Waynesboro church marking 100th anniversary

April 09, 2008

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Kenneth Heefner can recall many changes at Grace Brethren Church in the nine decades he has worshipped there.

"My mom brought me here when I was two weeks old," said Heefner, 92.

Now, what he and his wife, Mary Jane, would like to see is enthusiasm as the church celebrates its 100th anniversary.

The celebration culminates in a renascence scheduled for April 11 to 13, with Sunday's service featuring guest speaker Larry Orme of Telford, Pa. Church leaders hope the event serves as a reunion.

"There are a lot of people in this community who passed through this church," Ralph H. Fitz said.

"Our focus is on creating a new vision and purpose for the future more than dwelling on the past. There's just been a renewed enthusiasm and sense of potential that people have captured, I believed," Pastor not an ordained Rev. Larry Weber said.


Weber, who said average Sunday attendance is 80, described congregants' love and care for each other as remarkable.

The church, on Philadelphia Avenue, officially organized on March 15, 1908, and is the oldest congregation in the mid-Atlantic district of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. The original church was dedicated in 1912 and razed in 1971 to be replaced by the current structure.

"We needed room for all the people and Sunday School," Fitz said.

Attendance boomed after World War II, he said.

"About the only other amusements were movies and roller-skating, so people went to church, families went to church. ... I can remember when we had a church full of people," Fitz said.

Fitz and Heefner married their wives in the church in 1945 and 1939, respectively. Betty Jane Fitz, now 85, was baptized there at age 12.

"This is where I grew up, and I saw no reason to change," she said, adding that she'd like to see a lot of familiar faces during the renascence.

One of the biggest changes coming for the church is its move from the Borough of Waynesboro to property it owns on Tick Ridge Road in Zullinger, Pa.

"We're not ready to move yet, but we'll be moving eventually," Weber said.

Church leaders expressed excitement about their programs, including ones for various age groups.

"We have an outreach for what we call a Teen Club here in Waynesboro," Weber said, noting that about 25 teenagers participate in that.

The church also broadcasts every Sunday on WJEJ, he said.

"We have to take seriously the mission in the community and in the city to spread the gospel," Heefner said.

For more information about the church or anniversary celebration, call 717-762-5826.

Grace Brethren Church

250 Philadelphia Ave., Waynesboro, Pa.
100th Anniversary Renascence

7 p.m. Friday, April 11, opening celebration

9 a.m. Saturday, April 12, men's breakfast

7 p.m. Saturday, April 12, hymns by "Seasoned Grace"

9:30 a.m. Sunday, April 13, Christian education classes

10:40 a.m. Sunday, April 13, worship with Larry Orme, meal to follow

2:30 p.m., Sunday, April 13, 100th Anniversary Renascence Celebration and Worship

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