120 Years of Ministry at East White Oak

  • Howard Frink
  • Oct 18, 2012

Our forebears in 1892-1893 desired to provide a nearby meeting place in the White Oak area for a Sabbath School and for church services.  Motivation arose from the families settling here, largely from Ohio, Pennsylvania and from Europe (France, Germany and Switzerland).  Many had Mennonite, Amish or other similar backgrounds.  The nearest established church appealing to many of them was in north Danvers, 10-15 miles away—a long and seasonally uncomfortable ride in the horse-drawn carriages of that day.  

One of the local families, John and Mary Ropp, donated the corner land which has been East White Oak’s home for these many years.  The plan was to build “a prairie school type building”, with 2 south end doors (seating inside was men on one side and women on the other)—one large room heated by wood-burning stoves.  Construction by men in the area began in the fall of 1892, with dedication on February 5, 1893.  The “Mennonite Church of White Oak” was organized with 60 charter members, and the first annual business meeting was held.  Among several interesting bits from that first business meeting:  Every member would be taxed $1 per year to pay running expenses and a Missions Fund was created.

We now are being served by only our 6th Senior Pastor during the 120 years of East White Oak’s ministries.  Through many of these years, our Senior Pastors served congregations well without associate pastoral help.  As the congregation and program needs grew, there were intermittent years when we did have pastoral assistance available and known needs were met.  Records show that we’ve enjoyed 14 men in those roles, including the 5 currently serving here.  We have appreciated the services of all these men, and all prior to the present staff have moved on to other challenging ministries.

Mennonite Conference Interlude
East White Oak was organized as an independent and self-governing church.  In 1908, East White Oak voluntarily joined the Central Conference of Mennonites.  By the early 1930’s, there were disturbing differences developing in church groups around the world over Modernist/Fundamentalist positions.  After much discussion and a significant majority vote in the East White Oak congregation, the church withdrew from the Central Conference and resumed its path as an independent church.

Present Name And Constitution
As church ministries grew, along with relationships among other independent churches, the congregation adopted our current constitution in the 1960’s (with later amendments) and incorporated under the name EAST WHITE OAK BIBLE CHURCH.  

1994 Fire Destroys Sanctuary And Education Building
A lightning strike and resulting fire on July 19, 1994 led to destruction of all pre-1977 buildings.  Gallant and quick response efforts by several area fire departments saved the entire 1977 Fellowship Hall addition, with its modern facilities.  What a blessing—we still had a place to continue our worship together during the two years of clean-up, planning and rebuilding toward the structures we have today!

We would like to thank Howard Frink for compiling this short history of the church. This is a general description of the 120 years of East White Oak’s ministry.  There are several booklets available which provide considerably more detail.