Universal York

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Church Picnic Time at St. Luke

It’s St. Luke picnic time again. On August 5th I’ll be dishing out quarts and quarts of excellent chicken corn and ham bean soup for a good part of the day at the take-out window. Many picnic goers enjoy a meal first, choosing from soup, hot beef and hot ham sandwiches with homemade cakes and pies. Then they listen to music and talk to new and old friends for a while or stroll through the historic cemetery. Many come see me before they leave to take some chilled soup home to heat up at home later. We provide containers, so the customers don’t have to bring their own anymore, but some still do.
Click these links for more on previous St. Luke picnics:
Early 20th century.
Chicken corn soup on a Harley.
St. Luke Lutheran Church, founded in 1772, is at New Bridgeville. Just follow Furnace Road toward York Furnace from the New Bridgeville intersection and you’ll see it at the top of the hill.
I didn’t grow up at St. Luke, but my mother and mother-in-law both did, as did many generations of our Shelley, Haugh, Reno, Tome and related families.
See below for a brief history of the church.

In 1772 twenty-some families in northeastern Chanceford Township agreed “to build a common church on Jacob Stehli’s land, which church shall remain Reformed and Lutheran so long as sun and moon exist.” One acre, 126 perches of land were surveyed for the congregation from a tract Jacob Stehli had named “Icy Hill” By 1773 a log church had been built on what is now the lower part of the cemetery. In that year a church record book was begun, and Lucas Raus was called to serve the Lutherans of the flock as part of his charge of half a dozen churches scattered over York County. He was replaced in 1788 by Jacob Goering, son of one of the founders of Stehli’s church.
The log church, with some expansion for growing membership, was used until 1866, when it was replaced with a brick building. During much of its first century, Stehli’s church was the center of the community, with a separate school house in which boys and girls learned to read German and English and other essential skills, such as arithmetic. The children also learned to sing in this early school, leading the way for the musical tradition still evident in the congregation.
The brick church reportedly had some structural defects. This led to the purchase of additional land on which the present frame church was built. It was dedicated in 1890. It was at that time that the name of the congregation officially became St. Luke. Shortly before the building of the third church, the Reformed congregation dissolved. Some Reformed members joined the Lutherans and others joined New Harmony Presbyterian church, located a few miles away.
Several more changes occurred during the 1890s: Sermons were no longer preached in German, Reverend Edmund Manges oversaw the planting of a grove of sugar maples, and St. Luke banded together with St. James to form the Chanceford Lutheran charge. That partnership, with shared pastors, lasted nearly one hundred years until its dissolution in 1991.
In 1983, St. Luke Preschool was organized as an outreach to the community and has been serving area children and their families every since. Once again, girls and boys are being educated on the same grounds as those children of over 200 years ago.
Over the years leaded glass windows were installed and two major additions, one in 1940 and the other in 1972, were added to the little white frame church. Many members of the present congregation can trace their families back over two and a third centuries to those two dozen or so families who set out to build a new church in what was then still an English colony. Over that time its people have also welcomed scores of newcomers so that they too have become part of the St. Luke family as well as members of the “household of God” (Ephesians 2:19b).