About Us

Our Mission

Who Are Mennonites?

Mennonites are Anabaptist Christians. Three of our core values are:

1) Jesus is the center of our faith.

2) Community is the center of our lives.

3) Reconciliation is the center of our work.

Our Story

Our church was established in 1879 as the first Mennonite congregation in the city of Lancaster. Our sanctuary, which looks like many of our county’s traditional meeting houses, was built in 1906. In our early years, preachers often needed to pause whenever a trolley came rumbling by.

Our location at the corner of Chestnut & Sherman has helped us to see new things in the Bible, especially God’s deep love for our city and its people. In Jeremiah 29, for example, we began to hear God’s call for us to find our wellbeing in the wellbeing of our city neighbors.

Today, our reading of the Bible continues to inspire our congregation to join what God is already doing in our city. Every Monday evening (since 2001), we build community and share a warm meal with 100+ of our city neighbors. We work through the Chestnut Housing Corporation, founded in 2010, to provide affordable housing for those coming out of homelessness. In recent years, we have walked with several refugee families as they’ve resettled in our city.

In 2016, we moved from Lancaster Mennonite Conference to Atlantic Coast Conference in order to maintain our cherished denominational ties with Mennonite Church USA. We also deeply value our connections with other communities of faith in our city and around the world.

In 2016, our congregation voted to welcome gay and lesbian persons into membership. In 2021, our congregation expanded that welcome to all LGBTQ+ persons in every aspect of church life, including the blessing of marriage and opportunity to serve in pastoral ministry.

We are a church that loves to sing, pray, and worship God together. We seek to read and interpret the Bible through the “lens” of Jesus. We care deeply about justice, peace, creation care, and dismantling racism. We are passionate about our shared spiritual formation as the followers of Jesus, at every stage of life, from beginning to end. We seek to ground all that we do in a deep and prayerful connection with God.

We welcome you to come follow Jesus with us!

Todd Friesen

Lead Pastor

I love being part of a faith community that is deeply committed to following Jesus in daily life and joining what God is doing here in the city of Lancaster, especially in our surrounding neighborhood. If being part of that kind of church appeals to you then come check us out!

A bit about my own story. As a college student and young adult, I had little interest in faith or connecting with the church. That slowly began to change during the seven years that my wife and I spent working in China. I was surprised to hear God’s call to become a pastor through the beautiful lives of the Chinese Christians we came to know. I graduated from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, IN) in 2000 and then pastored a church in suburban Chicago for 13 years. East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church called me to be their lead pastor in 2013.

A couple spiritual disciplines are especially dear to me: contemplative prayer helps me to connect with God and walking helps me connect with our city neighbors. Here are links to articles where I reflect on each one: Out of My Mind, Into My Heart and “Pastor Learns About His Community”. I’m also a trained spiritual director (AMBS, 2011) and a commissioned presenter in Centering Prayer (Contemplative Outreach, 2015).

My wife is a massage therapist and our daughter is a college student. I enjoy bird photography, studying Mandarin Chinese, reading novels, and gardening.

Elisa Parmer

Associate Pastor

I’ve grown up in Lancaster County pretty much my whole life immersed in the Christian church. I struggled for years to understand why faith did not come easily to me, and wondered if the people around me in the pew were just pretending. Deeply concerned about the world around me and how I was to be in it, I didn’t understand why the church context I experienced was so different from the values being expressed. I still wonder about this. In a season of questioning and doubt, I found myself sitting in East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church by invitation of a loved one. She told me, “I love this people, would you come and love this people with me?” And the shift in my posture opened my eyes to the beauty of church community. I decided to stick around and embrace the invitation to love a people and walk out my faith alongside them.

In my role as associate pastor, my efforts are focused on paying particular attention to the spiritual nurture of the children, youth, and parents of our congregation. I get energized about engaging young people in spiritually formative practices, peacemaking, growing in awareness of God’s presence, and exploring Francis of Assisi’s big questions together: “Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I?” I’ve been profoundly impacted by faith leaders within varying denominations and faith traditions and embrace ecumenical appreciation for the wisdom of fellow believers across the broader faith context.

I live in Ephrata with my wife Hannah, and our two dogs, Cali & Rudy. I am a theater lover, an absolute nerd. I enjoy all genres of movies, reading and writing poetry, hiking, sketching and eating nachos and donuts! 

Shannon Pipkin

Office Administrator

In my role at ECSMC, I provide administrative support for the congregation, church committees, and pastoral staff.

My past experience includes work in missions and outreach ministries, nonprofit Christian ministry, diversity training for college students, as well as several rewarding years as a full-time stay-at-home parent. Prior to coming to ECSMC, I served for three years as a Parish Resource Manager and Director of Communications for a large Lancaster city church

I am married to my high school sweetheart, Brian. We have three children – a daughter and two sons – and a border collie mix named Teddy. In my spare time, you might find me doing one or more of my favorite things: spending time outside with my family, laughing, reading, and eating good food. (This native Californian can’t get enough of authentic Thai and Mexican food!)


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