Historical Sketch of the Sunday School – Elder L. Elmer Leas
The first church building of the Brethren at York, Pa., was erected in 1883, and dedicated in 1884. Just ten years after this date the local church was separated from the mother church at Loganville, and organized into an independent church and Sunday School. Nathan Arnold was appointed by Christian Ness, of the Mother church, as the first Superintendent. The term began in October, 1894. According to the records, Alec M. Brodbeck was the next superintendent with John F. Lehman as assistant who became the superintendent the following year with Elias Hollinger as assistant till December, 1897.
Since that time there were eight different brethren who served as Superintendents. Ralph B. Lehman having served ten years, A. S. Hershey, nine years, James P. Lehman, five years, L. Elmer Leas, five years, J. J. Bowser, four years, M. A. Jacobs, one year, Charles W. Graft, one year, Emory P. Trimmer, one year. M. A. Brown, Daniel Bowser, S. S. Aldinger, Arthur Hess and Calvin Lefever served as assistant superintendent, but not as superintendent. The date of service will be found in the minute book of the York Sunday School.
H. H. Hollinger, Wm. Hollinger, D. W. Hildebrand, Katie Roth Lefever, Claude B. Long, Enoch Maderia, John Krape, Eli S. Keeney, Paul Lehman, Orren Dotterer and Lehman Crist served as secretary, but not in any other office. 0ften the Superintendents served in different offices.
Howard Englar served as treasurer for a period of fifteen years, being in office during the longest period.
Before the official and regular organization of the Sunday School in 1894 and 1895, there were two superintendents who took an active part in Sunday School work from 1891 to 1894, and even before that time, or, from the time the Church house was built and dedicated in 1884. In 1891, John W. Royer became superintendent, Adam Ness, assistant, C. G. Trimmer, Secretary, and A. S. Hershey, Treasurer. The next year October, 1892 to 1893, George M. Miller became Superintendent with C. G. Trimmer, assistant, and A. S. Hershey, Secretary and Treasurer.
About five years after this Sunday School was organized, an attempt was made to start one in the East end, in the home of Charles Lehman as well as in the old Lutheran church on East Market Street but was closed at the time of the rebuilding of this church house in 1900 and no continuous Sunday School was organized until May, 1906, which was then started in the East Poplar Street School House on Sherman Street until the present church was built and dedicated in December, 1907. Elder Peterman was the first Superintendent, followed by J. J. Bowser, John K. Pfaltzgraff, Harry Hoover, Chauncey Trimmer and the present Superintendent, George Stough. Forty years before the Robert Raikes Sunday School in England was started, a Brethren Sunday School was conducted in 1738 at Germantown, and thus established the first Sunday School in the world. Just a century afterward, 1838, Annual Meeting advised against it, but changed its decision twenty years, afterward to the extent that they would not oppose it. This brought us to 1858. In 1862, Annual Meeting gave positive approval of the Sunday School and in 1886 it decided that a minority could not prevent a, church from holding a Sunday School, and in 1896 it took the Sunday Schools of the church under its fostering care and appointed a general committee to give general help and encouragement.
You will notice that your Sunday School was fully organized in 1894-1895 and was on its way for at least ten years while the question was agitating the Brotherhood and while Annual Conference was moving toward its fostering care and general approval. This spirit has characterized our Sunday School Mission classes, teacher training and Bible classes in the spiritual growth and development of its workers.
Our former Elder and Pastor, Bro. J. A. Long has this to say in a history of
The York Sunday School–Its Struggles and Triumphs
“If ever a birth was attended with anguish and travail, and cool reception to the new born, this proverb became a veritable fact in the, birth of the York Sunday School. The Church rulings at that time in this locality were adverse to the movement, and greatly hindered its progress to the great disappointment of those who advocated it.
Undismayed in courage, few marched in solid phalanx against the wave of opposition, gradually gained a little foothold by pleading and prayer until the church relented and granted a compromise, authorizing a Bible Class in which the Hymn book and Bible might be used, but without helps. Close upon the heels of the action of the church, a tidal wave of the Sunday School spirit swept over the land sometime during the eighties, resulting in a great change of conditions and the organizing of a school on both the parent church and at York, Pennsylvania.”
It was during this period that about a dozen–the same number that organized the first church at Schwartzenau in Germany–struggled and prayed and pleaded with the Mother Church at Loganville to organize a Bible Class. A Bible class, taught by Eld. Jacob Aldinger, of about twenty or twenty-five, met at 5 P. M. on Sunday evening before preaching for Bible Study.
It was noticeable that the children of our members would become interested in Bible study and worship away from our church and would be largely neglected if .our own people did not take proper care of them in our own activities of the Sunday School, and so it was seen that we needed a Sunday School of our own.
The children came along and were put under a separate teacher, Sister Anna Aldinger Sheets, and soon there was an equal number in that class from which the classes grew and multiplied, and so the work started in Bible study in the homes and the church with prayer, perseverance and sometimes even dissension in council until it grew, by the Grace of God, into one of our largest schools in the Brotherhood, having an enrollment of nearly one-thousand.
May our Bible School as we choose to call it, be a mighty factor by the help of the Spirit of God and His word in bringing many to the foot of the cross, that they may learn to know the Truth, for the Truth shall make them free.