Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church celebrates anniversary
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS The walls of Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church started rising in 2002.
It is believed by the Christian faithful that Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which His church is built.
Some years ago, a group of followers took a giant leap of faith. Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Trachsville left the comfort of the known and bravely blazed a path to build a new foundation. Literally. They wanted to build a new church.
Jerusalem Lutheran Church and Jerusalem Reformed Church had been a union church since 1848. But when growth, a change of outlook and paths of destination created a "Y" in the road to the future, it was agreed to dissolve the church on June 17, 2001.
Jerusalem United Church of Christ became the sole occupant of the old church. Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church pressed on to build a new church across the street, hiring Howard Kulp of Howard Kulp Architects, P.C. as the architect, and Thomas Schmidt of George T. Schmidt Construction Co. Inc. to build it.
Through faith, dedication and fundraising, they achieved that goal. On a cold autumn day, Oct. 5, 2003, their first service was held inside, even though there were unfinished walls, no heat and no pews. The proud parishioners wore sweaters and coats and sat on their own folding chairs in their new sanctuary, which can seat 250 people. In a letter from the Rev. Donald Wert, pastor at that time, he says of that day, "Upon entering the vestibule or gathering place it was evident we didn't need a completed furnished church. The warmth and joy shared among us that first day was all that was needed. We truly rejoiced and were glad to be in this new house of the Lord."
That warmth and joy is still being felt today as the church celebrated its 10th anniversary on Oct. 6.
Kit and Frank Hall III of Kunkletown have been members since 1993 and active in the church. Frank was inspired by the book Norman Burger wrote for Chestnuthill Township's 250th anniversary. He received permission from the church's council to compile a history of the church. For four consecutive Sundays leading up to the anniversary, he read installments of the church's history during each service.
"I think we're proud of seeing a fruition of a dream. It was a celebration of our worship's progress and a reminder that God's work is never done, but we have a nice home to pursue that dream," says Frank of the celebration.
During Sunday School time members and visitors watched a slide show prepared by Frank Hall IV, organist, that portrayed the process of building the church, along with candid snapshots of members at various functions.
In the Rev. Brian Holben's sermon, he said that it was literally hundreds of people who made the new church possible. The building is more than just its exterior. When he came to Jerusalem, he came as a pastor to build a church from within its walls because a church is more than a building. The church is the people.
"In the beginnings of the church, people met in caves, catacombs so the Romans could not find them. Later they met in people's homes. It wasn't until much later that they built structures ... Churches are the only place we openly come to worship God ... Without Christ, it surely will fall no matter how well the walls are built."
He quoted from the church's mission statement.
"It is well said. May we continue to follow that mission for another 100 years."
State Rep. Doyle Heffley presented a citation to the church.
Immediately following the service, a luncheon, prepared by members, was served.
The church is about two-thirds paid off. Members still continue giving in their pledge campaign, "A Time To Build" and through its many fundraising events held throughout the year.
Joan Greene, Jerusalem's council president said they wanted to hold the 10th year anniversary to celebrate a success.
"Though we have had some tough moments, we have been paying our mortgage payments on time. This was our way of saying 'Thank you' to all the members of the congregation who donate money toward the mortgage month after month."
Greene said it was also a way to celebrate the volunteers.
"We couldn't do it without them. They are our strength. My hope is that 10 years from now we will be able to burn the mortgage, because we have paid it in full. Faith is what a church is all about."