Timeline of Brethren Community Service in Harrisburg

1896         Big Swatara German Baptist Brethren Church (Church of the Brethren) votes to form a fellowship in Harrisburg

1897         Sallie Hawk began sewing society to provide clothing to needy neighborhood children.

1897         Sallie Shaffner, Teresa Schneider, and Bertha Homer with stipends from the District Mission Board began a ministry among children on Cameron Street.

1953         Pastor Fred Hollingshead was a leader in the Harrisburg Ministerium, Church World Service and Goodwill Industries.

1959         First Church decided to remain in Harrisburg and gave land to District to start a new congregation in Susquehanna Twp.

1960         Full program of clubs for neighborhood children was started.

1960         First Brethren Volunteer Service worker comes, Marilyn Dickerson

1961         Construction started on Christian Education Building

1963         Fellowship House established

1966         Murry L. Wagner comes as first Community Minister

1967         Day Care Center started in First Church building

1967         John Nantz comes as Community Minister

1969         Multi-Parish established for cooperation among neighborhood churches

1969         Coffee House opens for Senior High Youth

1972        Church purchases 244 Hummel St. as BVSers’ House and named it the Dan West House.

1972         Handball Court started.

1976         Community Ministries include: Free Children’s Books distributed in cooperation with RIF, day camps and field trips, volley ball, story time, youth drop in center (Lighthouse), Magic Cocoon TV program, Citizen’s Alliance to Save Harrisburg, Allison Hill Civic Association, After School Program, dart baseball, touche football, etc.

1979         Wayne Eberly helps start La Casa de Amistad (House of Friendship)

1980         Community Ministries include: After school recreation crafts groups, cooking classes, weightlifting class, coffee house, stamp project, basketball in back lot, volley ball in front lot, summer recreation field trips, hikes, etc.

1982         John Nantz resigns as Community Minister

1982         Atlantic Northeast District Witness Commission conducts evaluation of First Church Community Ministry

1982         Deborah Lolling serves as Community Minister

1982         Community Ministries include: Drop-In Center for Teens, Volley Ball Fridays in Parking Lot, game room, crafts, cooking class, Bible study, field trips, basketball, handball, Multi-Parish, Big Brother/Sister Day at Elizabethtown College, La Casa de Amistad, etc.

1983         Gerald W. Rhoades comes as Community Minister

1983         Crime Watch/Block Club ministry began

1984         Food Distribution in cooperation with Food and Shelter Ministries

1985         Cambodians with Bill Hawkins begin Khmer Church, TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) meets at church.

1985         Community Ministries include: Cooking Classes with Joyce Albin, Self Defense Classes, Hiking Club, Archery Classes, English as a Second Language classes, food distribution, Hispanic Mennonites share building, Head Start program, La Casa de Amistad, Multi-Parish, Block Clubs and Crime Watch, South Allison Hill Civic Association, game room, dart ball, drama, day trips, etc.

1986         Youth fill Game Room for “Break Dancing” Friday evenings

1986         Street Fair started

1987         Donna and Alan Benson begin Tutoring Program

1987         End of Brethren Volunteer Service workers as community workers (over 40 BVSers served here)

1988         Brethren Housing Association begins with the sale of the Fellowship House to it by First Church for a dollar.

1989         Community Ministries include: Craft Classes with Kim Joseph, 4-H Club: Pets Club, Geology Club, Cooking Club, English as a Second Language Classes, Weekly Outings during summer

1990         Danzante, Latino Arts Association, began by using Church

1994         Saturday Evening Praise and Prayer Worship starts

1995         First Church adopts vision statement: We are called to build a Christ-centered multi- cultural community in the inner city, sharing the love, healing, peace and justice of Christ.

1995         Prison Worship Services began being led by group from First Church.

1996         Friday Bible Studies begun

1997         Nutrition Classes with Marie Miller from Penn State Extension

1997         KIDS’ Church starts

1997         Computer Classes with Gov. Leader’s Program starts

1998         Narcotics Anonymous Group began meeting here

1999         4-H Cooking Classes started with Penn State Extension

1999         Brethren Community Thrift Shop starts. Open 20 hours a week. Lois L. Strickland hired as Assistant Manager for Thrift Shop part time.

1999         Wailing Women meet here

2000         Brethren Community Ministries incorporated

2001         Launch of Agape-Satyagraha, a youth leadership training program in peaceful conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation and social change targeted at reducing violence in our community.

2002         Brethren Community Thrift Shop opens in storefront at 1319 Derry St.

2005         Thrift Shop closed and storefront rented to Safe-Haven Quality Care, L.L.C., which provides assistance to the elderly, the disabled and other homebound individuals. They provide direct, non-medical, in-home services in the areas of companionship, errands, chores, house-keeping, personal care, meal preparation, and socialization

2008         On Earth Peace partners with Brethren Community Ministries to offer the Agape- Satyagraha program across the country 2008

2011         LHACC (Latino Hispanic American Cultural Center) establishes a presence at 1317-1319 Derry St. to hold community meetings and provide services.

2012         Gerald W. Rhoades retires as Executive Director of Brethren Community Ministries after faithfully serving the community for thirty years.  He served since 1983 as Director of Community Ministries at Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren and since 2000 as the Executive Director for Brethren Community Ministries. In this role, he established programs for children, youth, and adults–these include developing Agape-Satyagraha Conflict Resolution Training for youth, KIDS’ Church, computer classes, coordinating a weekly food distribution and Bible study, and serving as the first executive director of Brethren Housing Association. Pastor Rhoades has been recognized by the Governor and Mayor for his ministry

2012         On Earth Peace assumes ownership of and responsibility for the program now called Agape-Satyagraha with Brethren Community Ministries, being the originator of the program, retaining certain privileges, especially in the Tri-County region

2012        Brethren Community Ministries becomes a Partner Faith Community of the Harrisburg Chapter of Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence and agrees to serve as its fiscal agent. Pastor Belita Mitchell agrees to serve as Chair of the Chapter’s Coordinating Committee and Rev. Ron Tilley agrees to serve as the Chapter’s Organizer.

2014         Ronald B. Tilley II begins serving as Executive Director of Brethren Community Ministries.

2014         Brethren Community Ministries starts to use the motto “Be the Peace” and establishes a social media presence using the name bcmPEACE as a shortened version of our name, Brethren Community Ministries. bcmPEACE recognizes the history of the Brethren Community Ministries name while highlighting its mission of “Sharing things that make for PEACE.”

2014         In response to incidents of young black men dying during police interactions, graduates of bcmPEACE’s  Agape-Satyagraha program were asked by the Community Responders Network (CRN) to lead listening sessions to strengthen police/community relations.  Using skills learned in Agape-Satyagraha, youth led their peers in circle-process discussions.  CRN incorporated the reflections from these listening sessions into Police Training sessions developed by CRN in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice and local law enforcement.

2016       bcmPEACE changes its mission to: “bcmPEACE serves Allison Hill in becoming a safer, healthier community, empowered by God’s peace.”  The board implements a committee structure to more effectively achieve its mission.


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