A lot has changed during Norma Gate's 89 years with Quickel Evangelical Lutheran Church.

During the 1960s, she became the first woman to serve on the church's council. Now six of the 12 members are females.

There weren't many women in ministry while Gates grew up in the church at 60 Canal Road Extended in Conewago Township. Today, the congregation is led by a woman, the Rev. Barbara Barry.

Gates said when she was a girl, communion was served quarterly, drawing huge crowds of church members from around the community. Today, people come to communion served weekly.

During Gates' younger years, it was customary to sing hymns while seated. Now, the congregation stands.

"It's still an interesting church, and I love it dearly," said Gates, a former Conewago Township resident living in York City. "Whenever I need help, they're always there. With all the changes, I wonder how the church will be 40 years from now."

Celebration: Gates said she is thankful to be part of Quickel's 250th church anniversary yearlong celebration, which begins Sunday with a message from the pastor. The church has services at 8 and 10:30 a.m.

Special services will be held each month with guest speakers until the celebration concludes Oct. 27, 2013, with a sermon by the Lower Susquehanna Synod bishop.

Quickel dates back to 1763, when the congregation was part of the

Spring Garden Charge and its services were held in the home of early German settlers, according to the church's website at www.quickellutheran.org.

Though "Zion" was its initial name, the church was widely known as Quickel, as its first church structure was built on land acquired in 1770 from Michael and Barbara Quickel.

Margie Walker, chairwoman of the 250th anniversary committee, describes Quickel as a close-knit church was a busy congregation.

"It's not a huge church where you're just a number," said Walker, 58, a member since 1987. "I've gone through some things in my life that being part of Quickel has helped me through. When I had cancer, the people prayed for me. They helped and did things for me."

The members are not only supportive of each other; they've also reached out to serve their community, said Lenora Bear, who sings on the church choir and is an anniversary committee member.

She said the congregation supports local food and clothing pantries. Several members volunteer at the Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania, based in the city. The church's Women of Evangelical Lutheran in America group makes quilts that are distributed worldwide to families in need through Lutheran World Relief, said Bear, 82.

Past and future: The church has a great history and does noteworthy deeds, but there is more work to do for its future, said Joyce Frigm, the church's organist and anniversary committee member.

Like Gates, Frigm said she is thinking about the church's role in the future decades from now.

"It's good to be able to look back, but it's also a time to look forward," said Frigm, 63. "I would like us to be able to increase our membership and have more programs for kids. The kids we have here are great, very open and very welcoming. They're developing a sense for the church to continue to grow."

As the church embarks on its yearlong celebration, Barry said she hopes members will continue to learn what it means to be a disciple in their relationship with God.

"It's the point where we realize that it's not about us, it's about God and God's place in this community and in the lives of his people," she said. "I would hope that we might continue to do God's work and make a difference in our community in the name of Jesus Christ."

If you go:

Quickel Evangelical Lutheran Church will begin its yearlong 250th anniversary celebration Sunday.

The church has services at 8 and 10:30 a.m. at 60 Canal Road Extended in Conewago Township.

Special services will be held each month with guest speakers until the celebration concludes Oct. 27, 2013.

For more information, call 266-4179.