|The first Mennonites came to Oregon starting
in 1876. The earliest Mennonite church established in the immediate
Salem area was in Pratum in 1890. The immigrants were of Swiss
Mennonite background from the Eastern and Mid-Western states
or were more recent European immigrants to the United States,
mainly from Russia. Some of the latter groups settled in the
local region and in 1916 started a hospital in Salem known as
the Salem Deaconess Home and Hospital. Franz (F. B.) Wedel and
several "sisters" or deaconessestrained nurses
who had been ordained to care for the sickstarted and
operated the health facility. The hospital was the forerunner
of the present Salem Hospital and was situated at the same location.
In 1945, members of the contingent of Mennonites in Salem
originally from the eastern United States, or their descendants,
cooperated in the establishment of their own high school.
This school, Western Mennonite School, located on Wallace
Road 10 miles north of Salem, is still in operation. It presently
includes middle school grades as well as the high school on
its campus. Students include Mennonites and non-Mennonites
alike, many of whom live in salem. Salem Mennonite church
is very much involved in the schools support and is
blessed with the attendance ans haring of talents of many
of the teachers and staff in return.
Most Mennonites around Salem had traditionally grown up with
the rural heritage of their parents and grandparents. As more
of them moved to Salem for other than farm occupations, the
need for a place of worship nearer than their home churches
became important. A group of families began meeting together
in 1960 and developed a full congregational program, organizing
officially on November 12, 1961. In 1967, the congregation
moved to its new building and its present address at 1045
Candlewood Drive NE. When Keizer was incorporated, the church
which had been outside Salems city limits was just inside
the boundaries of the new city.
As followers of Jesus Christ, members of Salem Mennonite
church look to his life and teachings for their guide to living.
As Jesus came to serve rather than to be served, so members
try to serve in various ways an give to those in need. A high
percentage of the congregation are nurses or in related health
occupations in Salem. Nurses have organized an active Parish
Nurse Group to provide help and guidance in health-related
matters. Another large number among the congregation are those
in the field of education. The church actively works with
other Mennonite Churches in the Willamette Valley to sponsor
an annual festival at the Linn County Fairgrounds. Its purpose
is to raise funds for Mennonite Central Committee, an international
organization whose efforts are directed toward relief and
development programs in developing countries.
Church members try to be good neighbors wherever they life.
They have traditionally not been involved in political life
or civic government. Most recently, through a coalition made
up of the church, they Southeast Keizer Neighborhood Association,
Catholic Community Services, Keizer United and representatives
of state Adult and Family Services and the Keizer Police Department,
a community center has been started one night a week in the
meeting room of the church facility. The goal is to provide
activities for children and families in the neighborhood.
Note: For further information on the history of Mennonites
in Oregon, see Apart & Together: Mennonites in Oregon
and Neighboring States, 1876-1976. Lind, Hope Kauffman. Herald