‘A Journey Back in Time’ celebrates church history

By on September 27, 2017

Grace Community Fellowship will celebrate its history and the release of a history book during “A Journey Back in Time” on Oct. 1. (Photos provided by Diane Cotner)

Grace Community Fellowship will host “A Journey Back in Time” at 3 p.m., on Sunday, Oct. 1, at the church, located at 1483 N. Colebrook Road, Manheim.

Featuring speakers, music, displays of historical information and artifacts, and refreshments, the event will celebrate the rich history of the church and its predecessor, Gantz Mennonite, as well as the release of a book detailing that history.

“Although we’re now a more contemporary church, we’re still affiliated with the Lancaster Mennonite Conference,” said Andrea McNece, one of the coordinators of the event. “We’re hoping that people who were members at Gantz Mennonite may come to the event. We’re also hoping that members of other area Mennonite churches, as well as community members, will attend,”

Grace Fellowship member Diane Cotner, author of “Gantz and Grace Community Fellowship: One Foundation,” said she hopes the Oct. 1 event will be sort of a “homecoming for people that were affiliated with the church.”

She described “A Journey Back in Time” as being similar to a church service.

“It will be broken into segments that bridge all parts of the church’s history,” she explained. “Former bishops will be among the speakers, and a song leader will lead guests in traditional acappella singing”

A singer’s table from nearby Erisman Mennonite Church, on loan from the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, will play a role in the segment dedicated to the early beginnings of the church.

“The singer’s bench comes from our area and it will give people an idea of what a service would have been like in the 18th and 19th centuries,” Cotner said.

The 1915 date stone of Gantz Mennonite Church, now Grace Community Fellowship, and the 1850 cornerstone from an earlier church building that was located across Colebrook Road

A self-described history buff, Cotner’s genealogical research and a position as the church’s librarian inspired her to delve into Grace’s roots. The book was compiled using church records as well as information from the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and Manheim Historical Society.

Although the church is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the deed for Grace’s predecessors date to the 1780s. She pointed out that at first the church was known as Rapho Reformed Church — a denomination she said is close to today’s UCC churches.

“There’s a cemetery across the street from our current building. That first church would have been located there on property purchased from George Gantz; people in the area may have called it Gantz’s church,” she explained.

Rapho Reformed Church’s congregation dwindled, and then it became Gantz Mennonite in May 1880. Cotner said that some members left the church in the early 1980s to found Mount Hope Mennonite Church. At that time Mount Hope Mennonite was located along Route 72 at the Cider Press Road intersection; the church relocated to 1969 Mastersonville Road about three years ago. In 1987, Gantz Mennonite’s name was changed to Grace Community Fellowship.

These documents written in German script were found in the 1880 cornerstone.

The items contained in the tin box found in the 1880 cornerstone.

Grace’s building was constructed in 1915, but it contained an 1850 cornerstone from the old church. Cotner said the cornerstone was opened the beginning of September.

“We were always told the cornerstone held old records and other things, so it was really exciting to open it,” she said, “We found a small tin box, about 6.5 inches long. I was expecting something bigger, but it was filled with some really neat artifacts.”

The treasures contained in the box included an 1849 Bible (in English, not German), an 1849 hymnal, an 1844 catechism, and records in German script. All of these items will be part of the artifacts on display during the Oct. 1 event.

Cotner’s 230-page soft cover history book, “Gantz and Grace Community Fellowship: One Foundation,” will also be available for purchase; the cost is $27.99. The color cover features a hand-drawn illustration of the church as well as black and white and color photos. Cotner will be signing the book.

For more information about either “A Journey Back in Time” or Cotner’s book, contact Grace Community Fellowship at 717-665-7222.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

The opening of the the 1880 cornerstone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *