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Peace in the Valley

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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Glenwood Springs residents weren’t sure what to expect when Mennonites began arriving in town 50 years ago.”The general public really didn’t know if we were bringing horses and buggies or what we were doing,” Sam Janzen said Saturday as he recounted the Glenwood Mennonite Church’s early history to a rapt audience at the church.Instead, the church helped bring into existence a new hospital, Valley View, whose 50th anniversary is being recognized this weekend.But even as the Mennonites founded a hospital, they created a local congregation that also is celebrating its half-century mark. Past and present members of the church gathered from distant states this weekend to commemorate the birthday of a congregation that first met in the basement of a home on Grand Avenue.Janzen was involved in those beginnings, both as the first pastor of the church and first administrator of the hospital.Now 83, his memory remains sharp, and he regaled a packed church Saturday with memories of getting the church going.Even as Janzen was helping open a hospital to which thousands of children would be born in coming decades, he also came to realize the need to include a nursery in the new church. He remembers five couples in the congregation all expecting children at the same time.Looking around at the familiar faces in the church Saturday, he observed, “You know, I married a lot of these people in this church … and it stuck for them because they’re still there (together).”The Mennonites were involved not only with Valley View but with opening the hospital in Aspen and running the Mountain View Nursing Home in Glenwood Springs, Janzen noted.Janzen left Glenwood Springs in 1967.”The rest of it’s your history, after 1967,” he told Glenwood church members.He last worked in Harrisonburg, Va., before retiring there.Dr. David Hostettler, who joined Glenwood Medical Associates in 1960 and the church in 1962, marveled at Janzen’s memory of so many names of the early families involved in the church’s founding.”He gave a great history,” Hostettler said.Norm Histand’s wife Grace knew Janzen and was hired by him to work as director of nursing at Valley View in 1961. He said they have kept in touch with church members since leaving Glenwood Springs 20 years ago and moving around to different parts of the country.”It’s great to come back” for the anniversary, Histand said. “It was a good part of the community, it really was,” he said of the church.Many of Janzen’s children returned for the event, as did other relatives.”This is like a family reunion,” said Brenda Janzen, of Albuquerque, as she chatted with cousin Milton Janzen, Sam’s son and a resident of Newport News, Va.The two remembered playing violin together while in grade school in Glenwood Springs. Brenda Janzen was baptized just feet from where she stood speaking in the church, back when trees that now tower over it were mere saplings.Sam Janzen said his time in Glenwood “was a very significant part of my experience with my family.”He said they came to a community that knew little about the Mennonites but was asked to trust them as they undertook the hospital project.”We tried to earn that trust; we had a lot of community involvement,” he said.The church’s community involvement continued Saturday evening, when it held a prayer vigil at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs, in a reflection of its members’ belief in nonviolence and pacifism.Also this weekend, at the Ramada Inn in Glenwood Springs, the church is hosting the Mountain States Mennonite Conference, consisting of Mennonites from Colorado and parts of New Mexico and Texas. About 250 to 300 participants were expected for the annual conference.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com

The Glenwood Mennonite Church might be best known for its work in opening Valley View Hospital. But it has done a lot more over its 50-year lifetime. Here, according to the church, are some of those contributions: helped with the creation of the LIFT-UP nonprofit relief agency and provided office space for it and the Salvation Army; created the Extended Table soup kitchen; sponsored international refugees and raised funds for disaster relief and humanitarian causes; helped Colorado Mountain College to develop a day-care facility and later provided board oversight for the Little Peoples Place day-care center; shared meeting space over the years with groups such as the Girl Scouts, Glenwood writers groups and peace organizations, and for ecumenical worship events; shared its facility with the Laestadian Lutheran Church of the Roaring Fork Valley and the Glenwood Spanish Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

The administration of the hospital was contracted to the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities of Elkhart, Ind. Mennonite Creed: High degree of public service, mainly in hospital administration, relief work, and missionary work.For many of the men, it is a substitute for military service, which is prohibited by their religious convictions. Seventy Mennonites served in the Valley View program between 1955 and 1965. They built a dormitory-style house near the hospital, known as the VS (Volunteer Service) House. The men lived upstairs and the women lived downstairs. They received free room and board and a $10/month stipend. The Mennonite order dates back to early 16th century Europe. Members began coming to the United States 20 years after the pilgrims and settled in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Mennonite hospitals are open to all races, creeds and colors, and religious beliefs and mores are not part of the relationship with the staff or patients. High hospital standards are enforced and the latest scientific equipment used whenever possible.


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