"We came from Mount Carmel (Mennonite congregation) in Flemingsburg (in northeastern Kentucky), we are a colonization of that church," said Coblentz, who lives in a large, old farmhouse on a dairy farm off of Ky 1160 with his wife, Susanna, and their 11 children. "Mount Carmel had 30 families and 10 families were selected for this ministry, this colony here in Mercer County."
The colonization process begins with searching for a place where a new congregation can be established, he said. It involves traveling to possible locations and checking real estate advertisements, he said.
"We spent several months searching various areas. Mercer County is where the Lord wanted us," said Coblentz.
But it was up to the members of the new colony to decide exactly where in Mercer County they would locate.
"The first place we located was a farm in the Cornishville area. But when this farm where I live now came up for sale, we decided to select the McAfee area," he said. "It is a dairy farm and I have been a dairy farmer most of my life.
"I and David (Sommers) have no formal ministerial training. We did not attend any seminaries. We work at different jobs like everyone else. But we have been selected as ministers. Every Mennonite church has plural ministers, and we are the two ministers of this church."
All dozen families live on Cole Lane
All dozen families in the Mercer fellowship live within seven miles of the church and school on Cole Lane. Services are conducted at 9:30 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays. The service begins with three songs and those are followed by a devotional. Attendees then attend Sunday school classes and regroup for the "main message" from one of the ministers.
"Our service, our whole faith, is based on the Bible as the inspired word of God," Coblentz said.
Most of those attending the services are members of the Mennonite families in the colony, but he said that the church also plays host to non-Mennonites every Sunday.
"There are several non-Mennonites who have expressed an interest in converting to our faith," Coblentz said. "We believe strongly in evangelism. That is the reason for colonization, to spread our faith and attract new members."
The conversion, he noted, includes new members adopting the old-world, simple lifestyle, occupations and dress of Mennonites.
"The Mennonite church is not only a faith. It is a way of living, one we believe God has called us to follow, and one many of our families have followed for generations," Coblentz said. "It is a simple lifestyle which is strongly family oriented and where we choose old, traditional occupations, like farming and carpentry, where we can provide for our families and where our children can work and learn by our side and learn the value of hard work and personal responsibility.
"But we don't totally reject all modern things, and some congregations reject or accept more than others," he said. "For instance, no one in our congregation uses the Internet, but we may use computers, for business purposes only, to keep track of our business or, like one member I know, to do taxes."
A Mennonite all his life
Coblentz has followed the Mennonite faith and way of living all his life. He was born into a Mennonite family at large Mennonite settlement in Holmes County, Ohio.
"That part of northern and central Ohio has many Mennonite settlements. Over the years, there is been a lot of growth in tourism built up around those settlements and what they produce in terms of foods and clothing and farm produce."
As a child, Coblentz spoke what he calls Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect that many, but not all, Mennonites speak in daily conversation with one another. The church traces its roots to the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Switzerland and The Netherlands.
"I spoke Pennsylvania Dutch before I could speak a word of English," he said in English that carries a slight Dutch accent. "Some of us speak it (Pennsylvania Dutch), some of us don't. Our services, though, are conducted in English."