Our History 1950-Present
In the late 1940's, several Lancaster area families who had attended Mennonite Brethren in Christ churches in other areas were contacted with the idea of establishing a congregation in the Lancaster area. James G. Koch was assigned by the denomination as the founding pastor and on July 22, 1950, the new congregation held its first service, in a tent, at the corner of Broad and Orange Streets, in Lancaster.
The congregation began Sunday school in the tent on August 6, with 28 in attendance. Horace Kauffman, Mrs. Beulah Koch, Parke Rankin and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Sheffy served as teachers. As fall approached, they rented rooms in Malta Temple on East King Street where they met until they built their first building in 1951.
The charter membership consisted of 31 people including Earl and Harriet Gentzler; Clara Hagens; Horace, Aletha, and Barry Kauffman; James and Beulah Koch; Merle and Bertha Lefever; Allen, Elsie, and Robert Minnig; Parke, Margaret, Kenneth, Shirley, Ruth, and Esther Rankin; Harry, Alice, Donald, Daniel, and Kathleen Sheffy; Raymond and Elizabeth Snyder; Mary Sturgis; Mr. and Mrs. Harry Tyson; Herman and Helen Wollwerth.
On April 30, 1951, the new congregation approved a resolution to have a church building built by Benjamin Groff for $23,177. Groundbreaking was held in July, the cornerstone was laid in August and the first service was held in the basement of the new church at Prospect and Hager Streets on November 1, 1951. Much of the work was done by members of the church. The building was dedicated on January 1, 1952, and the following November the Mennonite Brethren In Christ denomination recognized the new congregation as a Mission Church.
On September 8, 1953, the local congregation chose the name of Faith for their new church. In October of 1954 Frank L. Herb Jr. was assigned as the second pastor. A new parsonage was purchased at 532 Prospect St. on February 12, 1958, for $14,500. Annual Conference granted the church the status of a self-supporting church on September 17, 1958. Rudy Gehman was assigned as the third pastor in October 1958.
When several churches recommended that conference change the name of the denomination, the Lancaster congregation voted to recommend a change to United Bible Church. However, on June 23, 1959, the denomination chose the name of Bible Fellowship Church. During the first ten years, the young church had its membership grow to 47 people with a Sunday school attendance of 106.
After the sudden death of Pastor Gehman on August 8, 1961, Norman H. Weiss was appointed the fourth pastor in October 1961. In May of 1967, the parsonage was sold for $13,500 and a new parsonage was constructed at 608 Prospect St. for $22,075. John Dunn was assigned as the fifth pastor in October 1967.
The construction of a new church building at the corner of Prospect and Seymour Streets was approved on August 3, 1969. The new sanctuary was to be built by Abram S. Horst for $119,000. Ground was broken on September 21, 1969 and the first service in the new building was held on August 2, 1970. During the second decade of the church's existence, membership reached 100 people, Sunday School attendance averaged 165 and annual receipts reached $26,666.
On May 24, 1972, the congregation approved plans to renovate the old church building as a Christian education facility. Plans included a kitchen ($1,949), emergency lighting ($2,066) and dividing curtains ($6,530). A parking lot addition was approved for $2,047.
On October 25, 1972, a 1961 Reo bus was purchased and the church launched a bus ministry. Later another bus was purchased, and a 12-passenger limousine was donated. The bus and limousine were replaced in 1976 with the purchase of a 1975 Plymouth van for $6,100. On June 7, 1979, Pastor Dunn announced his plans to retire on September 30, 1979. During this decade membership reached 131, Sunday school attendance 213, and annual giving $57,936.
David A. Thomann was called as the sixth pastor on July 13, 1980. On September 7, 1980, the congregation approved the addition of air conditioning for $15,000 and a sound system at a cost of $6,000. Pastor Dunn was hired as Pastor of Visitation on December 7, 1980. Awana was established in 1982 and the first club meetings were held in January of 1983.
The congregation approved a building committee on August 5, 1984, and on March 31, 1985, a project was approved to connect both buildings for $372,000. The new addition included a gym, church offices, a library, and classrooms. On June 2, 1985, a sacrificial giving Sunday was held and a goal of $25,000 was surpassed.
On June 8, 1986, Pastor Thomann resigned to become Director of Pinebrook Bible Conference, but on June 14, 1987, the congregation approved a call for Pastor Thomann to return as senior pastor. Visitation Pastor John Dunn resigned in October 1987 to move to Florida. On February 15, 1989, Pastor Thomann's father, David E. Thomann, was hired as Pastor of Visitation and Daniel DeLozier was called as Pastor of Ministries. During this decade membership reached 220, Sunday school attendance 201, and annual giving to $224,314.
David E. Thomann resigned as Pastor of Visitation on July 15, 1990. The congregation approved a housing allowance for the senior pastor on August 5, 1990, and voted to use the parsonage for the Pastor of Ministries and the basement for use by the congregation. In 1991, a Strategic Planning Committee began to study the future direction of the church. Kevin Gehman was hired as the first Youth Pastor on April 16, 1991. The Strategic Plan was adopted by the congregation on February 27, 1994. Kevin Gehman resigned as Youth Pastor in February of 1994.
The church sponsored a summer missions trip that sent a team of teens to South Dakota in June of 1988. In the summer of 1994, the church sent 36 people to Word of Life in Hungary to build a water slide and teach English. Other trips have been sponsored since then, including a team of 12 people sent to Brazil in June of 1997 to construct a CE building.
A relocation committee was appointed in July, 1995. Daniel DeLozier resigned in June 1995. William J. Whalen was hired as Pastor of Ministries on May 17, 1996. David E. Thomann, the Pastor's father, was again hired as Pastor of Visitation on February 23, 1997. The congregation approved the purchase of property at Woods of Roundtop for $730,000 on February 11, 1998. A building committee was appointed two months later. Brian Frable was hired as Youth Pastor on December 6, 1998.
The Woods of Roundtop option was abandoned in July, 1999 because of development costs. A 23 acre plot on Weaver Road was approved for purchase for $650,000 on December 5, 1999. The Prospect St. parsonage was sold and on June 18, 2000, the church property was sold to New Song Fellowship Church for $525,000. Sunday services were held in the Ramada Inn during November of 2000 and from there the church moved to the former Calvary Church building in December as their transition facility. The church settled on their new property on April 20, 2001.
Gregory A. Uhrich was called as Pastor of Ministries on April 8, 2001, replacing William Whalen who left in 2000. Pastor David A. Thomann was granted a sabbatical beginning May 1, 2001. The new property was dedicated on July 22, 2001. Brian Frable resigned as Youth Pastor on December 31, 2001.
Groundbreaking for the new building was held in June of 2002, and the first service was held there on June 15, 2003. The building was dedicated on June 20, 2003. Claire Harstad was called as Associate Pastor in October of 2003. The Purpose Driven Church plan was implemented in January of 2004. David E. Thomann resigned as visitation pastor on February 29, 2004. The softball team raised $24,000 to build a new softball field on the property and the field was dedicated in May of 2006. It was later named H.A.Kauffman Field. Plans were developed in 2005 to remodel the old horse barn on the property into a youth center. Work on the barn began in 2006, completed in July, 2007, and named the Stables Youth Center. Keith M. Long was hired as the Youth Pastor in September 2007. Neil Franklin was hired as the Pastor of Congregational Care in January of 2015.