began in the 1500s in Germany, with a central belief that baptism should take place only when a person is old enough to understand and consent to baptism. They also oppose war and decline to serve in civil government, although – contrary to popular belief – they do pay property taxes. Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites are considered conservative sects of Anabaptism, with the “Old Order” Amish known for their black clothes and use of horses and buggies to get around. While many Anabaptists interpret their spiritual obligation to live simply by eschewing modern mechanical conveniences and wearing handmade, buttonless clothing, many wear modern clothing, drive vehicles, and practice professions other than farming.
According to a study by Ohio State University, the Anabaptist population doubles about every 21 years. Traditionally, young couples stayed close to older family members, establishing farms adjacent to or upon their parents' holdings. After the Amish Baby Boom took place from 1990 to around 2010, unemployment and a lack of available farm land in Ohio and Southern Pennsylvania began to be a problem. Settlers began moving to New England and Canada, including to Prince Edward Island in 2016.
There were 249,500 Anabaptists in the United States and Canada in 2010, as opposed to 124,500 in 1991. Worldwide, Anabaptist groups have about 320,000 members.
-- GLYNIS HART