Boone Mennonite Brethren Church History
Establishing the Church
In the heart of Junaluska sits the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, home to the largest Mennonite congregation in North Carolina. The Boone Church was built in 1918 and founded by Rev. Joseph Tschetter and his wife Katharina. The two were ordained missionaries of the Krimmer Mennonites, with religious roots in southern Russia and Germany. The two missionaries made their way to North Carolina in 1903, leaving behind the Plains of the Midwest for the mountains of southern Appalachia. It would be here where the Tschetters would join their fellow Mennonites in assisting with the Salem Mennonite Misson Church and Orphanage in Elk Park, Avery County serving the African American population of the region (1).
By 1911, Rev. Tschetter began holding Mennonite services in neighboring Watauga County within what became the Junaluska community of Boone. In 1917, he organized a Mennonite congregation with eight original members, and built the church that still stands today the following year. Since the opening of the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church doors, the size of the congregation continues to grow as the community has made the Church their own (2).
Not Your Typical Mennonite Service
Though Mennonite theology provides the framework for members’ beliefs, it is not the sole influence for the Boone Church. These services are more along the lines of Baptist or Methodist worship practices. Services consist of call and response preaching, holy dancing, clapping, and shouts. In addition to observing non-traditional worship practices, services held on Sunday replace traditional Mennonite hymns with exhilarating gospel songs lead by the Junaluska Gospel Choir. As former minister Rev. James Isbell was once quoted, “A starched in the collar Mennonite would raise his eyebrows at what goes on in the Boone Church (3).” This unique attribute of the Boone Church has served the Mennonite community in Boone, N.C. well, providing its members with an expressive and upbeat form of worship.
Influential Church Leaders
1. Katherine Siemens Richert. Go Tell It on the Mountain: The Story of the North Carolina-Tennessee Mennonite Mission. Fresno, California: Jet Print, 1984.
4. Chris Eidse . "We Got It Right: A Unique MB Congregation in the Appalachian Mountains Highlights a Rare Hybrid of Culture and Faith." Boonechurch.com. na. Accessed April 04, 2016. http://boonechurch.com/we-got-it-right/.
5. Anna Oakes. "Saturday Jubilee Celebrates Junaluska Community." Watauga Democrat (Boone, North Carolina), April 20, 2012. Accessed April 29, 2016. http://www.wataugademocrat.com/community/saturday-jubilee-celebrates-junaluska-community/article_f9ba1e09-6395-5cac-b2d5-27c90ee581a2.html.
6. "Reverend Ronda Horton Interview, 1973", Miscellaneous Oral History Transcripts, W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.
7. Susan, Keefe. "Junaluska Celebrates Legacy." Watauga Democrat, June 11, 2013. Accessed May 1, 2016. http://www.wataugademocrat.com/community/junaluska-celebrates-legacy/article_2e0b443d-20fa-5cc4-b044-35948d36c8f8.html.