9:30 a.m. Worship Service • 10:45 Christian Education

A caring community sharing God's love, mercy and justice


The history of Sunnyside Mennonite Church can be traced back to 1945 when students from the Goshen College Young People’s Christian Association established a ministry in the Sunnyside neighborhood.  In 1947, a modest block building was erected.  Leadership was provided by college and seminary students. The congregation’s mission was directed toward children and youth and they outnumbered adults. The Sunnyside of that era was seen as “a neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks,” both geographically and socioeconomically.

In 1957, a brick building was erected to meet the growing needs of the church.  The church transitioned from temporary student pastors to bi-vocational pastors who stayed multiple years.  But the mission remained the same – being a Christian outreach to the immediate neighborhood.  Numerous families lived within walking distance of the church and others lived in the greater Dunlap community.  The church owned a bus that traversed surrounding subdivisions, transporting children to church.  The two-week Summer Bible School was a highlight.

Palm Sunday Tornado

April 11, 1965 is a watershed date in Sunnyside’s history.  Thirty-seven tornadoes raged across the upper mid-west that day.  The tornado that ripped into the Sunnyside neighborhood wreaked utter devastation and totally destroyed the church.  Twenty-seven people died in this neighborhood alone.  Sunnyside’s pastor officiated at three funerals the following week.  But within 48 hours of the storm, the congregation recommitted itself to a presence in the community and decided to rebuild as soon as possible.  Ground breaking was held two weeks later.  The church was rebuilt through generous help from across the country and the efforts of work crews from Mennonite Disaster Service.

The tornado changed the neighborhood in significant ways. The “community that chose to live on” is quite different from the one that was destroyed.  Present building sites are bigger and quality of housing is substantially better than in 1965. The composition of residents changed from that day forward.

Pastoral Leadership

During following decades, Sunnyside experienced the benefits of team ministry.  This model was often effectively used in ensuing years.  Multiple pastors built on their education, experience and ministerial gifts in leading the congregation in pursuit of its mission. It also allowed for better coverage when one pastor was not available.  Several pastors served for more than 15 years, giving stability and continuity.  Long before women were widely accepted in ministry, the congregation discovered the value of women assuming major leadership responsibility.  The church has been blessed by numerous women pastors over the years.

Evolving Mission

As members of the church increasingly resided in Elkhart or Goshen, the mission of the congregation changed.  The focus became less geographically oriented.  During one period, ministry emphasized healthy family life, good parenting and passing on Christian faith to children.  In later years, the focus centered on equipping each member to be ministers in their work settings and in their own neighborhoods.  Mission extended beyond the Sunnyside neighborhood and the church became more involved through volunteers and financial contributions to service agencies in Elkhart and Goshen.  Members served in places like:

The Depot, Thrift at Woodland Crossing, Camp Friedenswald, Amigo Centre, The Window, Mobility Worldwide, Mennonite Disaster Service, Soup of Success, Center for Healing and Hope, ESL tutoring

In more recent years, members have become involved in global peace and justice issues.  Anti-racism is an important priority.  Currently, the congregation makes its facilities available to other groups like:

Piedra Viva Mennonite Church, a sister Spanish-speaking congregation

La Posada Immigrant Aid

a GED preparation program

All are Welcome

A recent pastor described Sunnyside as a “group of amazing people with many, many gifts that are put to good use.” She said, “I observe you to be committed to each other and the work of the church. You are dedicated followers of Jesus who live out your call to peace and discipleship in tangible, practical ways. You show up for each other in times of need, and you seem to genuinely enjoy being together in both good and challenging times. You give yourselves to the community around you and your gifts flow to the wider world. And you participate in communal worship with acts that reveal God’s presence and love among you.”