Several cars are parked outside a steel building early on a sunny, Sunday morning. Inside, 30 people are gathered for a church service at the Living Water Mennonite Church and Christian Ministry.
The meeting begins with a short spiritual message, then members spend approximately 45 minutes discussing the Bible in study groups, and many prayers are offered for those in the congregation. Next, members reunite and listen to a longer spiritual message.
This small devout group has been meeting weekly for a few years, and it all started when Pastor Luke Miller and his family moved to Utah.
Miller and his family moved to Utah a few years ago, after billboards on Interstate-15 put out by an Anabaptist (Mennonite) organization garnered attention. According to Miller, the Anabaptist organization has about 200 billboards throughout the country, and before Miller and his family moved to Utah, most calls were coming from Utah.
“We had the billboards out there on I-15 … and if you call the number, you will talk to a real person. It’s not just a recording,” Miller said. “There are counselors there for anybody that’s seeking or has needs. For a time, they were getting so many calls from this area, they (thought), ‘Oh, Utah is actually on the map.'”
Miller said there were many people calling in who were too ashamed to talk to their religious leader or friends.
“That is kind of what brought us this way, to follow up with some of those people that were needing help. We basically just started a small church here and are very active in the community,” Miller said.
Since Miller started the Living Water Mennonite Church and Christian Ministry in Provo, the congregation has grown to about 30 people in attendance at Sunday worship services.
“We’ve almost doubled I think in size, and are starting to get steady growth,” Miller said.
Although the congregation meets in a garage at the moment, Miller said they plan to build a church nearby as soon as they can get the necessary permits.
Miller and his wife Beth both grew up in the Mennonite faith, have remained faithful throughout the years and both served foreign missions for their church.
Miller said his family and others of the Mennonite faith are not here to bash other people or other religions but to “share Jesus.”
Mennonites believe their faith in Christ is manifest in many of their beliefs. According to Miller, there is no centralized organization in the Mennonite faith, and anyone who considers themselves a part of the Mennonite faith has a core set of values or beliefs.
“There are people who still go by the name Mennonite, but they might have women pastors or gay marriage and stuff like that — that we feel is not biblical — and so we wouldn’t consider them Anabaptist necessarily,” Miller said.
Miller and other Mennonite members opened up about some of their religious beliefs and practices.
According to Miller, Mennonites hold the Bible as the supreme authority.
“We feel that it is the beginning and the end of the revelation, and with that being our basis, we are just simple Bible-believing Christians,” Miller said. “If Jesus teaches us to live a certain way, then it applies in every area of life. And we don’t try to make exceptions for it, even if it doesn’t fit our culture.”
Kendra Gingerich, a member of the Living Water Mennonite congregation, echoed the belief that Mennonites follow the Bible to the best of their abilities.
“We as Mennonites are wanting to submit our whole lives to Him, and bring Him glory, even if it means taking the Bible literally and some may say extreme,” Gingerich said. “Our lives are not our own, and God has given us a guide to how we should live his inspired word — the Bible.”
According to Gingerich, Mennonites believe baptism is the “symbolic pouring out of the Holy Ghost.”
Miller explained the beliefs of Mennonite baptism further by saying, “We do baptism just by pouring, we are OK with different types of baptism. We have different people who are becoming a part of our church right now, who have applied for membership. They’ve been baptized in another denomination, and we are OK with that as long as they have had a believer’s baptism.”
According to Miller, salvation comes through the grace of God.
“We are saved by grace through faith, so it’s a gift,” Miller said. “And yet works are important. Works are simply the fruit of the change that is taking place in your life.”
Jeryl Wadel, another member of the Living Water congregation, said it wasn’t until he was 28 years old he began to personally accept and trust Jesus as his Savior.
“This was a life-changing experience, and to serve Christ is now my highest joy. Again, though I am (partial) to the Mennonite faith, it is impossible for the Mennonite faith to save me or anyone. Everyone must acknowledge the Jesus of the Bible as the only person who has provided a way for mankind to be reconciled to God,” Wadel said.
Mennonites dress more conservatively than the majority of the world, but according to Miller, if one went back 100 years, they probably wouldn’t stand out so much.
Beth Miller, as well as many other Mennonite women, wears conservative dresses and a head veiling.
According to Beth Miller, 1 Corinthians 11 gives many reasons for women having their hair covered.
“One reason is me being in submission to my husband, and there are two other things mentioned. It mentions to have a prayer veiling when you pray and prophesy, and another verse in the Bible talks about praying without ceasing, and because I want to do that, I wear my head veiling all the time,” Beth Miller said.
Beth Miller also said wearing her head veiling is a “sign to the angels.”
Although the Millers, Gingerich and Wadel said the majority of Utahns have been very accepting toward them, Miller wants people to know they are “just regular people serving Christ.”
“We want to live holy lives before (Christ), because we know we are going to be accountable to him someday so we want to live holy before him,” Beth Miller said.
To learn more about Living Water Mennonite Church and Christian Ministry visit their website.