Martinsburg Grace Brethren Church is part of the Charis Fellowship, previously the Grace Brethren Fellowship. Our original followers came from the area of Schwarzenau, Germany, under the leadership of Alexander Mack who began the Brethren movement in 1708. They were people who desired to follow all the commands of Christ. They believed in the importance of Bible study and personal religious experience. Due to the persecution at the time for those who were not members of the state churches, the Brethren desired to come to America. They came to Germantown, Pennsylvania, due to the religious freedom offered by William Penn.
In 1755, Brethren settled in the Cove area coming through Loy’s Gap (today Loysburg Gap). The Brethren lived a humble lifestyle and did not engage in “worldly” affairs. This caused them to cluster in small churches and rural areas. They lacked vision for outreach. But, in the late 1800’s winds of change began to blow. A group of Brethren became passionate about sharing the Gospel, doing missions work, promoting education, wearing modern dress and expressing worship through more contemporary means. This group eventually broke from the main group which was reluctant to change. (The main group is now the Church of the Brethren). The new group which formed was known simply as the Brethren church and eventually became known as the Grace Brethren fellowship.
The Martinsburg Grace Brethren Church was formed in 1883 by people of like-minded faith and modern thinking who wanted to reach their culture for Christ. The people from a church at “Snyder’s Crossroads” (which no longer exists and was located at what today is the intersection of Route 36 and Cross Cove Road) and also forward-thinking people from Clover Creek Church of the Brethren came together to form the Grace Brethren church. It met in the Union house in Fredericksburg. There were 74 members when the church began under the leadership of Pastor William L. Spanogle who was very missions-minded and a church planter. The church eventually moved to Martinsburg in 1901 and met in a building at Woodlawn and Wall Street. (That building no longer exists.) The church continued to grow and built a new facility in 1960. (The multipurpose room building is the 1960’s building.) In 1972, a parsonage was added (current office building). The church building was expanded in 1979 (children’s wing and fellowship hall) and in 1996 a new sanctuary was added.
The Grace Brethren people have been very missions minded. The Grace Brethren fellowship started works in numerous countries including Argentina, Central African Republic, France, England, Germany, Japan, Philippines, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Cambodia, Czech Republic and many others, including restricted countries. The Martinsburg Grace Brethren Church planted the Living Hope Grace Brethren Church in Saxton, PA, in 1999. Also, the church has sent numerous teams to Haiti and helped build a school in the mountain region west of Borel, Haiti. Individuals have also assisted by going on teams to the small country of Barbuda. People from the church have also gone on various missions trips to the Philippines, Guatemala, Europe, and other countries.
Today the Charis Fellowship has grown to over 3,000 churches worldwide (with 260 churches in America and Canada). Check out the Fellowship website for more information. www.charisfellowship.us
The Martinsburg Grace Brethren Church continues to be a church which values the Bible while seeking to “worship God and serve others”.