Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church owes its origin 1893 to the efforts of the York County Missionary Committee. During that year and in early 1894, the Rev. A. M. Heilman of Dallastown and Gettysburg Seminary students preached here at services held in Fairmount Park. A York committee selected the present site at the corner of North Charles and West High Streets, and Mrs. Catharine Meyer (“grandmother of Red Lion”) donated the land. Seminarian W. H. Ehrhart was in charge of the mission post when the corner stone was laid on June 10, 1894, after 500 people had processed from the park to the site. Sixteen members organized the congregation on July 10, 1894, and received their charter on February 18, 1895. Seminarian H. E. Berkey preached the first sermon in the building a month later and was called as pastor of Emanuel, Freysville, St. Paul’s (Mt. Pleasant), Rinely, St. John’s (Sadler’s) and Grace on June 1, 1895. The building was dedicated May 24, 1896, at a cost of $4,819.12. The Berkeys occupied their new parsonage beside the church on March 27, 1896. It cost $1,750. Seventy persons formed a Sunday School on April 1, 1895, and Prof. E. C. Ruby formed a choir that year with Mrs. Berkey as organist. Christian Endeavor, a Home Department, Cradle Roll and Helpers Association followed.
Pastor Ulysses E. Apple began his ministry on April 1, 1901. Mt. Pleasant Sadler’s congregations united with Felton and Lebanon to form a charge. Emanuel and Grace remained together. Four classrooms, a basement, kitchen and toilet facilities were added. A new pipe organ was installed.
On October 1, 1918, the Rev. C.F. V. Hesse became pastor. Mr. and Mrs. Luther Fertner donated a lot for a new parsonage which was dedicated in 1923. Sunday School classes occupied the first floor of the former parsonage and the sexton and family occupied the second floor. Women’s Missionary Societies were revived and many members added to the congregation.
The Rev. Jerome Guss, D. D., became pastor on May 1, 1923. Sunday school enrollment was 600. Confirmed members numbered 360, and a $30,000 building fund was accumulated. Three sons of the congregation entered the ministry: E. Martin Grove, Walter D. Guss, and George J. Curran. Bible schools were begun. Pastor and choirs were vested. Emanuel congregation withdrew from the charge on March 24, 1929.
On January 1, 1931, the Rev. William C. Day began his ministry here. The Samuel Barshinger property was purchased for $9,000. Sarah Curran Missionary Society was organized. The cornerstone for our present building was laid May 15, 1932. The new edifice was dedicated March 5, 1933, at a cost of $93,000 (and a debt of $35,000). The Bank Holiday had been declared the day before and the Great Depression followed. A nursery and altar guild were organized. The mortgage was burned in 1946. The choir loft was enlarged in 1950. Mrs. Day died in 1954. Mr. W. W. Stauffer, a forty-year Sunday School Superintendent, was honored in 1948. In 1954 the church tower was reconstructed and the church interior redecorated. Pastor Day died in 1955.
Pastor E. M. Clapper began his ministry here September 15, 1955. The Warner-Grimm, Chandlee, Wineka, and Zarfos properties were purchased, and a wooded property used for picnics and Scout events bought and later sold. The side balcony areas were leveled and enclosed. The congregation responded generously to many benevolent projects. Endowment funds were substantially increased. An illuminated 113 feet high white porcelainized spire, with a gold colored cross on top, was positioned on the church tower. The first female church council members were elected. A refugee family from Viet Nam was sponsored. After retirement Pastor Clapper served as visitation pastor.
On May 1, 1981, Pastor Joseph W. Seitz started his pastorate. A pastor’s study and a parlor were added to the building. The nursery, kitchen and downstairs classrooms were renovated and redecorated. Pew cushions were purchased and the second floor area was carpeted and repainted. A food pantry was initiated. A Cambodian family was sponsored. Committees were reorganized. Windows were stormglassed.
In 2019 we began a year-long celebration of 125 years of grace here at the heart of Red Lion! As we continue to give thanks to God for God’s faithfulness all these years, we plan on updating all the ways that the Holy Spirit has been at work through Grace Lutheran!