History of Berne Evangelical Church
The Evangelical Mennonite Church had its origin through the direction of God and the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit in the person of Rev. Henry Egly of Geneva, Indiana. He moved from Ohio to the Berne and Geneva community in 1850. Here he worshipped with the Old Order Amish and served as a deacon in the church. In his early thirties, his study of the Word of God brought him more and new light on many subjects, and as he walked in the light given him he was led from the formal church life into a definite knowledge of real conversion in the year 1864. After this experience, revivals began among the people and many were truly converted. The bishops and church leaders were opposed to this new form of doctrine and Rev. Egly was asked to resign. Following this a new group was formed which was called the Egly Amish and later became the Defenseless Mennonite Church. Rev. Egly became pastor of this new group and services were held on the various farms in the houses and sometimes in the barns. The revivals continued and on one day 75 were baptized and another day 40. Rev. Egly was evangelistic in his ministry, traveling many miles to other churches in various states besides handling the responsibility of his home church.
The first church building was erected in 1871. Its dimensions were 32 by 46 feet. The revivals continued and as the congregation grew larger and more space was required, a new church, 44 by 66 feet, was built just a few feet north of the first church building. This building, erected in 1881, is still a part of the present complex.
The first Sunday School was organized on April 23, 1882, with an enrollment of 231. Sunday School was held in the afternoon. Each pew consisted of one class and its teacher. The small children were taught the ABC's, the next class spelling and the others the New Testament, all in the German language. Sunday School was held in the summer months, only as the roads were too bad in the winter. Some years later Sunday School was held in the morning, the German language changed to English and the use of quarterlies was started.
In 1917 a barn, 60 by 200 feet, was built for horses and buggies south of the church and later used for the shelter of automobiles.
The church was remodeled in 1937 and a basement put under it. New pews were installed and other necessary repairs were made. In 1947 the building was remodeled again with an addition being built, making a new entrance, choir loft and Sunday School rooms. In 1962 an addition was built onto the south side of the church which included a balcony, library, classrooms and nursery. Later, classrooms and office space were added to the north side of the church.
In 1947 the church's name was changed to Evangelical Mennonite. Later on, the church and denomination dropped Mennonite out out the name and then became known as Berne Evangelical. The church at Berne is the mother church of all the churches in the conference. The Evangelical Conference now consists of churches in the states of Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The conference helps to support a children's home at Flanagan, Illinois, namely the Salem Children's Home. The conference owns a year round camping facility, Miracle Camp, at Lawton, Michigan. The missions arm of the conference, presently named International Ministries, has sent missionaries to various countries around the world. Former Lead Pastors were Henry Egly, Joseph Egly, Christian Egly, David R. Schindler, Moses Rupp, C. N. Stucky, Eli Lantz, Emanuel M. Becker, Henry Klopfenstein, Noah J. Schmucker, E. G. Steiner, Veryl Roth, Robert Zehr, Richard Ehresman, Marlin Rupp, Bruce Linhart, David Bocker, and Kent Fahl.
In July, 1997, a Planning and Assessment Committee was appointed by the church council to evaluate the church's facilities. As they projected into the future, it became apparent that additional facilities were needed to accommodate the congregation's growing needs. In February, 1998, this committee came to the council with some specific recommendations and shortly thereafter, Finance and Building Committees were appointed by the council. The first meeting of the Building Committee was in August, 1998. Ground breaking for the building additions was held in May of 2000, with completion being in May, 2001.