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First Baptist Church notes 150th anniversary

  • Rep. Julie Harhart reads a citation before presenting it to the Rev. James LeVan.
    Rep. Julie Harhart reads a citation before presenting it to the Rev. James LeVan.
Published November 13. 2009 05:00PM

The lessons and contributions of the past provided a springboard to the future when the congregation of a Slatington church gathered to celebrate a special occasion.

"My son is the pastor," said the Rev. James LeVan's mother who attends First Baptist Church in Slatington. She comes from Lancaster every Sunday when there is no snow, but for the recent 150th anniversary celebration many other family members came also.

Deacon Bob Berger asked the congregation to observe a quiet time of meditation before the service began.

"Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" was sung a song that may have been sung at the first service 150 years earlier.

The Rev. James LeVan said God never changes, but life was very different 150 years ago. He said, "It gives me goosebumps thinking of singing that song in Welsh years ago."

In the prayer LeVan said, "We are trying to learn from the past."

He welcomed Slatington Mayor Walter Niedermeyer to the service and said several members of the congregation who were born in the 1930s still attend.

Kevin Green of the City Rescue Mission in New Castle recalled the members of First Baptist who have sewn seeds in him.

Northern Lehigh food bank director Dale Bryfogle came across the street from St. John's Lutheran to speak at First Baptist. She said the church reaches out to the food bank. In 1986 it served 11 people. By 2008 it served 269 households for a total of 724 people, providing 247,147 pounds of food.

A week earlier 10 families had called for emergency rations when the food bank was closed. "Many of them have worked hard all their lives and now they need help," said Bryfogel.

Sue Ann MacDonald, a member of the regional Baptist board, said Slatington is one of 320 churches in the region. The regional mission is to form partnerships and provide workshops.

Rep. Julie Harhart recalled visiting First Baptist when Clifford Best was given his graduation certificate, something he earned after years of working on the canal.

"I feel honored that you invited me to your 150th. You had trials and tribulations. It takes a strong congregation to keep it going through the generations," said Harhart. She read and then presented to LeVan a citation from the House of Representatives.

Dan MacDonald, a former interim executive minister for the regional American Baptist Church, gave the sermon.

He said, "What a great day 150 years. It took me two hours to get here so I'll preach for two hours. But Jim (LeVan) told me to keep it short. We're in the company of giants today, a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before.

No church gets to this point without standing on the shoulders of giants. We're here because people in the past have made this congregation possible.

He invited the congregation to imagine being present when Jesus first taught his disciples the Sermon on the Mount.

"I would like to have been there, but the time came when Jesus said 'I will not be here.' His leaving permitted the Holy Spirit to come. You are here today because of them.

"May God Bless your celebration and your future," MacDonald concluded.

"God Be With You Till We Meet Again" was sung in the Welsh manner with the last verse sung a cappella.

The congregation traveled to Blue Ridge Country Club for a celebratory banquet.

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