Pastor with Greencastle ties to observe Titanic 100th anniversary

Pastor Jeffrey Dunkle will merge faith with history at his church this Sunday.

Jeffrey Dunkle, senior pastor at Manheim Grace Brethren Church in Manheim, has orchestrated 'A Titanic Sunday' for April 15, to observe the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Dunkle is a 1971 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School.

"I'm not aware of any other church pausing for this," he said. "It's kind of unique."

His goal is to encourage his congregation and visitors to learn lessons about courage and to understand the spiritual context of events that horrific night.

"There were many heroes," he continued. "People gave up their lifeboat seats so others could live."

A movie at 9:30 a.m. will highlight the life of John Harper, a Scottish minister on his way to the United States to preach. Witnesses reported he spent his final moments sharing his faith and gave away his life jacket. The wealthy John Jacob Astor sent his wife on without him.

At the 10:30 a.m. worship service people will sing songs connected to the history of the great ship, including "Nearer My God to Thee", which is popularly believed to have been played by the band to the end. Another is "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," sung during Captain John Smith's church service April 14.

Grace Brethren, located at 333 E. High St., will also have a display of Titanic memorabilia. "It's some really cool stuff," said Dunkle, who has been a Titanic buff since childhood.

It started when he read his father's copy of "The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters". He has studied the history of the event; visited exhibits in Tampa, Harrisburg, Baltimore and Orlando; and collected related items.

Dunkle, 58, is the son of Wayd and Shirley Dunkle. He and his wife Ruth have three children, Tim, Dave and Rachel, and a grandson Zack.

For his special activities on Sunday, he said, "It's good for people of faith to pause and reflect. Stories of the Titanic carry a human perspective. It was a test of people's character."