The Andover Community Church began as a mission outreach of the Franconia Mennonite Conference, based in Franconia, Pennsylvania. A local committee granted the Conference permission to use the closed Andover meetinghouse (built by Baptists in 1868) for preaching services and summer Bible School. The church became known as the Peaseville Mennonite Church and was the first Mennonite congregation in New England.
The first Mennonite service was held June 1, 1947, with 26 people attending. A team came from Pennsylvania to teach summer Bible School, which began June 16, 1947. In the following years, more Mennonite families from Pennsylvania moved to Vermont to help with the mission outreach and were warmly received by the community. Attendance grew as preaching services, song services, and summer Bible School continued to attract local residents. Some of these accepted the Lord as Savior and were baptized.
In 1951, the Franconia Conference purchased the meetinghouse at Peaseville from the Baptist Convention. The meetinghouse was remodeled in 1954 to provide separate Sunday School rooms.
More activities were gradually added, such as a Ladies’ Sewing Circle, instruction classes for those who had accepted the Lord, weekend Bible conferences, mid-week Bible study, youth socials, hospital visitation, boys’ club, and girls’ club.
In 1958, the congregation at Andover separated from the Franconia Conference, changing its name to Andover Community Church, and not compelling those being baptized to follow Mennonite cultural traditions. Eventually, ties with the conference were reestablished, though the church did not become a member of the Conference.
In 1967, a 26 x 35 foot addition was added to the back of the meetinghouse, providing increased classroom space, a fellowship room, indoor restrooms, and a kitchen. The Franconia Conference contributed generously to the needed funds, and also supplied an interest-free loan.
Some of the original Mennonite families moved back to Pennsylvania, while others put down roots and stayed. Among those who stayed were H. Earl and Esther Bishop, and John and Dorothy Martens. Mr. Bishop and Mr. Martens “temporarily” took on the responsibility of co-pastoring the Andover Church in 1960. They were licensed in 1972, and ordained on November 19, 1978. They served faithfully until their retirements. Pastor Martens’ final sermon was preached February 28, 1998, while Pastor Bishop’s final sermon was one week later on March 1. A retirement, open house celebration was held May 2, 1998.
On May 10, 1998, Carl Brusetti was chosen as an interim pastor. He and his wife, Marge, put much energy into their year of service at Andover, providing leadership in preaching, Wednesday evening Bible study, Ladies’ Fellowship and Teen Youth Fellowship. Their term of service ended May 9, 1999.
Following the Brusettis’ term, the church family was guided by a Pastoral Team, consisting of Alan Plumb, chairman of the Church Council, as Administrative Leader; Janice Gordon, Worship Committee Leader; Jeff and Patti Gordon, Pastoral Care Leaders; and Daryl Martens, Preaching and Teaching Leader. Daryl also served as overall Pastoral Team Leader. The Pastoral Team was to function for six months, with an evaluation at the end of that time.
This period of time was one of growth, and developing spiritual gifts, as all members pitched in to help the team leaders keep services running smoothly. Sermons were given by guest speakers, as well as lay members of the church family. Most of all, we found our Father God was absolutely faithful to His children at Andover Community Church.
One of the guest speakers during this time was Daniel Chapman, whom the church family received very favorably. The Lord subsequently called him to pastor the flock at Andover. On October 3, 1999, the congregation voted to install Daniel E. Chapman, supported by his wife, Christine, as pastor of Andover Community Church. An Installation Service was held November 21, 1999. In the fall of 2000, Daniel and Christine were licensed as pastors by the Franconia Mennonite Conference. Three years later, on January 22, 2006, Daniel was ordained as a pastor by James Lapp, Franconia Conference Pastor, and Donella Clemens, Overseer for the Vermont Mennonite groups. During Pastor Dan’s seven years of leadership, the church grew both spiritually, and in numbers, as well as faced challenges. The youth group, under Chris’s leadership, also grew during this time. In May 2007, Dan tendered his resignation, giving his last sermon in June.
During Daniel’s tenure, a Board of Elders was developed to support the pastor, and to work with him in giving spiritual direction to the congregation.
A pastoral search committee was organized in June 2007 to seek a new pastor for the church. Members of the congregation began to lead the worship services in the meantime. Two members in particular were approached to consider giving sermons on an alternating basis. Daryl Martens and Stephen Knisely initially agreed to take on the preaching duties for an interim period of six months, beginning October 7, 2007. At the end of the six months, they prayerfully accepted an on-going, co-pastoring role. They were ordained as pastors by the Andover Community Church members on October 5, 2008, and continue to provide sermons. Other pastoral duties remain limited, as both Steve and Daryl also have full-time jobs.
In November 2007, Andover Community Church withdrew from involvement with the Franconia Mennonite Conference, and currently operates as an independent church.