Our History

A Brief History of the Newville Church of the Brethren

It all began in 1708 at Schwarzenau, Germany when eight souls were baptized by trine immersion in the Eder River.

Alexander Mack was led into the river by one of the eight and was baptized; he then baptized the other seven.  With Alexander Mack as the leader, a new congregation, the German Baptist Church was organized.

From the beginning, the group flourished but bitter persecution forced them to flee to America.  Under the organizational ability of Peter Becker, they landed at Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1719.

In succeeding years, and especially those following the Revolutionary War, the Brethren moved westward and southward in search of good farming lands and religious freedom.  These congregations were organized as a result of this progression: Germantown 1723; Coventry 1724; Conestoga (known as Ephrata) 1724; Little Conewago 1738; Big Conewago 1741; Antietam 1752; Codorus 1758; Lost Creek 1790; Marsh Creek 1805; and Cumberland (later called Huntsdale) 1823.

Fearing progressive trends within the church in 1881, a few thousand members withdrew to form the Old German Baptist Church, often called the Old Order Brethren.  In 1882, another group dissatisfied with the church’s conservatism, withdrew to become the Brethren Church (Progressive).  This progressive group has subsequently divided into two groups (1939).

The Newville Congregation was formerly part of the Upper Cumberland Congregation and on January 31, 1917, a special meeting was convened to locate a house of worship in Newville.  A School house on Broad Street was purchased, remodeled as a house of worship, and financed by the Upper Cumberland Congregation, and was dedicated June 25, 1917.  Prior to 1917, when a building was purchased in Newville, the Newville Congregation worshiped with Huntsdale and at Meeting houses in Center Church, Council Bluff school house, Green Spring Church, and at Possum Hill school.  Baptisms were held in open streams at Bowman’s Fording, Conodoguinet Creek at the Cloyd George farm and at the double bridges over the Conodoguinet Creek on Route 233.  Some members recall breaking the ice to have baptism and others with four inches of snow on the ground and not forgetting that their clothing froze before they could make a change.

Love Feast would last for two days. Newville members would go by horse and buggy to Huntsdale for Love Feast on Saturday and would sleep in the loft (men on one side and the women on the other) before returning home on Sunday afternoon.  This same condition existed when they would travel to Perry County for Love Feast at Blain.  It appears that these two days were really enjoyed.  It seems that there was always plenty of home made bread and apple butter.

In 1925 the Upper Cumberland Congregation was divided into two separate congregations. Newville was to be north of the Chambersburg Turnpike (now known as the Governor Ritner Highway, U.S. Route 11) and Huntsdale was to be on the south of this turnpike.

The Newville Congregation was organized on October 14, 1925.  Samuel M. Stouffer served as Elder and Pastor from November 5, 1926 until his death on December 27, 1930.  He received $175.00 per year.  The first permanent Deacons were Edgar Lehman, Roy Shultz, Orville Piper, John Burkholder, John Cohick, Daniel M. Reid, Fred Sollenberger, George S. Cohick, Ernest Scott, Henry Hackman, and Charles Clark.  On April 11, 1931, Elder C. B. Sollenberger was elected pastor and served until 1937.  During this period a male singing group came into being, composed of Ira Sollenberger, Fred Sollenberger, George Cohick, Cloyd George, and C. B. Sollenberger.

Brother O. J. Hassinger served from 1937 to 1939.  In 1939, Cletus Myers beame pastor and served until August 31, 1942.

After this organization, event followed event as the church prospered.  On October 30, 1940, the church purchased a house for a parsonage on 16 East Big Spring Avenue and paid it off by 1941.  At this time there were 110 members.  On June 23, 1945, the parsonage was sold and the congregation was without a parsonage until 1969.  An interesting note shows that correspondence indicates that at this time the church was offering pastors a parsonage and a salary of $500.00 per year.

On November 1, 1942, Brother John Buffenmyer began pastoral duties in Newville and served only a short time until he was stricken with an incurable illness and his wife, a licensed minister, took over his duties for a number of months.  On September 1, 1943, Brother Cyrus Krall succeeded Brother Buffenmyer as pastor, part-time, and as a public school teacher.

Deacon and deaconess installed since 1940 are Austin Reid, Sarah Reid, Cloyd George, Ethel George, Merle Hummel, Marietta Hummel, Mark Bucher, Alice Bucher, Bruce D. Cohick, Lois Cohick, Walter Chestnut, Betty Chestnut, Harold Carey, Jane Carey, Markwood Reid, Joan Reid, Jack Yingling, Mona Yingling, Dale George, Verna George, Wayne Mohler, Marjorie Mohler, Carl Hurley, Beverly Hurley, Richard Jackson, Sara Jackson, Lynn Zeigler, Dixie Zeigler, Randall Pletcher, Donna Pletcher, Lester Fogelsanger, Andrea Fogelsanger, Jay Finkenbinder, Joyce Finkenbinder, Larry Kerstetter, Barb Kerstetter, Jay Finkenbinder Jr., and Kim Finkenbinder.

On March 15, 1954, the church voted to construct a new building at the East end of Newville along Route 641.  Ground-breaking service was held on March 27, 1955, and dedication services for the new church were held on May 13, 1956.  The Broad Street building was sold on June 1, 1959.

David C. Wilson, a Bethany Biblical Seminary student, served as the summer pastor.  Brother Robert L. Cocklin became part-time pastor in September 1954 and served until May 1965.  Rev. Arthur Smith served as interim pastor from June 1965 until October 1965.  Our first full-time pastor, Rev. Norman Cain, served from July 15, 1966 to August 31, 1968.  Brother Cain was ordained into the full ministry in 1966 by, our then moderator, Brother Ordo Pletcher.  In 1965, the church voted to adopt the commission system of administering the affairs of the church and also adopted the unified budget.  Harold Carey was elected as the first Church Board Chairman.  After 35 meetings of diligent effort, a new constitution and by-laws was adopted February 19, 1968.

A new parsonage, costing $32,000.00, was erected to the west of the present church building and was ready for occupancy on August 18, 1969.  Brother Richard Grumbling and his family were the first occupants.

On September 1, 1968, Brother O. Wayne Cook began serving as interim pastor and served until August 1969.  On September 1, 1969, Brother Richard A. Grumbling began serving as full-time pastor and served until April 24, 1977.  Brother Ordo M. Pletcher served as full-time pastor from May 1, 1977 until August 30, 1981.

Additional land was purchased to the East and South of the present church building on July 11, 1977, and was to be used for expansion purposes.  An addition was added to the present church building on December 12, 1982, for use as a nursery and additional rest rooms, costing $53,000.00.

On October 25, 1981, Charles Lenker began service as full-time pastor.  He was licensed and installed by J. Stanley Earhart and served until April 14, 1985.  Harold Yeager served as interim pastor from September 1985 and served until March 2, 1986, and from this date he, Forrest Gordon and Harvey Kline were our pulpit supply pastors until August 3, 1986 when pastor, Duane Lewellen, began full-time service.

We have taken you through 287 years of the Church of the Brethren.  Perhaps this was not a fast-moving church but as the years have ground away, the church as been on the move in ministry, education, medical attention and help to the needy and the under-privileged.