DALLAS TWP. — Grace Community Church grew from a small nomadic parish that worshiped in private homes to a large congregation preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
The church, located at 4122 Memorial Hwy., will commemorate the milestone with an anniversary program at 3 p.m. and banquet at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17. A time of worship and fellowship will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 18.
The parish started when a group of Christians disagreed with the direction the Methodist Church took in 1966, said David Leapline, one of the founders and chairperson of the Elders of Grace Community Church.
“We were started by a group of Methodists, who were unhappy that the Methodism left the Bible and gone into social preaching,” Leapline said.
Leapline joined the group in 1967 when he moved to the Back Mountain from Western Pennsylvania as a public school teacher.
At the time, the group was comprised of about 25 parishioners began meeting in homes scattered throughout the Back Mountain, Leapline said.
The congregation was permitted to hold Sunday School and worship services in the former Shavertown Elementary School, located on West Center Street, he said. Churchgoers would trek to Sweet Valley for Sunday evening fellowship.
The parish was named the Back Mountain Community Church, he said.
In 1968-69, the school building was demolished so the group moved again and held services at the Eastern Star on Foster Street in Dallas.
“We had our first choir there (at the Eastern Star),” Leapline said.
The congregation also held its first Christmas Cantata at that location, he said.
In April 1969, two property owners purchased a parcel of land off Memorial Highway and donated it to the group, he said.
“We were not rich people,” Leapline said. “Folks have always been good to us.”
Thanks to donations and bank financing, in September 1969 construction of a church auditorium started.
“The first service was held on Father’s Day 1970,” he said.
The parish was renamed to The Community Church of Dallas.
From 1991-2003, the church’s constitution was amended by Dallas resident Dan Fabricatore, a Theological Seminary graduate, and the church’s name was changed to Grace Community Church, according to information included in the church bulletin.
“The Lord has been faithful to us, even during difficult times,” Leapline said.
The congregation works to spread God’s love throughout the region and the world through various mission projects, said Pastor Roland F. Preisler.
“We work with the Keystone Rescue Mission Alliance Wyoming Valley Rescue Mission,” Preisler said. “We send volunteers there once a month to take meals to feed the homeless and put on a gospel service that explains how to know Jesus as your savior and how to begin the Christian life with him.”
The church also offers a variety of ministries for children, men and women, Leapline said.
“We also work with Pathways Unplanned Pregnancy Help Center in Kingston,” Preisler said. “We collect donations for them and take donations over there.”
The parish also has several foreign missionaries stationed in Tanzania, East Africa; Yukon, Canada; and Northern Ireland, Preisler said.
“When people put their faith in him, God changes their lives,” Preisler said. “It is those kinds of people that have been very faithful (to the church) over the years. These are the people who have been the generous givers, the active volunteers, the people who have served in children’s ministries and adult ministries and helped by working on the building and on the (church) grounds. For a relatively small group, they have done a lot here.”
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.