Whoever you are and wherever you are on life's journey, you are welcome in this place!
Our Mission: To Welcome All People, Share Christ's Love for One Another, and Help to Make Christ Visible in Daily Life
Jerusalem Western Salisbury
3441 Devonshire Road
Allentown, PA 18103
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Office: 610-797-4242 or 610-791-4979
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January 2014 - Another year has passed and now we are only 24 months away from the start of the 275th Anniversary year in 2016. The committee is hard at work planning events for each month of that year. We will begin and end the anniversary year with a New Year's Eve Event to "Ring in the New Year." This is similar to a a Pennsylvania German holiday tradition that included food, drink, merriment and noise (makers). We will carry on this tradition when we gather at the church on both December 31, 2015 and December 31, 2016. That is just a preview of many more events to come in the anniversary year.
Shooting in the New Year - Painting by Gladys Lutz - Courtesy of the Lynn-Heidelberg Historical Society. Painting is on display at the Pennsylvania German Heritage Center at Kutztown University
2016 marks the church's 275th Anniversary, because the year of 1741 is our founding date. The oldest Lutheran Church Register contains the information regarding this date, recorded for us almost 20 years later by Rev. Daniel Schumacher, the itinerant Lutheran minister:
Anno Domini 1741
Ist die Kirche Gebaut Worden
In Diesem lieben Gottes Haus
Soll Jesus gehen ein un aus,
Un Gott soll hochgelobet werden
Von uns, sein Volk auf dieser Erden,
Das wer hir hoehret Gottes wort
Moeg selig werden hir und dort.
Alles was Odem hat, Lobe den Herrn,
The English translation of the above entry is as follows (translation by Richard L. Musselman):
In the year of our Lord 1741
The church has been built
In this dear God's house
Jesus goes in and out,
And God should be highly praised
By us, his people on this earth,
He who, hears God's word,
Would be saved here and there.
All who are here, praise the Lord.
The Lutheran Church Register in which this is written is priceless treasure, for it also contains the oldest Lutheran baptisms. In the future, it is my hope that the church can restore and preserve this oldest Lutheran register, as well as the oldest Reformed Church register.
Our first church was built of logs, 35 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We know very little about that first log church. Known as the "Schmaltzgass Kirche" (Lard Valley Church), Rev. Myron O. Rath, one of our Lutheran pastors, stated that "it was crudely built of logs, under whose ministry it was not known; the floor was covered with stones, there was no stove, nor benches, only logs cut for sitting." Very plain indeed, but a place where the Word of God was preached to those early pioneers, to whom religion was central in their life. Two years later, a deed for two acres of land, on which the church had already been built, was secured for the congregation. Rev. William Rath recorded the story of this transaction in Skizzen aus dem Lecha Thale (Scenes of the Lehigh Valley) on page 72 (translated from the original German by Richard L. Musselman):
"An enthusiastic oral buying and selling had been done and closed between Heinrich Roth and Johann Martin Bamberger of one part and Johann Wilhelm Straub, preacher here on the Little Lehigh, and his elders. We give to ourselves this little place (2 acres for 20 shillings), with all rights and freedoms of the land, on which is already built an Evangelical Reformed and Lutheran Church, to honor our God and (provide) our souls [and those who follow] with holy Grace and Righteousness."
Heinrich Roth (1688 - 1754) is buried in our Old Cemetery in the Roth family plot, the oldest family plot on the cemetery. Besides deeding the first two acres of land to the church, Heinrich also attended the first Reformed Coetus in Philadelphia in 1747. Organized by Rev. Michael Schlatter, this was the first meeting of representatives from the Reformed Churches that had been established up to that time. Heinrich Roth was sent to Philadelphia by the congregation with a bag of money in order to try and secure a pastor. Unfortunately it would still be some years before a pastor was secured.
We are truly thankful that despite humble beginnings in 1741, the church has continued nearly 275 years. The log church gave way to a larger frame structure in 1769, and finally an even larger stone structure in 1819 (our current sanctuary, which will celebrate its 200th Anniversary in 2019). All these many years, the church has continued to be a union church, with members of both Lutheran and Reformed (now United Church of Christ) congregations worshiping in the same building. We now further God's ministry in this place in the Union Church tradition with our Shared Ministry, for our church is more than our building. The two congregations now work more closely together than ever before, doing much good ministry by working side by side. Many things would not be accomplished if the two congregations were separate; we are so much stronger together than apart. Also, our church can draw on the resources of both the wider Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, and feel connected to the millions of other Lutheran and UCC members worldwide.
I have appreciated the positive responses to my articles and I am pleased that people are interested in the rich history of our church. If you have a curiosity about our church and its history, please contact me through the church office or at Finkyx@aol.com.
Joshua Arthur Fink, Historian