Universal York

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Time for church picnics in York County

Bethel Methodist Church, c.1890.
Bethel Methodist Church, c.1890.

Members of Union Lutheran Church, York at Brookside Park, Dover
Members of Union Lutheran Church, York at Brookside Park, Dover

What comes to mind when you think of local Sunday school picnics/church picnics? There were, and still are, at least two different types, and we fondly remember the kind that we attended while we were growing up.

I grew up in the country, Chanceford and Windsor townships, so my kind of picnics are those that are open to the public. Church members make and serve soup, sandwiches and desserts to anyone who comes there on the appointed day. There is usually outside musical entertainment provided by a community band, or, more increasingly now, a small group. It’s a great time to get together with people you haven’t seen for a while, and it is also a major fundraiser for the host church.

The other picnic variety was perhaps more popular with the town and city churches, those who didn’t have their own outdoor venue to host crowds. Instead, the whole congregation, or all the Sunday school classes from a particular church, would travel to a picnic spot by buggy, maybe by trolley, and later by automobile. There they would enjoy good food and fellowship. This is the older type of summer church celebration, and many of the picnics that were later open to the public seem to have started out this way, with families packing their own food, but then coming together to enjoy it with extended family and friends.

The two photos above were cataloged at the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives as Sunday school or church picnic photos. The older one, perhaps from the 1890s, is identified as Bethel Methodist Church in Chanceford Township, near York Furnace. You can see the band members to the left front holding their instruments.

Members of Union Lutheran Church in York appear in the professionally photographed panorama. The site is identified at Brookside Park, Dover, a popular trolley destination in the 1920s, when the photo was taken. You usually see everyone lined up in straight rows in panoramas, but here the crowd curves around the stream.

This coming Thursday, August 1st, you can find me dishing out their famous chicken corn soup at my church’s picnic, St. Luke Lutheran Church at New Bridgeville in Chanceford Township. The address is 2666 Furnace Rd, Felton, PA 17322, but it isn’t really near Felton. It’s on Route 425; if you turn left off Route 74 south of Red Lion at Mack’s/Godfrey’s Ice Cream onto the Burkholder Road, you will find that Burkholder Road becomes Furnace Road at New Bridgeville. Here is a sample of the planned food and entertainment:


This link will take you to my previous church picnic posts and photos.