The first Lutheran service in Hatfield was held in Knipe’s Hall on October 8, 1899, with Pastor Kuehner leading worship. Under the leadership of the Rev. Preston A. Behler “Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hatfield, Pa,” was organized on May 12 1904, with 32 charter members. Within three weeks a lot was secured and on October 2nd of the same year the cornerstone was laid for Hatfield’s first Lutheran Church. In the summer of 1905 the first services were held in the new building and it was dedicated on August 27th of that year. The total cost of the new church and lot was $6200. On April 27, 1915 a lot on the north side of town was purchased and became the Hatfield Cemetery; it is 5 acres and 75 perches.
Multiple shared pastors served the congregation for several years until Grace Church became self-sustaining when Rev. William A. Fluck of Reading, Pa, was called to become their first full time Pastor on July I, 1946.
In June of 1954, ground was broken for an addition to the church to provide Sunday Church School rooms with social facilities in the basement. In 1962, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church became a member of the Lutheran Church of America and also “burned the mortgage” on their new addition.
In 1970 Mrs. Rachael Long was hired to organize and direct a Nursery School program for children ages three to five. The program began with a total of eighteen children. In 1980, a daycare program was added to serve school age children before and after school. Shortly thereafter the day care was expanded to year round and to include pre-school children as well. It is still operating today as Stepping Stones Day Care and Nursery School and has provided a warm, caring atmosphere of learning for thousands of children from Hatfield and the surrounding communities.
In 1988, the Laymen Playmen staged their first production, Our Town, at Grace church. This was the first of the annual productions by the Laymen Playmen. The Hatfield Pastor’s fund benefits from the February performances provided by community volunteers.
In April of 1989 work began on a new Sanctuary which was completed and dedicated on April 22, 1990. The original building underwent extensive renovation and was used as the educational building and was home to various community groups.
On New Year’s Eve, 2011, the original building burned to the ground. Following the fire, there was time needed to reflect and plan. A feasibility study was conducted, followed by a capital campaign, “Growing in God’s Grace” with a goal of $250,000. and raised over $300,000. toward a new and renewed church facility. Construction began in the summer of 2015. The congregation moved into the new part of the facility on Reformation Sunday, 2016 and into the renovated Sanctuary at Christmastime. A Dedication Service was held on February 26, 2017.
Throughout all this time the ministries of Grace continued unabated. Grace members are an integral part of the Hatfield Community Christian Coalition (H3C). Together, H3C conducts major drives to give backpacks to preschool children, winter coats for Hatfield children, and Christmas gifts for needy families.
Grace members, through H3C and the congregation’s INReach and OUTReach teams conduct a wide variety of projects to serve the members of the Hatfield communities.
Other new programs and events started in recent years include: Stitchers hold monthly meetings, as well as larger Stitch-Ins twice a year; Mother’s Day dinner; Training and ongoing support for lay visitors, some also offering Communion; holding a Flea Market; Summer Evening Picnics; Christmas snacks and crafts for the Borough tree lighting; Hatfield Community Vacation Bible School including meals and programming for a week in the summer; Community Easter Egg Hunt and Trunk or Treat events. The Warming Center is an ongoing project to equip the Wagner House with a generator so it’s available to the community and to church members during an extended power outage.
In January 2019, Pr. Lutcher announced his retirement from full-time ministry. Pr. Janet Peterman began her time with us on February 18, 2019 as the Interim Pastor to lead us through the transition process. Stepping Stones added infant day care at the end of the summer in 2019.
And then there was COVID …
On March 13, 2020, Stepping Stones began its COVID closure. Beginning March 16, 2020 there were no in-person worship services or meetings. Sunday Services were available on YouTube. Sunday School was able to continue meeting virtually during the Spring of 2020. Zoom lent itself well to the format of Sunday School already in place. We only missed two weeks of worship. While Grace had never had an online worship presence prior to Covid, the congregation had been recording the services, sound only, for its homebound members. It took just 2 weeks and a small core of “Mighty Grace” volunteers to reimagine how to bring worship online. Grace opted to pre-record, posting its worship services on YouTube and its website – many of the older members of Grace do not use Facebook, and this method provided great visual and sound quality right from the start. Some Sundays there have been more people viewing online that the congregation has had in person in recent memory. Services were posted on Saturday at noon for viewing when convenient.
During the month of May 2020, Stepping Stones received funds from the CARES Act and teachers began working from home to prepare for the reopening of the center. On June 8, 2020, Stepping Stones was able to reopen and provide day care services for children.
Finally, Grace began in-person services again on Sunday, July 5th. Worship was held outdoors, weather permitting. Recordings continued for those who felt safer at home, being posted online the following Wednesday. The first experience of Holy Communion in person was held on Sunday, August 30th, with bread only.
Meetings have begun but are socially distanced in the Fellowship Hall or on Zoom.
Our most recent new ministry is collecting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Initially it was to support the ministry of The Welcome Church, whose members had their feeding programs cut off with Covid restrictions. Grace was the first site to start making and gathering sandwiches, and continues to be a ROCK in the program, often providing 800 or more sandwiches each week. Since its beginning in early April, the program, now known as Welcome Bread, has grown. There are now 16 churches and organizations, as well as other unaffiliated community members, providing food, with many helpers and multiple distribution sites. All together, we have been routinely supplying more than 2,000 sandwiches per week. This ministry continues to grow in both volunteers and in the number of hungry brothers and sisters being fed and to whom we are now connected by peanut butter and jelly. We have also learned that when life is difficult, it is wonderful to have something important to do, that in feeding, we are also fed.
During the month of May 2020, Stepping Stones received funds from the CARES Act and teachers began working from home to prepare for the reopening of the center. On June 8, 2020, Stepping Stones was able to reopen and provide day care services for children.September 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Stepping Stones caring for young children in the Hatfield community. The Stepping Stones Committee and Grace will work together to celebrate this milestone throughout the year.
At this writing we are in the early stages of the call process for out next pastor. We are blessed to be back in Hatfield with a beautiful new church home to meet ministry needs now and into the future. We would be blessed to have you join us in this Spirit journey.