In-person Worship on Sundays at 9:30 am

The White Gift and The Window

Eighth Street’s centennial celebration concluded on November 24 with communion – using a liturgy common in Mennonite circles in the early 1900s – and our annual Thanksgiving Dinner provided by our hard-working Kitchen Committee. Following dinner, Bill Yoder auctioned sixteen stained glass window panels, saved from parlor and courtyard doors that were replaced in recent years, with proceeds going toward the church’s remaining mortgage. The auction raised $10,400. Combined with funds in the mortgage savings account, that amount pays off the entire balance. Thanks to all those who contributed and kept the auction lively. 

Photos and stories from our centennial remain on the church web page. Check out historical photos contributed by Marion Troyer and Doug Risser, as well as the various Moments in Time vignettes. (Shortly, the photos and stories will be moved from the church’s home page to the “History” area of the website under the “About Us” tab.) Copies of the Centennial commemorative booklet, with photos from the August homecoming weekend, will remain in the literature rack by the church office.

As we move into our second century, we anticipate new opportunities for sharing God’s love in the congregation, in Goshen, and in the world, encouraged and inspired by those who have gone before us.

This year the Christmas Eve service will include a “White gift” offering. For new attendees the “White Gift” terminology may be puzzling. During the 1920s and 1930s the young adults of the congregation put on Christmas programs that included a great deal of pageantry and drama, and always included a specially-designated offering. Verda Zook Hartzler (1893-1985) is credited with initiating the White Gift tradition in 1925, asking worshipers to bring their monetary gifts to the service wrapped in small white packages, and then, at a designated time, carry them forward to be placed in the manger. Today the gifts are no longer wrapped in white, but the Christmas Eve offering is still known as the White Gift.

Mission and Service Commission has designated this year’s White Gift for The Window, a Christian social service agency in downtown Goshen aiming to “meet the essential needs of anyone with limited income.” Eighth Street member Helen Litwiller Plank (1913-2009) was instrumental in founding The Window in 1967. That year Plank was elected president of Goshen’s chapter of Church Women United and she soon became involved in developing what would become The Window. In the mid-1960s a group of Goshen businessmen had partnered with churches to open a teen drop-in center, but when interest and support for that initiative flagged, the sponsors offered the facility to Plank and CWU, who, in turn, hired a social worker and drew on their network of volunteers to begin providing a wider range of services. These services included care for elderly shut-ins (1970), a community food pantry (1976), Katie’s Kitchen (1983), and more. The Window has continued to evolve as community needs change.  

Plank served on The Window’s board for two decades. Eighth Street members Eleanor Kinney and Jane Farrell are current board members, and have both served for many years; Jane is currently the treasurer. Contributing a White Gift to The Window this year will be a fitting way to connect our traditions from the past with ministry in the present as we move into the future to which God is calling us.

Source: Rachel Kreider, The History of the Eighth Street Mennonite Church, 1913-1978 (1987); Eleanor Weaver Kinney;

 —Steve Nolt