St. Jacob’s (Stone) United Church of Christ has a rich Pennsylvania Dutch history. The congregation itself has existed for more than two hundred and fifty years, serving the south central region of Pennsylvania in worship, fellowship, and education.
St. Jacob’s (Stone) Union Church dates its beginning to 1756. The original church register has entries of baptism of children from the congregations. This seems to be one of the few records available and thus constitutes a church being recognized by the Lutheran and Reformed standards.
In 1789, the log church building, inadequate for the convenience and accommodation of its increased membership, was taken down and replaced by a stone structure of larger dimensions, from which it derived its name, “The Stone Church.”
Again in 1855, it was necessary to tear down the old structure and erect a brick one of larger dimensions because of the rapid growth of the membership and increased demands for better facilities. In 1889, when this structure was seriously damaged by lightening, it became unsafe.
The cornerstone of the new building of brick and Hummselstown brownstone with a Gothic style and architecture was laid on August 4, 1889. Approximately 400 people can be seated in the sanctuary.
From the period of settlement until 1834, the settlers of Pennsylvania depended upon the church for the education of the children. In 1834 a Free School Act was passed “to establish a system of education by common schools.”
On November 4, 1834, twenty-six delegates from local districts including Codorus and Manheim Townships, attended the convention for the organization of school districts. Codorus and Manheim were not in favor of the public school and did not cooperate with the state’s request. It is very difficult to decide whether the school at Stone Church between 1835 and 1845 was for the purpose of educating for the scriptures or for the “three R’s.”
Dr. Charles Glatfelter, Professor Emeritus of History at Gettysburg College, in his 200th Anniversary booklet, “A History of St. Jacob’s (Stone) Church,” states that “No evidence has come to light to indicate exactly when a Sunday School was established at the Stone Church. The earliest Sunday School entry is one for July 17, 1858.”
Following World War II there was a steady growth of Sunday School members and an overcrowded condition occurred in all departments. However it was found not practical to build to the present building.
In 1947 a committee was appointed and an architect was employed to make an estimate cost to present to the congregations. A vote was taken by both congregations in October 1947, but the project was voted down.
In 1949 both congregations voted in favor of partially excavating under the church for toilet facilities, classrooms, and other essential repairs with a cost of $21,450.72.
By 1957 the need for additional Sunday School classrooms became acute and the congregations voted to grant joint council the authority to secure plans for adding more classrooms in the basement. Both congregations voted in favor of complete excavation under the church. The total cost for renovation and furnishings was $53,928.00. Dedication was held May 28, 1959.
New rear Sunday School and choir benches were placed in 1973 and in 1974 the organ had repairs and alterations. The church acquired a taping system and was completely rewired between 1978 and 1980.
Within the next two years ceiling fans and emergency lighting systems were installed.
A center aisle arrangement was made and the pews were repaired and refinished in 1986 and 1987.
Further expansion took place in 1988 with the construction of rest rooms on the main floor and two conference/classroom/archival rooms. Dedication took place May 14, 1989.
In the summer of 1993 Cannarsa Organs, Inc. was issued the contract to rebuild the organ and organ pipes. The work included the adding of new ranks of pipes, including a rank of trumpets, dividing the organ chamber into two parts, installing new electric action valves, all new components to the organ console, and the cross and display pipes in the front of the chancel. The total cost was $64,500.00.
Written by James L. Miller, 1995
Ever since 1894 Memorial Day services have been celebrated at Stone Church on the Sunday before Memorial Day. Following the regular Sunday school and church service, church members and visitors gather for a brief ceremony on the Old Cemetery and then parade up to the New Cemetery for a service with a guest speaker and VFW salute. Children and parents continue the tradition of placing flowers on the graves of departed loved ones. The Brodbecks Band has played at every service since the tradition has begun.
The Tradition Begins
During the quarter century between 1894 and about the end of World War I in November 1918, and considered apart from the weekly worship and teaching sessions, Memorial Day services become one of the major events of the entire year at the Stone church. Conducted in 1894 “in the presence of a large concourse of people,” they soon eclipsed in attendance such other occasions as Easter, Children’s Day, Harvest home, and Christmas. There is no surviving written evidence in Sunday school records or in Glen Rock or Hanover newspapers that there was an observance each and every year after 1894, but there are enough such accounts to justify the conclusion that no year was missed. Several people whose memories reach back to the second decade of the twentieth century (from 1910 to 1919) cannot remember a year when there was no observance. There is no good reason to believe that their memories would be any different if they extended back to 1894.
Memorial Day at the Stone church has always been on a Sunday close to the actual day of the legal holiday. During the early period it was held in the morning, in addition to the weekly Sunday school and worship service. From the beginning, the Brodbecks Band was an integral part of the exercises of the day. Its first duty was to play several selections and accompany the singing during the Sunday school session.
When the school and worship services were completed, the band led a procession into the cemetery, where children and adults decorated the graves, not only of deceased veterans, but also of deceased Sunday school members. The cemetery which the participants visited at first was the one adjoining the church. The earliest burial in the new cemetery was not made until November 1898; only eighteen had been made by the end of the year 1900.
The Sunday school minutes describe Memorial Day 1917 as follows; “After Church Service the Sunday school decorated the graves of the deceased soldiers and members of the Sunday School, assisted by Rev. Guth, the church council, and the Brodbecks Band.”
The Tradition Flourishes
A second period in the history of Memorial Day at the Stone church began soon after the end of World War I and continued into the 1960s. According to one account, the service flag which the Sunday school purchased in 1918 contained thirty-nine stars, many more than would have been placed on a flag during any previous war, including the revolution or the Civil War. Three of the stars were eventually gold ones. Allen L. Meckley (1897-1918), Horatio Smith (1891-1918), and Melvin A. Rohrbaugh (1895-1918) all died within a few weeks of each other about two months before the war ended. But by far the largest call which the nation has ever made upon the young members of the Stone church occurred during World War II, when some 109 entered the service. Five men died while on active duty: Carroll W. Cramer (1919-1943), Nevin K. Smith (1921-1943), Lloyd J. Fishel (1920-1944), Wilford C. Thoman (1922-1945), and Leroy A. Gantz (1922-1945). In addition, some church members participated in military conflicts in which the United States has engaged since 1945.
The format for Memorial Day exercises which had been developed before 1918 continued largely unchanged afterwards, subject only to bad weather, which sometimes forced cancellation of the parade. The Sunday school, which had inaugurated the custom in the 1890s, was still responsible for the events of the day. Except for the years 1924-1928, when they were held in the early afternoon, the exercises have occurred in the morning, usually after both church and Sunday school. Even before the end of World War I, there were enough burials in the new cemetery that exercises were held in both burial grounds, usually beginning with the new and concluding with brief ceremonies in the old one.
Included in the procession at one time or another between 1920 and the 1960s were the pastors, officers of the congregations and the Sunday school, the Christian Endeavor Society, Sunday school children, church members, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts from various places, and veterans. The 1919 Sunday school minutes report the participation of “a Delegation of Soldier Boys” recently returned from the service. Even into the 1930s an aged veteran of the Civil War or of the Spanish-American War could be expected to put in an appearance, a relic of a long-gone past.
The Brodbecks Band, whose members participated in the 1892 observance, has probably taken part in every one since that time, performing in the church, as part of the parade, and in the cemeteries. For many years, and into the early 1950s, they were paid the princely sum of $5 for their services. Other bands, which joined them from time to time, included the Knights of Pythias Band of Hanover (as early as 1932), the Vigilant Fire Company Band of York (in the 1940s), the Jefferson Band (beginning in the late 1940s and continuing into the 1960s), and the Susquehannock High School Band (in the 1960s).
A new and long dependable participant in the exercises entered the picture in 1921, when some fifty members of Austin L. Grove Post 403, American Legion, marched in the parade and conducted their memorial ritual over the grave of Allen L. Meckley. Organized in Glen Rock on November 30, 1919, Post 403 soon included veterans who were members of the Stone church and others whose families had once belonged there. Post 403 continued to provide the ritual and memorial salute for more than thirty years, into the late 1950s. Since 1959 this service has been provided by members of Richard J. Gross Post 8896, Veterans of Foreign Wars, East Berlin.
Memorial Day observances were nowhere complete without words spoken, which were intended to proclaim anew the meaning of the day, as each community interpreted it. At the Stone church, the words each May were uttered most often by one of the two pastors or led by a leader of the Sunday school, one of whom would recognize publicly those who had died during the previous year. Only occasionally did the committee in charge bring in someone who had no close connection with the church. In his Memorial address in 1935, Lutheran Pastor Emeritus William H. Ehrhart, whose first experience of the custom had been thirty years earlier, in 1905, declared that it was the duty of the people to honor, not only the dead, veterans and all others, but also the living. To a very considerable degree, Ehrhart was reaffirming what Memorial Day had meant in this community ever since 1894.
The period from about 1920 into the 1960s marks the heyday of Memorial Day at the Stone church. For many years the secretary of the Sunday school kept careful records of weekly attendance and offering. They show that the average Memorial Day attendance during the 1920s was 961; during the 1930s, 1433; during the 1940s, 930; and during the 1950s, 925. There was no year between 1927 and 1939 when it dropped below 1000. The banner recorded attendance was in two depression years: 2115 in 1931 and 1651 in 1932. These figures include only those who went to Sunday school and whose presence was noted in its books. There were always several hundred people who waited outside the church or in the cemeteries for the services there to begin. In its account of the 1935 observance, the Gazette and Daily declared, perhaps with some exaggeration, that some 1500 people “taxed the church auditorium,” while an equal number had to wait outside.
Writing in the May 1932 issue of his monthly church paper, the Friendly Visitor, Reformed Pastor Paul D. Yoder predicted that “there will no doubt be several thousand people present” on May 29 “and even our spacious Stone church will not be able to hold them all.” In his church paper for June 1955, Yoder’s successor, Rev. George A. Heisey, wrote that “it was a thrilling experience to see so many at Stone Church for the Annual Memorial Services . . . there was no vacant seat. We must admit that we never had an audience of that size to preach to.” In addition, Heisey wrote, someone informed him “there were more people on the outside of the church than were able to find seating room inside.” Pastor Heisey was describing his first Memorial Day at the Stone church.
Excerpt from Memorial Day at St. Jacob’s (Stone) Church: The First Century (1894-1994) by Charles H. Glatfelter
Artwork: American Farm by Warren Kimble
St. Jacob’s (Stone) Church was a union church, made up of two congregations, since its origins in the mid-1700s. The United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation and the Lutheran congregation each had their own pastor and elected officers but shared the church facilities up until 2012. As times changed along with the paths of the two congregations, the Lutheran congregation seeked to erect a new house of worship and has successfully completed that task and maintains a vibrant ministry in Glen Rock, PA. The United Church of Christ congregation remains at the current property on Stone Church Road and, also, offers a vibrant and passionate worship experience. Worship time may vary with special events, but is generally held at 10:15am, weekly. Sunday School is offered at 9:00am to all ages at various locations within the church.
St. Jacob’s (Stone) United Church of Christ Mission Statement
It is the mission of the people of St. Jacob’s (Stone) United Church of Christ to strengthen the family of God by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
It is the vision of the people of St. Jacob’s (Stone) United Church of Christ to provide a place of worship that uplifts the heart and draws all to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, praise, study, and outreach.
When first learning about St. Jacob’s (Stone) Church, some individuals inquire about the Church’s name and patron saint; after all, Protestant churches do not recognize a saint named Jacob.
The naming of Stone Church goes back to the 1800’s when German-speaking settlers inhabited most of the region and named the church Jacobskirche or the Church of James. Over time as English became spoken more prevalently, settlers began to translate the German directly into English, and the church’s name became Jacob’s Church. In the late 1800’s, church leaders attempted to change the name of the church to St. James in order to honor its initial namesake, but church members resisted and continued to call the church St. Jacob’s.
James was the brother of John and a son of Zebedee. He traditionally preached in Spain after working in Jerusalem. James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa. He is the only apostle whose death is recorded in scripture (Acts 12:2). His shield shows a scallop (or cockle) shell, a symbol of pilgrimage by sea, and the sword of martyrdom. Sometimes three shells are shown without a sword.
St. James the Greater’s Day is July 25.