Rock Chapel

Rock Chapel

Rock Chapel is the oldest Methodist church west of the Susquehanna River. A congregation had developed in the area around 1770, worshipping on the Peter Group farm, half a mile east of the current building. In 1773, the cornerstone was laid for a new building. Construction was abandoned for a time due to financial issues, but the building was completed in 1776.

In the early days of Methodism there were far more congregations than pastors, so churches were part of a circuit where traveling preachers called Circuit Riders preached. A Circuit Rider was only able to visit each church every few weeks or months, so the laity of each congregation led most weekly services. In 1805, the circuit of which Rock Chapel was a part extended from Waynesboro to York covering approximately forty churches.

Even the lay leaders of these churches sometimes served multiple churches. One such leader, Ludwick Group, used to travel on foot every Sunday from his home around Idaville to Rock Chapel, then to Bendersville, returning home after an 18-20 mile journey on foot.

Rock Chapel was rebuilt in 1849 at a cost of $800. Dr. Peck, who later became Bishop, preached at the laying of the new cornerstone. The graveyard was established in connection with the Chapel after its rebuilding.

During the Civil War, woolen blankets from Heikes’ woolen mill were hidden in the attic of Rock Chapel to protect them from confiscation by General Ewell’s Confederate troop encamped at Starrytown (now Heidlersburg).

As the population of the area shifted, the membership of Rock Chapel decreased. By the 1970s, the last weekly service was held in Rock Chapel and the church merged with the York Springs congregation.

A Heritage Service is held the second Sunday of September each year.  And a traditional candlelight worship service is held at 11 pm each Christmas Eve.