Who can determine the beginning of a church? The date of its organization is easily measured in time, but its inception in the hearts of men is measurable only in the omniscience of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Bethany Evangelical United Brethren Church of Pleasureville had its official beginning with its dedication to the Glory of God on Sunday, June 2, 1861. But was this its real beginning, or was its beginning sparked a half-century earlier on April 29, 1797 when Rev. Christian Newcomer became the first United Brethren minister to preach in York County by delivering messages to Blymire’s Union Chapel and also at Frey’s Church in Freysville? The spark that was to become Bethany EUB, that may have been ignited at this meeting was fanned to a glowing ember by the circuit riders throughout the county.
York Circuit was formed at the annual conference of 1824 and Rev. John Brown as appointed its first pastor. The ministers found time for prayer and meditation, and their Bibles became their constant companions as they rode their horses throughout the county carrying the Word of God to the scattered settlements. Eventually the circuit began to shrink with the organization of pastoral charges. First came Winterstown, the oldest United Brethren class in York County, having been established in 1828. Then the churches began to spring up in the county. Stabley’s or Zion Church was the first to be built by the United Brethren in the county, being completed in 1843. The ember was glowing brighter every day.
Situated near the city of York, surrounded by a dense forest were a few homes, one of which belonged to a man named Anthony Seiple whose occupation was “coon and possum hunting” and he was called the “king of possums.” The first name of this community was Possumtown, which the citizens felt was undesirable and changed to Pleasureville. It was here that the Church was fanned into flame. In the winter of 1854-55 a resident of Pleasureville, Dr. George Conn, was converted to God during a meeting held in the Liverpool (Manchester) Union Church Dr. Conn then opened his home as a place of worship in the community, and United Brethren ministers commenced to preach there.
At a quarterly conference of the old York Circuit held at a camp-meeting near Manchester, August 16, 1860, Charles Diehl of Manchester and George Conn and Lawrence Mahr of Pleasureville were elected as trustees to build a church in the community of Pleasureville. These trustees purchased eighty-six perches of ground from William Nissley in the heart of the village for $60. The date of this deed is January 19, 1861. Within a few months, by the expending of much free labor of love and $500, a neat frame church 30 by 35 feet in size was erected. At this time, Rev. J. B. Jones (1861-1865) was the pastor and the only members in the village were Dr. George Conn, John Gipe, and Lawrence Mahr. The Rev. J. C. Smith laid the cornerstone on a cold day in the spring of 1861. He then preached, standing on the walls of the new building, having been refused admission to the schoolhouse because the directors were not in sympathy with the “Prayer Meeting” people. The completed church was dedicated to God on Sunday, June 2, 1861.
At the dedication, performed by the Rev. S. Enterling, then pastor of York First Church, the new church was named Sardis Church (see Rev. 3:1-6). The young church grew under the direction of Rev. J. B. Jones (1861-1865), Rev. William H. Craumer (1865-1866), Rev. Peter Corel (1866-1870), Rev. John Garman (1870-1871), Rev. A. Tripner (1871-1873), Rev. William Cramer (1873-1878) and Rev. G. W. Lightner (1878-1880).
The growing congregation and Sunday School soon expanded beyond the capacity of the original structure and a new and larger building became necessary. The new structure was a frame church measuring 30 by 60 feet and was erected at a cost of $1,400. It was dedicated to the Glory of God on Sunday, November 7, 1880 by Rev. D. D. DeLong, DD, President of Lebanon Valley College, assisted by the Revs. C. T. Stern, DD, presiding elder; J. C. Smith, J. P. Miller, J. R. Hutchinson, and the pastor of the church, A. H. Rice (1880-1882).
Following the Rev. Rice were the Revs. Lewis Kohr (1882-1885), J. C. Smith (1885-1886), S. N. Moyer (1886-1889). The lot for the parsonage was donated by Emmanuel Keller in June 1889, and the parsonage was built in the same year, under the pastorate of S. N. Moyer at a cost of about $1,200.
The growth of Pleasureville church continued under the guidance of the following ministers:
Rev. J. R. Jones 1889-1892 Rev. A. C. Crone 1908-1911
Rev. J. P. Koontz 1892-1894 Rev. D. J. March 1911-1914
Rev. Rufus R. Rodes 1894-1896 Rev. W. E. Canoles 1914-1917
Rev. J. P. Koontz 1896-1898 Rev. H. O. Harner 1917-1920
Rev. J. L. Grimm 1898-1901 Rev. F. B. Emenheiser 1920-1925
Rev. J. W. Grimm 1901-1902 Rev. R. E. Boyer 1925-1927
Rev. Edward Leech 1902-1904 Rev. D. R. Fair 1927-1935
Rev. N. A. Kiracope 1904-1905 Rev. H. C. Kottler 1935-1937
Rev. M. J. Heberly 1905-1908 Rev. W. C. Wachter 1937-1942
In 1951, under the pastorate of Rev. Jerome S. Stambach (1942-1952) the church membership had grown to 110 and the Sunday School to 235. It became evident that a complete renovation of the church building was necessary. The services of Buchart Engineering Company were secured and a renovation program was put under way. The dedication of this structure, consisting of a two-story addition with enlarged facilities for the young people of the church, took place on May 13, 1951.
By 1956, under the guidance of the Rev. David H. Rodes (1952-present) the membership of Pleasureville Church had sprung to 181, and the Sunday School enrollment had risen to 372. It again became evident that the existing facilities were being outgrown and in November 1956 the Church Council of Administration and the Trustee Board took action to erect a new Sanctuary and convert the exiting Sanctuary into an educational building. In December of that same year, architect George Flickinger was employed to draw up plans for the new addition. The purchase of the Scott Billet property allowed Pleasureville Church a better program of expansion. Work on the new addition was begun February 1, 1957, with C. M. Gross and Sons as the contractor.
The cornerstone was laid March 24, 1957 and work was completed by October 1957. The building was dedicated to the Glory of Almighty God by Bishop George E. Epp, DD, presiding Bishop of the Eastern Area on Sunday, October 27, 1957.