A BRIEF HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE CHURCH

(Elmer R. Lindermuth, Historian)

[Prepared for anniversary booklet, 1951]

     The very inception of the Church was really first in the minds and hearts of Mi. and Mrs. Maurice H. Hartzell, who were residents of this city. At that time they were attending the Gospel Herald Mission in West Philadelphia. After attending nearly a year the Lord gave them a vision of a similar work needed here in Chester. After speaking with the late Rev. W. G. Gehman, then president of the Gospel Herald Society, canvassers and workers were sent to survey the situation. This resulted in tent meetings which began in the early summer of 1926 on the lot on Edgmont Avenue, near 12th Street. It, was here that meetings were held every night in the week and where the Hartzells first received the Gospel Herald Brethren. The late Mr. and Mrs. William Ferguson and her sister soon followed in regular attendance. Under God the work progressed and by the late summer it was decided to secure a permanent place. On October 29, 1926, the present property at 721-23 West Seventh Street, Chester, Penna., originally a bungalow, was purchased.


    Among the Gospel Herald Brethren who began activities during those early days were Webster Stengele and H. N. Faulk. Following shortly afterward was E. E. George, assisted by Chester Reed and A. M. Sprock. In November, 1927, another worker was added, W. W. Hartman. God blessed the preaching of the Word in this beginning ministry and His favor was upon the Brethren in the saving of souls and the making of many friends, as they consistently canvassed the city and its environs. Other brethren that followed were T. E. Turnbull, E. W. Bean, E. F. Lakjer and R. H. Gehman. The present Sunday School is the outgrowth of the children's meetings which were started in the tent meetings. The first Sunday School session held was on Sunday, May 22, 1927. Rev. E. E. George was the superintendent; Maurice H. Hartzell recorded the minutes. Teachers were E. E. George, Chester Reed, A. M. Sprock and Maurice Hartzell. Total attendance of 16 were present, with an offering of $1.29.


    In November of this year Mr. and Mrs. E. R. Lindermuth and their two daughters, Helen and Mildred, began attending. Mrs. Lindermuth being the only woman in the Bible class and Mr. Lindermuth the only man along with two young men, John Wilson and Fred Smeeten. Mrs. Mary Kirkwood and her three sons, Edward, Donald and Willard, came on close at this time. In the early part of 1928 the Reichenbach family, with sons Wilmer and Robert, began attending. That summer more tent meetings were conducted, this time at the corner of Eighth and Lloyd streets. The location of the tent proved to be the right place, for many were saved each summer a tent was erected. Many who came to know the Lord there and became acquainted with the work are faithful members today. Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Lockard and their daughters, Ethel and Florence, joined the work at this time. In 1929 the Smith family attended with their daughters, Marjorie and Peggy.


    About this time more tent meetings were held in Trainer, that later developed into regular meetings held in a store front. A flourishing Sunday School was then conducted and meetings of various kinds were carried on for two years. During this time Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Koechert and daughters Frances and Flora became active in the work. Also the Keeleys, their son William and daughter Mary. Rufus Spedden, Jr., came on soon after this.


    The work continued to prosper and numbers increased to the extent that larger quarters became necessary. On October 29, 1929, negotiations were made to proceed to renovate and enlarge the building. Financially this seemed like an impossibility and in order to make it possible two of the Brethren offered their homes as collateral in order to raise sufficient money. In the summer of 1930 extensive alterations were made to the building, resulting in a comfortable auditorium and balcony, primary room, with the parsonage occupying the rear of the building. God blessed their efforts and everyone was encouraged. At this time the work seemed to progress very rapidly. All this transpired under the God-given leadership of Rev. E. E. George.


     Soon afterward pastoral changes ensued and Rev. R. H. Gehman was sent, followed by Rev. E. B. Hartman. At a special meeting called by the late Presiding Elder W. G. Gehman, on December 18, 1935, the Chester Congregation was organized. The following were the first officers of the Grace Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church of Chester, Penna.:

     Board of Trustees—

         M. H. Hartzell, President

         H. W. Griest, Sr., Secretary

         E. R. Lindermuth, Treasurer

     Class Leader—M. H. Hartzell

     Steward—Elsie V. Griest

     Building Fund Collector—Myrtle S. Harper

     Sunday School—

         R. Spedden, Superintendent

         Marjorie Smith, Secretary

         E. R. Lindermuth, Treasurer

     The Pastor appointed was Rev. E. B. Hartman.


     On January 23, 1937, the Grace M. B. C. Church, of Chester, Pa., was incorporated. The original signers follow: Maurice H. Hartzell, Harold W. Griest, Sr., E. R. Lindermuth, Howard Lilley, Rufus Spedden, Jr., Lewis S. Harper, Earnest H. Koechert, Wilmer D. Reichenbach, Frank Hankins and Charles E. Reichenbach.


     In October, 1941, Rev. J. B. Henry was stationed to Chester as Pastor. These were the years of the World War. A large percentage of our young men were engaged in the services of our Country. We recall in Praise to Our God that every one returned home safely.


   The present pastor, Rev. J. E. Golla, came October 19, 1945. Our forefathers have laid a good foundation. The Sunday School has increased from an average attendance of 86 to 218. Members received into Church fellowship 55 with a present membership of 122. Foreign Mission money has increased over 1000 percent. All the offerings have increased to a total income of $13,742.52 as of 1950.


    During the summer of 1947 extensive alterations were made to the building which resulted in the present building as it is today – additional building with side entrance to auditorium and balcony. Completely renovated basement and new heating system. A Church kitchen and alterations in the parsonage with some improvements. In all these material things we have ex- perienced that the Lord has blessed in every venture of faith.


THE ORGANIZATIONS

     The Woman's Missionary Society – A meeting was called by Mrs Charles Reichenbach at her home on Wednesday, January 19, 1938, for the ladies of the church. At this meeting the “‘Ladies’ faithful Group" was organized and started. This group has done much for the church and parsonage in various improvements. At present they are engaged in activities of prayer and provision of the Regions Beyond.

     Present Officers—

         Mrs. Ethel Lilley, President

         Mrs. Ida Hartzell, Vice-President

         Miss Shirley Harris, Secretary

         Miss Ruth Johnson, Treasurer

                          .

     “Menno Youth”– The Menno Youth is the Young People's organization of the Church. This became effective in 1941 under the appointment of Rev. E. B. Hartman. In recent years this name "Menno Youth" has been the adopted name of the Young People's Society of our denomination.

     Present Officers—

         Roy Sutherland, President

          Paul Truett, Vice-president

          Grace Harper, Secretary

          David Lilley, Treasurer


      Those who have Gone Forth -Four sons of the Church are now active in the ministry. Rev C E. Kirkwood, Pastor of the M. B. C. Church of Fleetwood, Pa.; Rev R. C. Reichenbach, Pastor of the M. B. C. Church of Terre Hill, Pa.; Rev. Donald Kirkwood, Pastor of the M. B. C. Home Missionary appointment at Roxborough, Philadelphia; Rev. William Keeley, Pastor of the Primitive Methodist Church, Streator, Ill.


      Three daughters now married to Ministers-Formerly Helen Lindermuth, now the wife of Rev T. E. Turnbull, Pastor of the Evangelical Congregational Church of Northampton, Pa; formerly Mildred Lindermuth, wife of Rev. William Keeley, and formerly Marjorie Smith, wife of Rev. Harry Teat, Pastor of the Methodist Church of Glendora, N. J.


Church Directory

District Superintendent ............................ Rev. T. D. Gehret

Pastor .............................................................. Rev. J. E. Golla

Trustees ............................ Maurice H. Hartzell, President

                               Robert J. Journey, Secretary

                               Elmer R. Lindermuth, Treasurer

Stewards .......................................................... Elsie V. Griest, Rufus Spedden

Building Fund Collectors .................... Blanche V. Hartzell, Mary Keeley

Class Leader .................................................. Rufus Spedden


Sunday School Officers

General Superintendent .................... Harold W. Griest, Jr.

Vice Superintendent .......................................... Robert Truett

Secretary ................................................................ Mary Keeley

Treasurer .............................................. Elmer R. Lindermuth

Primary Superintendent .......................... Robert J. Journey

Beginners' Superintendent ........................ Florence Wilson

Librarians ...................................................... William Lotman, Roy Sutherland


Regular Services


LORD'S DAY

Sunday School ........................................................ 9.30 A.M.

Morning Worship .................................................. 10:45 A.M.

Evening Evangelistic ............................................ 8:00 P.M.

Menno Youth .......................................................... 7:00 P.M.

Monday—Bible Study Class .............................. 7:30 P.M.

Wednesday—Prayer and Praise ........................ 7:45 P.M.

Friday—Bible Club ................................................ 7.30 P.M.


MONTHLY MEETINGS

First Sunday ........................................ Chester Day Nursery

Second Tuesday ...................... Woman's Missionary Society

Third Thursday .......................... Men's Fellowship Meeting