In the darkness of World War II, a new Methodist church began to bloom in the Manheim Township neighborhood of Grand View Heights. The 51 members first met at the American Legion Hall on Pleasure Road under the leadership of the Rev. A. Eugene Bartlett. In 1946, construction of a new church, using reassembled pieces of old Civilian Conservation Corps buildings, began on an open parcel at 888 Pleasure Road.
Today, Grandview United Methodist Church is a growing church with 500 members and 250 regular worshippers who come from as far away as York and Lebanon counties. The church is known for its local outreach as well as for its progressive view of theology.
This Sunday, Grandview will mark its 75th anniversary. Eastern Conference Bishop Peggy Johnson will deliver the sermon, titled “Break Forth,” based on the text from Isaiah 58:8.
And the church’s senior choir will debut two new compositions. The first, “I Will Do a New Thing,” is by nationally known composer and arranger Heather Sorenson and was commissioned by the church. The other is “Break Forth,” a hymn by church member and Penn Manor music teacher Allan Dutton. Another hymn, “Anniversary,” written by church members Peg Hess and Virginia Cloud for the church’s 50th anniversary, also will be sung.
A community church
Known for years as the church with seven names — Grand View Heights Community United Methodist Church — today it is known simply as Grandview United Methodist Church.
Although the word “community” has been dropped from the official name, the church remains a community fixture.
“There’s always been this concern for outreach to administer to the community around us,” said the Rev. Michael Alleman, who served as senior pastor for 21 years before retiring in 2015 and is now a member.
The church serves as a polling place for two legislative districts, hosts Boy and Girl Scout organizations and partners with other churches and service organizations as part of its outreach.
The Lancaster Food Bank began at the church. Its members volunteer with Power Packs during the school year and do “summer packs,” packing meals for families in need during the summer.
Its members serve meals monthly at Water Street Rescue Mission and recently joined the rotation to serve evening meals at First Reformed Church in Lancaster.
Jessica Kahler, coordinator for church and community life, said the request to help at First Reformed was unique. She was told that even though Grandview is not located in the city, organizers recognized the church “has a heart for this kind of ministry.”
Grandview has worked with Church World Service to settle a dozen refugee families in Lancaster County.
It has sponsored Appalachia Service Project youth and adult groups to help to make homes in Appalachia warmer, drier and safer since 1990. That has expanded to include Impact Mission, in which church members help local families with similar needs.
Since 1994, Grandview has been one of several churches to support the missionary work of Dr. Mark Zimmerman and his family in Nepal. In 2018, a dozen church and community members traveled to Nepal to paint rooms at Patan Hospital and operate a Bible camp.
Grandview also has been known for its progressive view of theology.
In the 1980s, members of other churches picketed when the church showed the Martin Scorcese film “The Last Temptation of Christ.” The church presented the film, not as an endorsement, but as a way to discuss its controversial content.
“That ‘Last Temptation’ story is sort of a touchstone,” said lead pastor the Rev. Andrea Brown. “(There was) that sense of identity of being unafraid to do something bold.”
Grandview was the first United Methodist Church in Lancaster County to be open and affirming — a decision that was affirmed by a vote of the congregation.
“It’s not like we voted and decided to change and put the label on it,” Alleman said. “That’s who we were.”
In that regard, the church is at the forefront of the issue that is dividing the denomination.
And it has stood steadfast in its beliefs. In response to the denomination’s General Conference vote in February to strengthen rules banning the ordination of LGBT pastors and threatening the credentials of pastors who perform same-gender weddings, Grandview expressed its views on the church’s sign board, which read: “United Methodist discrimination is not OK with us.”
“We don’t take the Bible literally but we do take it seriously,” Brown said.
“We have always been finding ways to reach out and love God’s creation,” added Dena Ament, mission trip and visitation coordinator.
In a release, the church noted that it has been “committed to justice, not just charity.” That includes “tackling the disease of injustice that causes such symptoms as food insecurity, homelessness, poverty, etc.”
“For us,” Brown said, “that really grows out of a biblical faith.”
Sunday’s services, at 9 and 11 a.m. will mark a celebration that began in February and will continue with a June 9 concert and a church lawn party on July 20.