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A Moment in Time: First to Arrive at Church

Naomi Lehman knew how hard it was to get all nine children into the buggy on Sunday mornings. So when nine-year-old Marjorie and her teenage brother, Eldon, we ready, she sent them off on foot, ahead of the rest of the family.  

Walking to church was possible because, for the first time, the Lehman family would be joining other Goshen households for worship in town, rather than traveling out to Silver Street Mennonite Church in Clinton Township, east of Goshen. The cluster of families formed the charter membership of a new congregation and had purchased a home on Fifth Street and converted it into a meeting place.

Marjorie and Eldon had left home on Crescent Street and were almost to the Fifth Street house when Eldon, headed off to the home of one of their cousins – who would also be coming to church with them – and left Marjorie behind. Undaunted, she simply let herself into the building, which the caretaker had left unlocked when he lit the heating stoves several hours earlier, and she waited for everyone else to arrive. And so it was that a nine-year-old girl was present and waiting to welcome people to the first worship service of Fifth Street Mennonite Church, on April 20, 1913.

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Naomi J. Weaver Lehman (1871-1948) and Isaac G. Lehman (1867-1925) had ten children, the last born later in 1913. Isaac’s work took him from Goshen with some frequency, often leaving Naomi to manage the children and household herself, recalls her great-niece, Jean (Maurer) Miller. Naomi was a charter member of Fifth Street Mennonite Church; Isaac joined only later.

Marjorie E. Lehman (1903-1990), the seventh child of Isaac and Naomi, was not yet ten in April 1913. In 1928 she married Dewey Hobson Mack (1898-1983). Prior to marriage, Marjorie attended the School of Nursing associated with the Mennonite Hospital in Bloomington, Illinois. In Goshen she worked both as a private duty nurse and as a staff nurse at Goshen Hospital, retiring in 1969. For most of his adult life Dewey was a self-employed cabinet and fine furniture maker, but he also worked at Gortner-Jones cabinetry for a time and for Penn Controls, and did watch and clock repair.

In 1918 Fifth Street Mennonite Church became Eighth Street Mennonite Church when the congregation built a new meetinghouse on the corner of Eighth and Purl.

Sources: “Let’s Get Acquainted,” Messenger, May 1978, 5-6; Rachel W. Kreider, The History of the Eighth Street Mennonite Church, 1913-1978 (1987).