Parishioners and friends of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Summit Hill, held a special celebration on Sunday, taking time to remember its past as well as to make commitments to the future as part of a 160th anniversary observance.

The church was founded in 1849 when early parishioners gathered in homes throughout Summit Hill, having previously walked from Summit Hill to Tamaqua every Sunday to attend services in a church of their own denomination.

Bishop Rev. Samuel Zeiser, head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, joined church members and the Rev. John F. Hazel Jr., pastor, for the anniversary service. Also participating were the Rev. Kurt Garbe, associate to the bishop, and Emma Weaver, a member of the church and a synodically-appointed lay minister.

Bishop Zeiser, a native of Jim Thorpe, delivered the sermon, telling the parishioners the future of the church is dependent upon continuing the spirit of its forefathers.

Recalling that past, the bishop related that 99 years ago, St. Paul's hosted a meeting of 60 congregations of the Wilkes-Barre conference, saying the church was packed with pastors and congregational leaders." He added, For one great shining moment, this building was the center of the earth for the Wilkes-Barre conference," adding, how fortunate we are to be the ones to celebrate its 160th anniversary."

The bishop continued, This great fortune arises because this fellowship of faith has survived difficult times...we cannot take for granted that survival."

His remarks related to those of the gospel of the day, Mark 10:35-45, in which it is proclaimed, The Son of Man came not to be serveed, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many."

To that, the bishop added, The mission you have carried out here holds trong. The people of St. Paul Lutheran Church continue to hear testimony to their faith through lives of service, demonstrating they are true disciples in Jesus' name."

He told the congregation, You find that coming here to this building helps to define yourselves in ways that bring you joy and meaning. Whatever had prompted you, it is your good fortune to call this community of faith 'yours.'"

He furthered that church members in 1849 were people who were determined to affirm what the gospel can do even in the midst of difficult circumstances," and challenged the parish, On this meaningful day, we celebrate the commitment that all have given to this congregation, and offer our own commitment to the future. Let us try to keep their forward-looking spirit alive in worship and celebration. Let there be no turning back."

The service included special music by the church choir, while the children of the parish sang Jesus Loves Me."

Following the service, parishioners, guests and friends attended an anniversary dinner at the Mahoning Valley Ambulance building.

Serving as 2009 officers of the congregation are Rev. Habel, president; Louis Vermillion, vice president; Gary Blake, secretary; Maxine Vermillion, treasurer; and Daryl Marshall, financial secretary. Other board members include Robert Breiner, Walter Breiner III, Sherri Buzik, Brian Buzik and Donna Maynard.

Church members who comprised the Disciples of Christ Committee" that planned the anniversary celebration included Blake, Weaver, Mary Ann Hazel, Rev. Hazel, Sherri and Brian Buzik and Paige Rex.