A Brief Historical Sketch of the Bethlehem Church
In 1805 Jacob Albright, with John Walter and George Miller, made an evangelistic tour, through York Co. worshiping in the Court House, Continental Square, York, Pa., and in homes surrounding communities of York Co. Stonepile Church started in homes right around the location of our current church. One of the first homes was the home that our members, Connie and Jim Kreeger, currently live in on Blouse Road. Another was the home of Roger Sechrist on Springvale Road, and the third was the home of Daniel and Lydia Oberdorf on Circle Drive. The original men who rode from house to house conducting church services in these homes were called Circuit Riders. In 1820, Daniel and Lydia Oberdorf were invited by the preacher, James Barber to become the first members to join his church called the “Evangelical Association”. Our church began growing its membership. The first church services were conducted in German. On March 16, 1855, the “New Bethlehem Evangelical Church” of Windsor Township was dedicated. It was a 20 by 30-foot stone building and was not well constructed, only standing for 16 years. When workmen came to tear down the first church building, part of it had already fallen and was a pile of stones. This pile of stones served as a landmark to tell others where we were located and eventually became part of the name of the church. The location of this original stone building is marked with an inscribed stone on the grounds of the Fellowship Building near Springvale Road. There are no known pictures of this building.
Our second church building, built by relatives of David Neff in 1871, was located on the plot of land now housing Bethlehem Stonepile Cemetery. In the second church, there were two entrances-one for women and one for men, who sat on their own sides of the church. The first singing in church was without books. The minister would read a line of verse and the congregation would sing. The church started changing from written or printed German Bibles and speaking in English for services around 1880. Several of the older members of that time, including David O. Knisley would speak in Pennsylvania Dutch when called upon to lead in prayer. Sunday School was organized in 1887, continuing through the years. The women of the church organized a Women’s Missionary Society in 1911, for the privilege of sharing the Gospel of God’s Grace with others. A stone marker stands in the original location of this second church building.
In 1912, a sister church, Springvale Evangelical Church, began construction in the village of Springvale. This would serve as an outgrowth or ‘mission church’ of Bethlehem Stonepile to reach the community during this flourishing time of growing tobacco and cigar making and to be nearer to the rail station. This church is now known as Springvale Church.
In the early 1950’s the Congregation set out to plan for a new church. A New Church Building Fund was established and Mr. Chester Arnold elected to serve as treasurer. Other important and significant dates followed with the purchase of a new and large tract of land in May, 1961. The actual beginning for the new church building was on March 5, 1963, with a “Ground Breaking Service.” The Rev. Mr. Clair C. Kreidler, D.D., Conference Superintendent, officiated. He was assisted by Pastor Jones, Mr. James Neff (Lay-leader), Mr. Marlet Grim (Church School Supt.), and Mr. A. G. Strayer (oldest member, now deceased). The Service for the Laying of the Cornerstone was held on August 11, 1963, and on April 19, 1964 —a Service of Departure from the old church to the new was conducted. The membership of the church on January 1, 1964, is listed at 149.
The Congregation became members of The United Methodist Church in May of 1968. The note for the present church building was burned at a service in May of 1974. Under the leadership of Historian, David Neff, time capsules were buried in 1980 and 1995. Through recent leaders, like Tom Osenbach, we had the distinction of celebrating 200 years of ministry in 2020.
On February 5, 2023, the Congregation voted on its current name, Bethlehem Stonepile Church. As of July 1, 2023, the Congregation has joined the Global Methodist Church.