Our History

Meetings Begin in Waynesboro

Attempts were made as early as 1855 to hold services in Waynesboro. A group met in a school house at that time, and in the Town Hall. In 1908, however, following several weeks of evangelistic services in a rented room, First Brethren in Waynesboro was officially organized on March 15. The Sunday School was organized one week later. The first collection for the benefit of the Sunday School amounted to $1.86! The first pastor was called in early 1909, and by April the current site of the church was purchased for $818. The cost of that building lot was paid in full on December 31, 1911. Ground breaking was held the following August, and the first church building was dedicated on June 15, 1913 at the grand cost of $4,396 for construction. One history of the church says "the building contract and weekly needs of the church were met with sacrificial giving.”

The Revival of 1914

The year 1914 started with a great union revival in Waynesboro under the leadership of Dr. W. E. Biederwolf. Many churches enjoyed significant growth, the First Brethren ended 1914 with an increase in membership of 120, the highest gain of any church in town. In just one year the church increased from 52 members to 172. Under the leadership of Rev. John Perry Horlacher, who was called as pastor in 1922, $21,000 was invested in building enlargements to accommodate growth.

A sharp division in the Brethren Church occurred in 1938. Several professors left the church college and seminary in Ashland, Ohio to form Grace Theological Seminary in nearby Akron, Ohio. After one year, it moved to Winona Lake, IN where the new Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches was based. Some people left to form another church, but the majority of members remained in First Brethren which got around to changing its name to Grace Brethren Church forty years later (1980).

A home beside the church was purchased as a parsonage in the 1950s for $20,000, and the Christian Educational Building, built in 1958 at a cost of between $76,000 and $92,000 (records are not clear), dramatically increased space available for Sunday School classes.

The current sanctuary, built on the original church foundation, was dedicated on April 20, 1972. This came during the ministry of Rev. Wendell Kent. The late Robert “Tip” Rowe chaired the building committee. One member of that committee, Ralph Fitz is still an active member. The total cost of this project was $230,000, and the mortgage was paid in advance of the original schedule. Additional land was purchased for parking in the last two decades of the 1900’s.

Waynesboro GBC - A History of Ministry

Grace Brethren Church is believed to be the first church in Franklin County to conduct a summer Bible School program, now VBS. A vigorous Layman’s organization conducted ministry at the Hagerstown Rescue Mission, CCC camps, Parks, the County Jail, the County Home, and other places for many years.