The initial meeting of what has become CABC took place on November 17, 1979 in the home of George and Lucille Kennedy in Hanover, PA. George and Lucille had moved to Hanover from York where they attended the First Baptist Church. Knowing FBC and our denominational region had a vision to see a new American Baptist Church in the Hanover area, the Kennedys committed themselves and their home to the vision. Soon they were joined by another FBC family, living in Menges Mills, Bob and Janet Coddington and their three daughters.
Over the early months a variety of people came and went when this young group of missionaries outgrew the Kennedy kitchen and needed the guidance of a pastor. Two things were decided: 1. they asked a retired pastor and chaplain, Charles Stotsenburg of Paradise, to come and lead them in worship on Sunday mornings.
These were days of significant testing for this little band. George Kennedy died of cancer and few people were finding their way to the basement of the bank. At the same time, a survey was done of the Hanover area and it was discovered that there was not much openness to the establishment of a new church in the community.
With some discouragement this small group retreated to the Coddington home in Menges Mills. Since most of the children were from this area, this seemed to make the most sense. Because there was so little growth, our denomination essentially thought the project was dead and basically gave up on them. Upon hearing such news, the cry of Lucille was not for herself, but her words were, “What about the children?”
Undeterred, the group met in the Coddington’s country kitchen. A Christmas program was presented and something happened; the parents of the children who were attending now started attending themselves. Also, a new area minister was appointed by our denomination region to our area and he revived denominational support for the work and the group outgrew the Coddington kitchen.
A steering committee was formed to give guidance to this faithful and determined group of church planters and the chairperson was none other than Reverend David Dunn of Gettysburg. This group became known as the American Baptist Fellowship of Spring Grove.
In the fall of 1982, Pastor Ralph Eib was called to be the first full-time pastor of this fellowship. Pastor Ralph arrived in 1983 with his wife Lynn and their three daughters who were 4½, 2½ and 9 months. They brought the first nursery with them!
When Pastor Ralph arrived the fellowship needed more room and rented the social hall at the Colonial Valley Complex in Menges Mills. While worshipping for 2½ years at Colonial Valley there are many good stories, like the old piano which had three keys that didn’t work, one being middle-C. (Even Pastor Ralph is enough of a musician to know that is not good!) There was one cold Christmas Sunday where the room just would not get warm and the group huddled around kerosene heaters, with coats on (stuffed with magazines for added warmth)! And when it rained, the sound on the tin roof could drown out the strongest soloist. One morning the building was infested with flies and bombing them led to the revelation: dead flies end up down, not up, covering the floor and chairs.
On May 22, 1983 the 32 members chartered as Christ’s American Baptist Church. Believing the church could not endure another winter at Colonial Valley without serious frostbite, the church found its way to the gracious folks of the Seventh Day Adventist Church with whom they shared a building until the completion of their worship center in 1986.
The church prayed and prepared to construct the first worship facility and in order to secure funding, the church had to show pledges of $46,000 over three years. As steep of a challenge that was before the church, and not being a congregation of the rich, the church was prayerful. The afternoon the pledges were tabulated in the home of Alice and Nick Knight they totaled not $46,000, but $54,000. The church was on its way, that small group giving sacrificially.
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. – 2 Corinthians 8:1-4
The church broke ground in December of 1985, the bulldozers began in January and the 5000-square-foot building was available in April. Gerry Richardson was the builder and also built the gym and classrooms in 1991. By 1991 it was a different Gerry, for in between buildings he became a follower of Jesus. In fact, Gerry also built the youth and children’s addition, helped expand the sanctuary, built the prayer chapel and most recently, the expansion to the youth room and café.
Our history has not always been smooth and there have been some bumps and bruises along the way. However, it has been a great run and there are certain values that have made CABC the fellowship it is today.
We have always had a love for and a commitment to children. Children have always had a special place in our hearts and minsitry. In 1983, half the attending congregation was made up of children. In fact, there was a time in our history when we had all but two families who had school aged children. It is incredible when a church can witness dedication, baptism, graduation and wedding for the same child and not have it be an exception. Today, we are blessed with our own home-grown full-time Children’s Director, Tammy Herman, and her love for our kids.
- We have a welcoming and encouraging spirit for one another. As we grow bigger, this becomes more of a challenge, to make sure no one slips through the cracks and is not incorporated and folded into the greater fellowship. We still hear stories of how welcome individuals feel as they walk through our doors and we have specifically prayed the welcoming presence of the Holy Spirit will be sensed in this way.
- We have a joyful spirit for worship, blending a variety of music styles and songs and at times, the arts. We bring glory and honor to God through creative and reverent expressions of worship. We have come a long way from our old piano with three keys that did not work (which was also quite a nice home for several mice families). Today, under the leadership of Laura Enslen and Dave Ehrman, we look forward to enriching times of worship where our God is honored and adored.
- We have a devotion to Youth, providing a Youth Center that is amazing in its scope and keeps getting better. The youth team is led by our Associate Pastor of Youth, Young Adults and Discipleship, Josh Trojak. Josh joined our church family in January of 2016. We are working hard to see Jesus become the treasure of this generation.
- We have a zeal for Mission, carrying a Mission budget north of $100,000. We have the largest Mission budget program of any church in our denominational region. Until 2006, this effort was guided with excellence by volunteer servants like Jeanette Kessler, Karen Wood, and a dedicated Mission Team. We have sent and are regularly sending short term mission teams across the globe, including the former Soviet Union, Dominican Republic, Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Dakota.
- We have a passion for the Word. We realize it is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths, finding ourselves in error because we do not know the Word.
We welcomed our current Senior Pastor Todd Witmer upon Pastor Ralph’s retirement in September 2007.
This is our story. We invite and welcome you to become a part of our church. Our prayer is simple …
We know that no church is perfect so help us not to be surprised when problems arise. Keep us from pointing the finger of blame at others and guard our tongues from shameful remarks. Grant us courage to do our part to make our church a better place. And thank you for graciously allowing us to be members of Your wonderful family.
In Jesus’ Name,