Grace Bible Chapel began in the York Springs living room of Roy and Carol Perry, with Ted and Marge Miller; Bill and Phyllis Hash; and Paul and Marie Lehman. The families of new believers had been meeting informally for home Bible studies since October, 1970, and they were quickly outgrowing their homes. Bill Lake, then pastor of Faith Chapel in Carlisle, helped the families to organize into a church. The families were, quote: “Convinced our community needed a church that stood uncompromisingly for the defense of the historic Christian faith.” The name Grace was chosen because of the Perry’s connection with Pastor Will Young, who pastored Grace Bible Church near Scranton. The church took the name Bible in order to distinguish itself from denominational connections. The church took its name Chapel from its connection through Bill Lake with Faith Chapel of Carlisle. On June 11, 1972, the twenty people of Grace Bible Chapel held their first worship service at the Scout cabin in the Lion’s Park in York Springs. Bill Lake preached the first sermon for the church. The first offering was $56. The charter members were: the Perrys, the Millers, the Hashs, and the Lehmans.
Six weeks later, on July 23, the church moved to its present location as the result of a relationship formed in the home Bible studies. One of the attendees was related to a person on the Brethren committee which was entrusted with the Trostle Meeting House on Oxford Road, two miles southwest of York Springs. The Trostle Meeting House was built in 1874 as the result of the sound and steady growth of the Upper Conewago Church of the Brethren. A one acre tract southwest of town was purchased for $100 from Isaac B. Trostle for the construction of a new meeting house. Included on the lot was a small family cemetery, the oldest tombstone of which records the date of 1853. The unassuming building held its first worship service on June 6, 1874. An August 14, 1939 article in the Gettysburg Times tells of an upcoming rededication of the building after general repairs had been made because of many years of disuse. By 1972, the building was again not being regularly used.
In 1972 the leaders of Grace Bible Chapel contacted the Brethren committee in East Berlin, which administrated the Trostle Meeting House, to inquire about the use of the building for the fledgling church. Grace Chapel was granted the use of the building at no cost, as long as its use was strictly religious in nature. Grace Chapel moved into the building and continued to grow. Two years later, in 1974, the church bought the building from the Brethren committee and four acres of surrounding property from its neighbor Richard Asper for a total of $9,500.
Bill Lake would preach at Grace Chapel and then later at his church. Nine other pastors helped to lead the first year of services. Most notable were Doug Baptisti, who served as interim pastor for area churches without pastors, and local preacher Robert Kelly. During every interim period, the church has always had a preacher for pulpit supply on a weekly basis. The church never lacked for someone to minister the Word of God, and it never missed a service for this reason.
By November, 1972, the church began to provide prayer and financial support for its first missionary, Robert Schultz of Africa Evangelical Fellowship. By the end of the year, the morning worship attendance had doubled to over forty.
Pastor Lake guided the church to extend a call to its first pastor, John Elliott, in 1973. Pastor Elliott had just graduated from Appalachian Bible College. On May 20, 1973, Pastor Elliott officiated the church’s first baptism at Bible Baptist Church in Shiremanstown, baptizing ten people on that occasion. The church ratified its constitution in 1973 under Elliott’s leadership. After only a few months of ministry Pastor Elliott left the church to minister in Ohio.
By this time, Robert Kelly and his wife Ruth attended the church, having done pulpit supply on a regular basis. Mr. Kelly administrated a ministry which mailed prayer letters for missionaries, and ladies from Grace Chapel regularly helped in that ministry. In 1974 the church extended a pastoral call to Mr. Kelly. Also in that year, the church built an addition, which included a Sunday School classroom, a foyer, and restrooms (indoor plumbing at last!). During Pastor Kelly’s ministry, Grace Bible Chapel became involved in the Rocky Spring Bible Camp in Dillsburg, a ministry which the church supported for several years until the camp dissolved. Later that year, Pastor Kelly resigned to focus his efforts on his missionary letter ministry.
In 1975 James Howell received an invitation from the church to become its pastor. During Pastor Howell’s ministry, the church continued its rapid growth. The church began to realize that the standing room only conditions in the little brick building were not conducive to further growth. Pastor Howell contacted his friend Robert Mayer, pastor of Open Door Bible Church in Lebanon, for plans for a church building which Open Door Bible was not going to use. Carl Martin of Lebanon was contracted to build the new building at a cost of $112,400.
On the exact date of the sixth anniversary, the church officially dedicated the new building on June 11, 1978, just seven months after ground breaking. The new church building, the magnetic personality of Pastor Howell, and the faithful preaching of the Gospel enabled the church to reach its greatest attendance growth to date. At one point, the new auditorium was also standing room only. The clear presentation of the Gospel by Pastor Howell’s preaching impacted the community greatly.
During Pastor Howell’s ministry, the church began its first Vacation Bible School in June, 1978, with over eighty children present each day. The youth of the church responded well to Pastor Howell’s leadership, and the youth group grew significantly during his ministry.
Pastor Howell left in 1981 to pastor Northmoreland Baptist Church in Tunkhannock, PA. The church extended the pastoral call to Donald Brubaker in 1982. Pastor Brubaker was a former military man, and his leadership style reflected his military background. Home Bible studies, which had been the foundation from which the church began, were restarted during Brubaker’s service at Grace Chapel. In 1985, Pastor Brubaker retired from the pastorate.
The church extended the pastoral call to Dale Mullinix later the same year. Pastor Mullinix was an excellent expository preacher. With the new pastor in place, the church sensed a need to provide permanent housing for its pastor. The church built the parsonage in 1988. During Pastor Mullinix’s ministry, the church expanded its missions ministry the most, taking on several missionaries for regular prayer and financial support. By 1997, the church retired the chapel mortgage in anticipation of its twenty-fifth anniversary celebration. In January, 2007, Pastor Mullinix left Grace Bible Chapel to pastor Grace Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA.
In 2008 Grace Chapel extended the pastoral call to Matthew Jury. Since 2008 Pastor Jury has been leading in the revitalization of the church.
Through the course of this retelling of the church’s history, we have not mentioned many people who worshiped and served Christ at Grace Bible Chapel; there are simply too many to name. Nor have we been able to point to the countless life changes that occurred as a result of Grace’s ministry. We have also identified several pastors of Grace Bible Chapel. In each case, these men were the church’s leaders, but any successes that the church has enjoyed over its history has been the direct result of Christ pouring His grace into the church. Whenever Christ is exalted from the pulpit and in the lives of the congregation, Christ will do what only He can do — change lives.