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Gateway to Heaven
LOWER ALLEN TWP., CUMBERLAND COUNTY, PA.
The Mennonites first came to Cumberland County in the 1790’s and early 1800’s from Lancaster County and settled in Lower Allen Twp. The original families reflected names associated with businesses of that era ~ Eberly, Hertzler, Hess, Martin, Mumma, Rupp, Weber, and Zimmerman. During the first years they held religious services in their homes. In 1816 they constructed a meeting house on land donated by avid Martin, on a hill along present day Slate Hill Rd. During the first half of the nineteenth century, more families immigrated to the area and the congregation grew beyond the capacity of the 1816 building. Some Mennonite families moved further west along Lisburn Rd. and developed the Erb’s Mennonite Church which was built in 1835.
By the 1870’s, the Slate Hill Church found that its building had become too small to serve the growing congregation. In 1876, a new building was constructed as well as increased cemetery land. At about the same time, the congregation developed a Sunday school program which was recognized as an innovation among the other Mennonite churches. Throughout the next 100 years, conference wide meetings were held at Slate Hill to improve Sunday schools in the whole Lancaster Conference.
As more Mennonites came into the area, a sister church was built in Churchtown in 1885 (Allen). Until the mid-1960’s, Slate Hill Mennonite Church and the Churchtown Mennonite Church cooperated with scheduling evening programs, Bible schools and special meetings.
For many years, the cemetery next to Slate Hill Church was used as needed by members. In September, 1899, a formal charter was filed with the Court of Cumberland County for incorporation of the "Slate Hill Church and Burial Ground Association." In 1907, six more acres were added to the present cemetery.
With the coming of the twentieth century, the Slate Hill congregation began a mission outreach, in the 1950’s. They started with a sewing circle mission prayer group, and cottage and street meetings in Harrisburg.
By the mid-20th century the makeup of the congregation was essentially comprised of Swiss-German Families involved in agriculture and small businesses from Mechanicsburg and surrounding areas. As the suburban and industrial communities started to develop, a transition also took place within the composition of the congregation. The newer worshippers that attended services were business oriented, educators, and professionals that brought new talents that helped with the ministry of the church. Also, Slate Hill became quite active in helping with the Asian refugee problem in the 1970’s and 80’s and had quite a significant ministry in that area.
Currently the congregation is growing along with the area. New jobs and opportunities still bring in a wide range of interests and talents to serve in the ministry of the church. The church continues to be a place of worship for those whose ancestors founded the congregation and for those who have begun to attend in recent years. Together the congregation seeks to grow in the spiritual community of Jesus Christ, who by the power of the Holy Spirit, seek to minister the healing love of God to one another and the world.
Gateway Bible Baptist Church