Emmanuel UCC traces its origins back to a plot of land along School Avenue and a group of Reformed Christians who bought the land from Richard McAllister, Hanover's founder, in 1763. Today, that piece of ground is a municipal park maintained by the Borough of Hanover. Headstones from the original graveyard, many broken and unreadable, mark the spot. A historical marker tells of the mass burial that took place there during the Civil War.
Early records of Emmanuel Reformed Church, which can be found in Guthrie Memorial Library, show receipts for funds received to build the original church and to purchase a bell.
1765—The first congregation was established with 237 members.
The church's first permanent pastor was Rev. Carl Ludwig Boehme (also known as Charles Louis Boehme), who also served as the pastor of Christ's Church (Littlestown), as well as congregations in Abbottstown and Bermudian. Under his leadership (1775-1779), the Emmanuel Reformed Church elected its first consistory, the governing body of the church.
In 1798, under the leadership of the Rev. John C. Gobrecht (1779-1807), the congregation moved out of the log church and into a new brick building erected on the same plot. The bell from the original church moved with them. It was in this church building that the English language was introduced into the church.
In 1856, under the leadership of the Rev. Jacob Sechler (1837-1859), the brick church was torn down and a new church (the 4th meeting place of this congregation) was built on Emmanuel's current location at 124 Broadway for an entire cost of $68,000. Once again, the bell from the first church moved with the congregation to its new location, however it cracked while ringing during Sunday morning services Aug. 13, 1860. A new bell was purchased the following year.
During the pastorate of the Rev. John C. Bowman (1882-1890) the first English service of the community was held in Emmanuel Church. Those of the membership desiring the continuing of German language service were urged to form a second Reformed church in Hanover, which they did.
In 1890, the first cornerstone of the new church was laid at the rear of the existing church building that stands today at 124 Broadway and became the first stone of the chapel, which is known as King Auditorium in the current church.
Designed in a tudor/gothic style by architect John A. Dempwolf (York, PA), who also designed the Eichelberger Performing Arts Theater, the building was dedicated on September 18, 1904.
Of special note in the current sanctuary are the stained glass windows. The three-panel Christ window over the altar was designed and manufactured by Louis Comfort Tiffany (NY) and dedicated “To the glory of God and in loving memory of Jacob Forney (1797-1882), his wife, Elizabeth Forney (1803-1861) and their daughter Sarah Forney (1835-1872). The central panel is occupied by the figure of Christ with hands outstretched in invitation, a field of lilies and sky of rich, deep sunset tones forming the background.
The stained glass windows to the left and right of the altar were created by an unknown artist but are noted for their exceptional painted detail of Old and New Testament saints.
A traditional rose window decorates the balcony. Smaller stained glass windows line the sides of the church with ministers of the church named beneath them.
The windows in the vestibule were presented by the Primary Sunday School. The Sunday School as a whole presented the large, unique chandelier which is in the form of a cross and contains electric lights.
The marble altar is a memorial to Rev. George Resser. On April 16, 1901 Rev. Resser was standing on a temporary platform for the cross to be installed atop the steeple. As he was examining the plumb line, he took a step backward and fell to his death at the age of 31 years.
One tradition at Emmanuel which continues today is the annual Christmas Carol Sing begun by the late Rev. Abner S. DeChant in 1911. Carol booklets, still used, were a gift from John Wanamaker of Philadelphia.