Sunday School - 9:15 a.m.
Wednesdays - 6:30 p.m.
Bible Study & Prayer
Berwick Bible Church was founded in 1932 as a result of the evangelistic ministry of brothers Robert (1913-76) and Arden (b.1907) Lancaster. Sons of Fred Lancaster, a Wilkes-Barre coal mine boss, both young men were converted during revival meetings held at the Primitive Methodist Church in Parsons, Pennsylvania. In 1929, they dedicated their lives to Christian service under the preaching of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse at Montrose Bible Conference. In 1930, Evangelist Frank Whitesell encouraged Bob to take a year off from his studies at Wheaton College and evangelize the area around Wilkes-Barre and the Susquehanna Valley. Bob and Arden decided that the Lord was leading them into evangelism and, in January, 1931, the Lancaster Brothers Evangelistic Campaigns began as an extension ministry of the Wyoming Valley Bible Tabernacle. Bob preached and Arden served as the chorister at the meetings, which were held in a portable wooden tabernacle that was moved from town to town. Noxen was one of the first locations of a Lancaster campaign, and, in 1931, the Noxen Bible Church was founded as a direct result of the meetings.
In May, 1932, the Lancasters reached Berwick and erected the tabernacle at the corner of Mercer Street and Route 11. Only six people attended the first meeting, but all six prayed to receive Christ as Savior during the invitation. From that small beginning, the meetings in Berwick grew as the townspeople responded with enthusiasm to the evangelistic, premillennial messages. Many begged Bob and Arden to stay and begin a permanent work, but the brothers believed they ought to continue their campaigns down river to Bloomsburg. The response in Bloomsburg was not nearly so strong as it had been in Berwick, and, after more urging, Bob and Arden returned to Berwick in September and held another campaign on the corner of Warren Street and Spring Garden Avenue. Eighty townspeople signed a petition requesting them to organize a church. In October, the Berwick Bible Tabernacle was founded, the first premillennial, nondenominational Bible church ever established in the town. The new work prospered.
Throughout the remainder of the 1930's, the ministry of the Lancaster brothers continued to expand. Alongside their growing pioneer work in Berwick and their evangelistic campaigns, the brothers also had a daily radio program, "The Evangelistic Hour," on WGBI in Scranton. In addition, in 1934, the Lancasters conducted an evangelistic campaign in the town of Red Rock, near the present-day site of Ricketts Glen State Park. So much interest was aroused by the campaign that holiday picnics were held that summer, and the popularity of the picnics grew each year until the number of attendees had to be limited. In 1936, six men, including Bob and Arden, established the Undenominational Bible Association of Pennsylvania (U.B.A.P.) to oversee the ministry of the brothers. The U.B.A.P. then purchased the land at Red Rock and began the North Mountain Bible Conference. Bob Lancaster served as the conference director and Arden assisted him. The first full conference season was held in the summer of 1941, and throughout its thirty-year history, North Mountain was host to some of the finest Bible teachers and Gospel singers in the U.S., Great Britain, and Canada. In 1940 the brothers also founded the Sunbury Bible Church just outside of Northumberland.
The expansion of the Lancasters' ministry did not conflict with the growth of the church in Berwick. On the contrary, the conference and radio broadcast helped strengthen the church, and the church, in turn, supported both of those ministries and had close fellowship with the Sunbury church. The berwick Bible Tabernacle, located on Spring Garden Avenue, grew. By 1935, the sawdust floor and coal stoves were replaced with wooden floors and oil heat. Sunday School for the children was held every Sunday, and the youth had a strong discipleship program. In the early years, regular services were held Sunday morning and evening with evangelistic services in the afternoon. Once the Sunbury Church and the North Mountain Conference were established, an early morning service was held in Sunbury, followed by the morning service in Berwick, an afternoon service in Sunbury, and an evening service in Berwick. During the conference season, the afternoon services were conducted simultaneously at the conference and in Berwick. This necessitated that Pastor Bob Lancaster prepare four separate sermons for each Sunday!
The congregation in Berwick continued to flourish under the simple, yet powerful, preaching of Pastor Bob and the faithful visitation and songleading ministry of Pastor Arden. In 1952, the U.B.A.P. and its churches joined the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA). By 1956, the congregation in Berwick had outgrown the Tabernacle's facilities, and the lot at the present site on Spring Garden Avenue was purchased from the Barnum family. In 1956, the church moved to its present location and was incorporated as the Berwick Bible Church, with a full board of elders and deacons elected to assist the pastors. The mortgage on the new facility was quickly paid, and in May, 1964, a mortgage-burning ceremony took place. The continued growth of the congregation soon necessitated further expansion, and in 1966, the front of the auditorium was enlarged to provide room for a larger stage and additional classrooms. In 1968, the parsonage was built and Pastor Bob and his family moved there from Sunbury. By the time Arden Lancaster retired from the pastorate in 1972, Sunday morning attendance averaged around 400.
The retirement of Arden Lancaster in the spring of 1973 would prompt Pastor Bob to contact former church attendee, Howard Welsh, to consider accepting the position of Youth Pastor. At the time, Howard and his family were serving as missionaries in Canada. The Welsh family agreed to return to Berwick in April of the same year. A prolific youth ministry was established under the leadership of Howard and his wife. They also provided support for the church as Pastor Bob’s health continued to decline. The Welshes remained at Berwick Bible until the summer of 1977.
Pastor Earl Grabey from New York State became Interim Pastor for approximately one year. In 1983, Michael Davidson followed Pastor Berkheiser as pastor, and his pastorate saw a settling of the tumult that had accompanied the church split. During this period, the bus ministry had declined and as a result, Rick Wilson was hired as a Youth Pastor in 1985. In 1989 Pastor Davidson resigned to move to Maryland to become pastor of a Baptist Church. Rick Wilson then gave his resignation to begin to look for a pastoral position which he later accepted in rural western Pennsylvania. Upon Davidson and WIlson's resignation, the church again began the search for a pastor. During the interim Pastor Earl Grabey again served until George Bryson was installed in October, 1990.
Under Pastor Bryson's ministry, the missions program remained strong and in 1991 the van and bus ministry was renewed to reach out to many homes in the Berwick area. Barry Belles was very instrumental in this ministry. From early 1992 until 1995, Juan Lopez came and in exchange for living in the small house at 1408R Spring Garden Avenue directed a Word of Life Club for teens each Wednesday night and helped with other duties around the church. Other children's programs were added and the Wednesday Night Family Ministries were begun with bus and van transportation bringing in many community children. In 1998, the message of the Gospel from Berwick Bible Church returned to secular local radio with Pastor Bryson's radio ministry: on Sunday "First Things First" and on weekdays "Wait a Minute" on WKAB. From 1995 to 1998 Assistant Pastor Kenneth Lindow served while living at 1432 Spring Garden Avenue and in 1999 Mark Barilla became Assistant Pastor. In the early spring of 2000, the church auditorium was completely renovated, a new roof was put on the building, and plans call for the addition of a multi-purpose building to increase the space available for ministry.
At the dawn of a new century, Berwick Bible Church stands firmly upon the Biblical foundation laid by the Lancaster brothers, and continues to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to a needy world. We seek above all to bring honor and glory to the One who gave His life in payment for our sins at Calvary and rose victoriously from the dead -- our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.