Early pastors return for ecumenical service at Little White Church
ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Dr. Paul Brindjar, Betsy Burnhauser and the Rev. Jerry Mraz were participants in the ecumenical service at the Little White Church, Palmerton.
The prelude to the ecumenical worship service at the Little White Church was a Christmas Carol Medley played by the Resurrection Ringers of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. The group is directed by Elizabeth Reif, and also played throughout the service.
The service was held Dec. 4, but during her welcome Palmerton Area Historical Society Secretary Betsy Burnhauser recalled one year when there was snow on the first Sunday and the second Sunday and the third Sunday. The service was finally held on the fourth Sunday.
"I think tonight will be a memorable one because our faithful pump organ has been retired," she said.
"Holy Trinity Lutheran met at the Little White Church while their own church was being built. One of the denominations that used the church was Slovak Lutheran and we have two gentlemen here who served in the church 30 years ago: Dr. Paul Brindjar and the Rev. Jerry Mraz.
Brindjar commended the Palmerton Area Historical Society, saying it is nice to see the church "alive like this." It was built in 1844.
"Think of all the people who sat in those pews," he said.
When he was in seminary he was told he'd be spending a summer in Palmerton. In 1977 with the congregation down to three or four people the Slovak ministry decided to close the church but others came. It had been Slovak for 40 or 50 years. The pastors came from Northampton.
He and Pastor Mraz came up this summer and were invited to serve at the ecumenical worship. "Of course we were happy to come," said Brindjar.
Mraz said the last time he came up the steps to the church with the exception of the summer visit and this night was in 1973 when he substitute pastored.
He held a Slovak service at 9 a.m. in Northampton and an English one at 10 a.m. Then he'd come once a month and hold a Slovak service in Palmerton. He asked if any of the people were there from the time when it was Holy Trinity Slovak or if they knew Windish, a closely related language. Some that replied affirmatively were Hungarian. One had a church caretaker as a grandfather.
"The majority of us are here because our ancestors came from another country," said Mraz.
One day the sexton opened the church for him and it was filled with gases from the furnace. Windows were opened and the service was held in the cold.
He said he is a visitation minister at Holy Lutheran, Cherryville. It was through members there that he learned that the Little White Church was alive and well. He called the historical society and arranged for the two of them to visit.
Carol Thomas played the new Allen organ for "O Come All Ye Faithful."
The scripture reading that told of Jesus' birth was read first in English and then in Slovak so people could hear the language.
The Rev. Mraz led a Christmas Eve prayer that had been written by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The message was given by Dr. Brindjar "In the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." He said in December people are told what to buy and what to cook. They end up getting Santaclaustophobia. He said people were gathered at the church for a Christmas worship service.
"Generations come and go but the word of God is forever. German, Windish, Hungarian, English and Slovak all use words that bow before the Word of the Lord," he said.
The weather today was glorious but we gather in the dark and cold (early evening) and when it is dark and cold in our lives it is known. We are told the economy has not been this bad for years. Do you think people who worshipped here did not have problems: the boom and bust cycles of the zinc and steel industries, World War I and II? This building was here through all of that.
The Word became flesh to share the dark and cold. It was a light shown in the darkness. If our children and grandchildren receive the word and trust in it their lives will be fulfilled. The Lord comes not only at Christmas but all the time.
The Lord said, "'I am with you always to the end of ages.' The Word of the Lord remains forever," Brindjar said.
The Society wishes you and yours a most blessed Christmas and a happy holiday season, said Burnhauser