In 1811, a congregation in West Donegal purchased land from Christian Longenecker and built a church along what is now Garber Road where it intersects with Bossler. Both a church and school were built at the same time. Its believed that the first building stood in front of Washington School. Later in the 1880s, the building was torn down and a new building was built where the current white framed building now stands. This building has been renovated several times since.
Before having a building in 1811, this congregation met in homes. The first recorded minister is John Mumma from Dauphin County. The original building is rumored to have burned to the ground. It’s unknown at this point what actually happened to the building. It’s likely that due the needs of the growing congregation, it was torn down and a new church was built. The current frame building, built in 1881, still serves the congregation with a sanctuary, foyer, 2 anterooms, and nursery. The basement was dug out by hand in the 1950s and remodeled in the late 1980s. It includes a kitchen, restrooms, sunday school rooms, and a library.
The first minister ordained from the Bossler congregation was Martin N. Rutt. Since then the congregation has chosen ministers from within its members. These are Martin N. Rutt, Simon Garber, Martin R. Kraybill, Harlan Hoover, Glen Martin, Fred Garber, and Clair Good. Currently, Bossler is part of the Elizabethtown District.
Theme: “God’s Faithfulness — 200 years and counting”
On August 13-14, 2011, the Bossler Mennonite congregation gathered together to celebrate its 200 plus years of history. The weekend began with John H. Kraybill giving a bus tour of places important to Bossler’s history. Items were on display in Washington School, including the original restored schoolmaster’s desk, several student desks, clothing, quilts, old Bibles and hymnals, photos, one of 2 communion cups from Bossler, feet washing basins, the Longenecker cradle, a casket stand from Bossler, and more.
On Saturday night, Bossler honored its leaders, both dead and living. The book “ The Church on Bossler’s Corner: The History of Bossler Mennonite Church” was presented and dedicated that same evening. Sunday morning brought Bob Shreiner, the oldest son of Lester Shreiner, to share the Sunday School lesson. The congregation followed several of the older traditions like men and women sitting on separate sides, wearing plain clothing, having Sunday School together in the sanctuary, and a few ministers giving testimony.
Historian and author John L. Ruth shared the main message, both in the morning and in the afternoon. Bossler’s drama group called “The Storytellers” gave a skit by Laura Kraybill about Amanda Rutt, who lost her husband Gabriel in 1901 and decided to continue following their conviction not to raise tobacco on their farm after his death.
Clair Good shared about his connection to Bossler, the role Bossler had in his role as a missionary in Africa, his decision to join the congregation after returning from Kenya, and how these experiences prepared him for his church planting work in Columbia, Pennsylvania. Sunday evening, Will Longenecker shared about his work in Iran.
Fred Garber, the current pastor, shared about where Bossler is now. The weekend was closed with a heartfelt rendition of the Mennonite hymn so familiar to many of those with Mennonite faith, number 606 in the Mennonite Hymnal.