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The Church of the Brethren was founded at Schwarzenau, Germany in 1708, and was formerly known as Brethren, German Baptist, German Baptist Brethren and Dunkards. This led to considerable confusion with the Church, as there were a number of other sects, which had no connections with the Church of the Brethren, which were also known as Dunkards. At the Annual Conference of 1908, the name of Church of the Brethren was officially adopted. Mechanic Grove Church dates to the year 1896, when the Reverend George Bucher moved to Mechanic Grove. After that, a new con-gregation was organized in the Bucher home with 32 members, in a territory comprising approximately one third the area of Lancaster County. Services were held in chapels, school houses, and private homes, but the growth was slow. Then, due to a more liberal inter-pretation of the teachings of Holy Writ and a more sympathetic attitude of the Brethren in the older Brethren communities, a number of large and active families moved in and like the proverbial snowball the church grew. In 1964 there was a membership of 385 and a Sunday School enrollment of 410, with an annual Sunday School attendance of 379. A daughter church at Jennersville, Chester County, has a membership of 120.
The church was served by a free, self supporting ministry for more than half a century, the Reverend R. P. Bucher laboring in the tree ministry for 47 years. Then there was a gradual transition to a paid pastorate.
The first Meeting House was built in 1898 at a cost of $1738.53. This served until 1928, when the need was felt for a larger church and the old Meeting House was remodeled and enlarged at a cost of 1.5783.85. The second church served until 1959 when the present building was erected at a cost of $233,678.68. This was followed by the building of a parsonage, the Reverend Murray L. Wagner being the first resident pastor in the parsonage. With nine of her sons in the ministry serving as far off as the Pacific coast, Mechanic Grove also supports one missionary in the foreign field as well as four missionaries or missionaries' children in the home front. Several of her young people have been in the Breth-ren Volunteer Service. It had been customary with the Church of the Brethren to call the head of each Congregation Elder. In 1960 the term moderator was adopted.
Elders or moderators of Mechanic Grove Church:
S. H. Light 1897
George Bucher 1897
S. H. Hertler 1898
R. P. Bucher 1915
L. J. Schreiber 1954
Roy Forney 1966
The church is located along Route 222, 5 miles south of Quarryville. Sunday School 9: 30 AM.
The Worship Service 10:30 AM.
Sunday Evening 7: 30
The sixth decade of the present century saw many changes in the church and community. Some of these appeared small but would likely have effects for many years to come. There has been a steady-perhaps alarming-change in the outlook fill the congregation due to the rapid urbanization of the community. With mechanization of agriculture and the change from general to dairy. farming, more and more of the young people find their services are not required on the family farm. Furthermore, the excessive cost of land, equipment and dairy stock have been a discouraging factor to some of the best young farmers. The lure of higher and more certain income from industry or town employment has been answered by many.
A larger number of the young people are going into schools to prepare for professional or technical service. Nursing, industry and teaching in various academic levels have laid heavy claims upon the youth of the community and the congregation notes this trend. Some of these have made and continue to make notable contributions in the fields of their choice and some have carried to the city churches a strength of character, skill and consecrated intelligence which carries the Gospel forward.
The rapid development of the "southern end" due to new highways, the river bridge, new schools, "summer homes," industries make this a rapidly changing scene which will bring more and more complex concerns to the church. Lovely forests are being cleared away and an influx of farmers from other areas is becoming more and more evident.
Governmental demands on our youth for service confront our men with a choice of alternatives and, while many go into the varied areas of the military, there are many of our young men who choose some form of "work of national importance"-some in hospitals, some in-rehabilitation work, some in far countries working in an almost endless array of tasks, each aimed at sharing the Gospel of the Prince of Peace. While this is commendable, one of the effects is to prolong the period when young men would normally be engaged in their chosen work, getting married or furthering their formal education. Thus, also, these youths are removed from the local community and church when they are needed and when they need the fellowship and spiritual strength of the Christian fellowship. This decade sees great changes taking place in the local church. The first "indoor" baptisms were recorded in the church in the springtime of 1960. Since that time all baptisms have been such. In 1966 the Council voted to accept into membership persons from other congregations and denominations "on previous baptism provid-ing the applicant is satisfied with that baptism". However, unbaptized applicants will be expected to comply with the requirements of trine immersion for membership. All applicants for baptism or transferring from non-Brethren churches are asked to complete a period of di-rected study, the class being taught by the pastor. One of the high experiences of the life of the church is that of the Love Feast. Here the ancient order is observed and a worship center is arranged, hopefully recalling to the worshiper something of the "rock from which we were hewn." There is an increasing sense of appreciation for the heritage which was brought to this community by the Brethren who loved the Lord and one another and were not afraid to indicate in many ways this affection. Visitors have frequently commented "Such a large church and such a small cemetery." But Time has a way of reducing this objec-tion and we note an increasing number of occupants in this "Lord's Acre." While the sod may cover the scarred earth, there is the con-tinued remembrance of loving spirits and tireless labors of many w'ho from their labors rest." In October 1966 a new moderator-Brother Roy Forney was chosen and soon after that election Brother Forney suffered a severe heart attack, rendering his initial months as the congregation's leader of minimum effect. His improved health gives promise to added guid-ance in the period ahead. The road has not been all smooth in the past, but the words of Brother Rufus Bucher's report to the Standing Committee still hold: .We don't all think alike but we don't fight about it." And the present pastor, viewing the past and looking ahead says, .We don't know what's ahead of us but we know who is ahead!"