The beginning of Grace Church can be traced back to October 7, 1962. Even before this time a number of people were praying that a gospel preaching work would be started in southern Schuylkill County. This work began as a Sunday School in the home of Warren and Clara Yeich located near Auburn, PA. Pastor Craig and Mildred Pierce started the work. In April, 1963 the name Grace Independent Baptist was adopted. It was decided shortly thereafter to have a church service as well as Sunday School.
On May 18, 1963 the small group of eleven adults made the decision to buy a plot of land along 895E and 61 to build a parsonage and garage. Construction began on July 15 and the first service was held on October 6, 1963. The garage served as a chapel and Sunday School classes were held in rooms and basement of the parsonage-Pierce’s home. The official charter was granted by the state of Pennsylvania on July 20, 1964. The charter members were: Emily Buddon (Heckman), Hilda Buddon (Balthaser), Clyde Derstine, Marge Derstine, Earl Hess, Pearl Hess, Pastor Craig Pierce, Mildred Pierce, Fern Ulrich (Gotshall), Clara Yeich and Warren Yeich. There were sixteen children and teenagers attending at this time. Mrs. Pierce started our first Bible School in August, 1964, which was a real success and good outreach in the community, just as they have been since then.
An addition was added to the chapel, which doubled the seating capacity to approximately 100. In October, 1967 the Lord led the board to purchase an acre of land adjacent to the chapel for further growth. As the Lord blessed, plans were made to build a new church building. Construction began on May 21, 1972. Upon completion, the seating capacity was approximately 250. We all rejoiced at the dedication service for the new building on June 10, 1973.
After beginning the work and being pastor for fifteen years, Pastor Pierce resigned on October 19, 1978. We Praise the Lord for Pastor Pierce’s service to us and to the Lord. Various speakers filled the pulpit until Pastor Curtis Loux became our interim pastor in June, 1980. He was a real blessing to our congregation sharing with us his wisdom of many years of experience. Pastor Loux was with us until August, 1981.
The Lord led Pastor Brad Mellon to us on August 30, 1981. He served faithfully for seven years as our pastor and his wife, Marilyn used her talents in the field of music in many ways. In June, 1988 he resigned as pastor so that he could continue his studies.
We had our 25th anniversary celebration on October 7, 1988, with the theme of “To God Be the Glory.” The former pastors spoke along with several other speakers. There was a slide presentation of the 25 years, testimonies by members and a banquet. It truly was a blessing to see what God had done for us over the years, as individuals and as a church body.
Various speakers filled the pulpit and we had the video series “Turn Your Heart Toward Home” by James Dobson. During this time Pastor Linwood Detweiler came to us as our interim pastor. He was a real encouragement and blessing to us. He stayed with us until the end of 1988.
As we were praying for a pastor, the Lord led Pastor Ken Keeler to us. He began his ministry on January 15, 1989. He taught a series of sermons on “Victorious Christian Living”, “Spiritual Gifts”, “Freedom in Christ”, “Profile of a Believer”, “Biblical Leadership in the Church”, etc. Pastor Keeler introduced us to small group discipleship ministry. A number of groups were formed and used “The Grace Discipleship” Bible courses and Navigator’s “The Growing Strong” series. Many members and friends went through these courses and grew spiritually. His wife Linda used her gifts to teach ladies Bible studies, children’s classes and serve in the many duties of deaconess.
Pastor Keeler started the deacons’ retreat at Pinebrook, where they prayed, planned, and set goals for the future. He began a yearly marriage enrichment retreat to encourage couples and strengthen their marriages. He taught the deacons a course on Biblical leadership and after much prayer and discussion, the church voted to go to an elder/deacon led church on December 12, 1991.
It was a day of rejoicing when we were able to burn the mortgage to the church building on July 7, 1991, The adjacent property to our church became available and we were given the first opportunity to purchase it. On June 30, 1992 we purchased the house and land for a Christian Education building and further expansion.
Over the years we had many couples and individuals who faithfully served as teen leaders. A time came when we felt we needed to hire a youth director. On May 31, 1992, Peter Guinther became a part-time youth director. On October 2, 1994 he became full-time director. He had a good program for our youth with many activities and served faithfully until he resigned December, 1995, although he stayed on as leader for some time after this. He and his wife, Cheryl, felt led to go to Zambia as missionaries and wanted to prepare to go out.
A search committee was formed in 1996 to look for a youth pastor. Since then we have had multiple men and women, several from our own congregation step up and serve in this ministry, some part time, some volunteers and our current full time Youth Pastor.
It was an exciting time to see an Awana program begin in our church in October, 1997 which was a vision of Pastor Keeler’s when he first came to Grace. We thank the Lord for the way the group has grown and for the many faithful teachers and helpers.
After serving as pastor for 11 years, Pastor Ken Keeler resigned in February, 2000 to become senior pastor at Faith Bible Church in York, PA Tom Fink was our interim pastor from February to May, 2000, and then served again from November, 2000 to May, 2001. Bob Mignard came from June, 2000 to November, 2000. Pastor Marvin Apple was our interim pastor from June, 2001 – October, 2002. Various speakers filled in for these men when they were unable to be with us. We thank the Lord for each one of them and for what they taught us and how the Lord used them in our church.
The Lord guided the search committee to present Dr. Leland Stauff to our church as senior pastor. Our congregation voted on July 28, 2002 to accept him as our present pastor. His first Sunday with us was October 22, 2002.
Our theme for our 40th Anniversary was “Remembering the Past – Building for the Future” and as the Lord leads us, this is just what we want to do. Come grow with us!