In reflecting upon the twenty-five-year period that this chapter encompasses, we can quickly point to numerous events that remain so fresh in our memories today-that you would think they had just taken place. This period would begin with the killing of a president, and it almost ended with the killing of another. In the interim we experienced, and became familiar with, race riots, drugs, Vietnam, Watergate, the Bicentennial, world famine, and AIDS.
But, as much as the world may have seemed to be spinning out of control, within the four walls of the church a peaceful calm prevailed. Certainly there was change, but when in our history hadn't there been; however, an attitude of cooperation was evident nearly everywhere throughout most of those twenty-five years. Harmony existed between the two congregations, the likes of which had never before been seen, and which allowed the two congregations to peacefully coexist within those same four walls.
Legitimately, this period should have had its start with 1959, for it was the somewhat hasty departure of Rev. Ziegenfuss and the untimely death of Rev. Haas, both in that year, that set the stage for the beginning of this twenty-five-year period. With vacancies in both pulpits, the two congregations were once again faced with the task of naming successors.
The Lutheran congregation was the first to have to deal with its vacancy. Once again, as so many times before, a call went out for a new pastor. Answering that call was a thirty-year-old native of Greece, New York, with ties to the Lehigh Valley, the Rev. Richard H. Schaefer.
Rev. Schaefer was born October 1, 1929, and raised in the Rochester, New York, area. Upon graduating from John Marshall High School, Rev. Schaefer entered Muhlenberg College, graduating with the class of 1951. His next step, educationally, was to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he graduated with the class of 1954.
In May of 1954, he was ordained by the Rev. Dr. Charles E. Cooper at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Rochester. Afterwards, in June of 1954, he began to serve his first pastorate. That parish was the Bechtelsville-Niantic Parish, where he had spent some time during his days in the seminary.
Rev. Schaefer preached in that parish until August of 1959, when he received his call to Ebenezer. Aside from his obvious connection to the Lehigh Valley as a Muhlenberg College graduate, Rev. Schaefer had even closer ties to the New Tripoli area. On August 8,1953, Rev. Schaefer was married to the former Ruth C. Rahn, the daughter of Rev. & Mrs. Clarence R. Rahn. Rev. Rahn, for those not familiar, was the very popular pastor of Jacob's Church in Jacksonville.
While in residence at New Tripoli, the Schaefers became the parents of two children: Susan in September of 1960, and Peter in October of 1962. Rev. Schaefer and his wife were well-liked by members of both congregations of Ebenezer Church, as can be evidenced by the strong friendships that developed during his tenure, and that continue to this day. The thoughts of many Ebenezer members were with Rev. Schaefer and his family during the Iran hostage situation, when Rev. Schaefer's brother, Col. Thomas Schaefer, was one of those held captive in Iran.
The choice for Rev. Haas's successor was a young man, thirty-two years of age, by the name of Rev. Earl R. Marks. Rev. Marks was born on May 8, 1927, to Mr. & Mrs. Robert R. Marks.
Educationally, Rev. Marks graduated from Richland High School in 1945. He then entered Lebanon Valley College on the accelerated program, graduating with the class of 1947. His spiritual training was from the Lancaster Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1950.
On October 28,1950, Rev. Marks was married to the former Arlene Wiest of Reinholds, and in 1956 they became the parents of a daughter, Susan.
Rev. Marks was a very active man prior to serving Ebenezer. From 1950 to 1959 he served the Lykens Valley Charge which, under his guidance, developed into the Up-Lynn Group Ministry. In addition, his active involvement prior to and during his stay at Ebenezer, in many programs and committees of the Synod, gave him valuable experience to be used in the field. He felt that there was usefulness in committee work and, under his guidance, many new committees were formed at Ebenezer to further the work of the U.C.C. congregation.
It was during this period of time, the early 1960s, that a group with a long history at Ebenezer, was at one of its strongest points ever. That group is the Ebenezer Church Choir, led by the organist and choir director. No church history would be complete without homage being paid to this loyal, dedicated group of men, women, and children, who participate at every scheduled church service, and then some.
Making a joyful noise unto the Lord has always had a special meaning to the congregations worshiping at Ebenezer. From its earliest days, the title of "Orgel Kirche" or Organ Church had been associated with Ebenezer. It is not known when the first choir was formed, but one can guess that it was very early, probably coinciding with the arrival of one of the church's organs.
Over the many years of the choir's existence, the music that it has presented has changed, along with the times. The old songs, such as Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," gradually gave way in the Victorian period and early twentieth century to songs like "Faith Of Our Fathers," "Rock Of Ages," and "Nearer My God To Thee," standards for their time. Today, in addition to the many old favorites, new songs different in style and extracted from many different cultures have become part of our religious musical worship. They are songs such as "Let Us Break Bread Together," "Go Tell It On The Mountain," and "There Is A Balm In Gilead." These songs, for better or for worse, and while not favorites of each and every one of us, have now become standards themselves.
Fortunately for the congregations and the choir of Ebenezer Church, the position of organist and choir director has been held by a succession of gifted and talented individuals. The earliest recorded record that we have of an organist at Ebenezer is that of Frederick Smith. For twenty-six years he filled that position-from 1850 until his death in April of 1876. As mentioned previously in this work, in addition to his duties as organist, he also taught at the church school and tilled the church lands.
Next in line for the position of organist, and a natural successor to Frederick Smith, was his son, Prof. Theodore Smith. Born to Frederick and Mary (Schwab) Smith on July 10,1848, he was educated in the township schools and in later years he became a teacher in them. His musical training in voice and piano came from his father. Upon his father's death in April, 1876, he became the church organist and choirmaster. He filled this position until his death on October 29, 1909. He was married to the former Ruth Weiss, and together they were the parents (of three children.
The sudden death of Prof. Smith was felt deeply by the church community. In response, the Joint Council-Consistory drew up a set of "resolutions," expressing both its grief at the loss of a good friend of the church and its gratitude for an earthly job well done. Copies of these resolutions were then printed in The Morning Call, and a copy was sent to the bereaved family and, finally, one set was read aloud from the pulpit at Prof. Smith's funeral. As one final sign of respect for its lost maestro, the Carnegie Organ was draped in black for a period of thirty days.
Before a new organist was hired to fill the vacancy left by Prof. Smith's demise, the Joint Council-Consistory laid down some new job specifications. First, for the first time in the position's history, the organist was to receive a salary. Prof. Smith, like his father, had received the church home and the use of the church acreage in lieu of a salary. His successor's salary was set at "$2,000 per annum," and it was now up to him to find suitable housing.
The second requirement was "that the organist was to officiate at all the regular and special services of the sanctuary and Sunday School." It goes on to state that "if he absented himself from Sunday School he shall arrange with his assistant to take his place."
The final requirement was that the organist "have a junior choir in constant training and that the same sing at least six times a year at evening services of each congregation. "The new organist was given one job benefit, however, and that was that he "be allowed the use of the pipe organ for his personal practice.
The organist who was hired to fill this vacancy was Prof. Edgar DeLong of Trumbaursville. Not much is known of the tenure of Prof. DeLong other than that he assumed his duties sometime in December of 1909, and asked to be relieved of his position in November of 1912. Once again resolutions of respect were drawn up and submitted to the local papers. Mrs. Clinton Leiby, the assistant organist, was to fill in until a replacement could be found.
A music committee was formed to procure a new organist, and in February of 1913 Mr. Henry J. Landes of Snyder's Church, Northampton County, was elected as the replacement. His tenure at Ebenezer would last until 1918. In April of that year he tendered his resignation, effective immediately. The resolutions drawn up upon his departure lead us to believe that health reasons were the cause of his departure from the church community. They state: "whereas Mr. Landes has decided on account of his general health to become a clerk." They continue by stating what a tremendous loss to church and community his leaving creates. Once again Mrs. Clinton Leiby, and also Miss Hattie Loy, were called in to fill the vacancy until a replacement could be found.
For a two-year period-from April of 1918 until September of 1920-the organist position was held by Lucien Acker of Allentown. Upon his resignation from this position it was finally decided to ask Mrs. Clinton Leiby, the assistant organist, if she would fill the position. With her acceptance, the two congregations found a decade-long solution to the constant turnover in the church organist position.
Mrs. Leiby held this position until February 3,1930, at which time her resignation was accepted by the Joint Council-Consistory. It seems that just prior to that time the church leaders had become unhappy with her performance. A committee was formed to speak with her and rectify the situation. Obviously, not happy with the committee’s actions, she tendered her resignation.
Mrs. Leiby's replacement would provide another long-term solution to the organist situation. In March of 1930, Lawrence Jones, a resident of Siegersville (today the town known as Orefield), was hired to fill the vacancy left by Mrs. Leiby's sudden departure.
Mr. Jones was an accomplished musician who, many felt, was a genius at the piano and organ. Much of his early experience was gained accompanying the likes of Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino from a piano or organ in many of the local theatres.29
As is often the case with those of great genius, temperaments tend to run high, and Lawrence Jones was no exception. As years progressed, Mr. Jones's particular afflictions worsened to the point of temporary bouts of disability. In February of 1943 Abraham Boger filled in briefly as assistant organist during one of Mr. Jones's absences.
By August of 1951, Mr. Jones's illness had become so disabling that it once again became necessary to hire an assistant organist. This time the replacement was Miss Leah Creitz. By January of 1952, it was reported that Mr. Jones's illness had disabled him to the point that he would never play the organ again. His retirement, due to illness, was a great loss to the music program at Ebenezer.
Two organists, who would follow Lawrence Jones, would come and go in quick succession. They were Maynard Bealer, hired in April of 1952 and resigned March 1,1954, and Mae Hauser, hired in June of 1954 and resigned February 7, 1955.
The next long-term organist and choir director at Ebenezer was Leona (Kuder) Beck. Hired as a replacement for Mrs. Hauser in May of 1955, Mrs. Beck would remain at Ebenezer almost fifteen years, until November of 1969.
Leona was a talented musician who received her musical education from Wilber Holman, head of music at Cedar Crest College. In addition to serving as organist, she gave private piano lessons to several area students on Saturday mornings.
Several of the special events that she conducted were Christmas cantatas and Easter cantatas, one of which was the "Crucifixion." Several of the Christmas cantatas were: "God Of Redeeming Grace," "Choral Suite For Christmas," "Love Came Down At Christmas," and many others.
Mrs. Beck's departure to Neffs Church, in an attempt to be closer to home, left a great gap in the music program at Ebenezer. Hired, as her replacement, was a Muhlenberg College student by the name of William A. Heisley.
Bill, as the choir preferred to call him, was organist at Ebenezer from the Advent Season, 1969, until March 1,1972. He studied organ with Dr. Robert Clippinger of State Street United Methodist Church, Harrisburg, and at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He also studied organ with Prof. Ludwig Lenel at Muhlenberg College, and took fifteen credit hours in music appreciation. Today Bill is the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Upper Darby.
Another organist who did not stay with us for a very long period of time was W. Paul Fronheiser. Mr. Fronheiser was organist from April, 1972, until June, 1973, and resided at RD #3, Allentown, while employed at Ebenezer.
Mrs. Hunsicker received her musical training through the public schools of Springford School District and studied privately with Mrs. Lewin Deery (piano), Miss Norma Jean Sulzer, and Mr. Ferdinan Malanki (organ). Following high-school graduation, she earned an elementary music certificate in theory and piano pedagogy from St. Louis Institute of Music. Later she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Albright College and did graduate work at Temple University, not in the field of music, but rather in the science field.
In addition to her organist duties, Joan took over the area-wide youth choir, which was composed of young people from the eleven surrounding churches. This choir sang at church picnics, church services, and the Allentown Fair.
With Joan's departure from Ebenezer, the position of organist was once again vacant. This time the position was offered to Melanie E. Billig. Mrs. Billig came to Ebenezer in September of 1975 and resigned in the fall of 1980. She is a graduate of Mansfield University, with a Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance and Pennsylvania Certification in Music Education. She was also certified by the Lutheran Church in America as a Lay Professional Leader in 1983, and by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as an Associate in Ministry in 1988.
Melanie is married to Robert Billig, a music teacher at Northwestern Lehigh Schools. They are the parents of one son and one daughter, and reside in Schnecksville.
While at Ebenezer, Melanie presented an organ recital and also presented and directed the musical, "Captain Noah And The Floating Zoo," performed by the junior choirs. Several yearly Christmas cantatas presented by the senior choir and directed by Melanie included: "Gloria" by Antonia Vivaldi, "Ceremony Of Carols" by Benjamin Britten, and the "Messiah" by G. F. Handel.
Thelma Warke came to Ebenezer in January of 1981, upon the resignation of Mrs. Billig. During her tenure at Ebenezer, the senior choir sang many beautiful cantatas for the different holidays. The most memorable was "In His Presence," written and arranged by Phil Barfoot. This was the celebration for annual Music Sunday, presented at both the U.C.C. and the Lutheran services in May, 1982. Rev. Russell Heintzelman and Rev. David Roper were the narrators for their respective congregations. The senior choir sang with joyful enthusiasm; the junior choir, under the direction of Thelma's daughter, Kathy, was jubilant, singing "Lift Up The Name Of Jesus, Children." Two of the male choir members coordinated the tape-recorded music. Kathy was a tremendous help with the youth choirs.
The choir also presented this inspiring celebration, "In His Presence," at the Phoebe Home in Allentown and the Lutheran Home in Topton. In September, 1982, they sang the message again at a combined community-night service at Ebenezer Church. The congregations joined in some of the choruses at all the presentations.
It was during Thelma's time as organist that a new enhancement was added to the organ, a generous gift from the Masters family. The clarinet stop's addition was cause to hold a combined evening service featuring well-known organist, Emerson Harding, playing a concert in honor of this organ enhancement.
Thelma reluctantly retired in the spring of 1984 due to a health situation, but felt that it was a great privilege and pleasure and a wonderful spiritual blessing to be of service in the house of the Lord.
Mrs. Warke presently teaches students at her home and plays organ as a substitute. She is married to Melvin Warke, and resides in Schnecksville. They are the parents of three sons and two daughters.
Prior to coming to Ebenezer, Joanne was an organist as a high-school student at St. Matthew's Union Church, Kunkletown, and then organist/choir director at Trinity Lutheran Church, Bowmanstown, for fifteen years. Although she has had no formal music training beyond piano and organ lessons, Joanne contends she has learned church musicianship by "osmosis." Her father, mother, and older sister were all church organists.
Joanne graduated from Millersville State College in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Master's of Education from Lehigh University in 1972. She has done teaching in Permasens, Germany; the Parkland School District; and, presently, first grade in the Northern Lehigh School District.
Joanne is the wife of Charles Perich, who also is a teacher, and they are the parents of three sons and one daughter, all musically inclined. She and her family reside along the Mountain Road in Heidelberg Township.
At the present time the music program consists of a senior choir, youth choir, two handchime choirs, and a children's choir.
The senior choir members are very dedicated and sing at every church service. There is special music on various occasions:
Thanksgiving, Homecoming, Christmas, Easter, and Church Music Sunday. One cantata performed by the senior choir was "The Witness," which was very well-received by the congregations.
The youth choir usually sings once a month in church and at special occasions. Some of the cantatas done by the youth choir were: "The Story-Tellin Man," "Moses And The Freedom Franatics," "The Race Is On," and a talent show of religious/secular music for Family Night. Once a month the children's choir sings. Two cantatas undertaken by this choir were "100% Chance Of Rain" and "Fat, Fat Jehosaphat."
In 1985 two octaves of Malmark handchimes were purchased through generous donations by church members. Enough young people joined the handchime choir to warrant two choirs. The handchime choirs perform in church when scheduling allows. They have played at Cedarbrook and St. John's United Church of Christ in Slatington. As a result of the performance at Slatington, St. John's also purchased handchimes and have several choirs started. The combined youth and handchime choirs have put on a Christmas program at Jacob's Church in Jacksonville and a Rally Day program at the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, Slatedale.
Besides her music ministry, Joanne also taught the eighth grade as a Sunday-School teacher and had been assistant superintendent of Sunday School, being responsible for the Sunday-School Christmas program. Due to her heavy schedule, Joanne is currently not teaching in the Sunday School; she helps whenever she is needed.
To pay respect to the legion of people who have served on the church choir over the years, and name all the individuals, would be a task no historian would relish, for surely some names would be missed. We, as congregation members, owe a great debt of gratitude to all of those who have shown up, and to all of those who continue to show up, at each church service and raise their voices to our Lord.
Katie received her formal training from Prof. Charles Muelhauser in Quakertown. She has served as assistant organist since 1984. Katie is also the piano accompanist for the group known as the "Ebenezer Trio," consisting of herself and William and Miriam Masters. Katie is the wife of Stanley Miller, and they have one son, Robert. They presently reside in Mosserville. Katie's job is a job well done, and many, many thanks are owed her.
The other choir member who served as assistant organist was the late Frederick L. Mantz. In times of transition between organists, or whenever the organist was unable to perform his/her duties, we were always fortunate to have such a faithful and devoted assistant organist, ready to fill in at a moment's notice.
Frederick was born February 12, 1924, the son of Wilmer H. and Norma H. Mantz. He attended Whitehall Public Schools and graduated from Whitehall High School in 1941. He entered West Chester College (now University) until called into military service in World War II.
After returning from the military, he returned to West Chester, graduating in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education. He started teaching music in 1948-1949, traveling among one-room schools in Upper and Lower Macungie Townships. He was recalled to active duty in 1949-1950.
On his return from the service, he became music teacher and band director in the Northwestern Lehigh School District, a position he held from 1950 until his retirement in 1981.
Frederick joined the choir in 1952 and participated faithfully until his untimely death in December of 1981. In addition to playing the piano and organ, he was capable of playing various instruments and oftentimes was responsible for organizing a brass orchestra for various church activities. He had a very beautiful voice, being capable of singing tenor, bass or baritone, and did many solos over the years.
Frederick was always willing to help out whenever something had to be done or fixed pertaining to the choir, such as setting up and taking down the candleholders for the candlelight services, and purchasing candles. He also served as treasurer of the choir fund for many years.
Frederick was not only a friend to the choir, but a friend to Ebenezer as a whole. Whenever help was needed, he was there teaching the fifth-and-sixth grade Sunday-School class, serving as assistant Sunday-School superintendent for three years and Sunday-School superintendent for four years, and even helping to park cars at every Sunday-School picnic. One only needed to call and he would come.
Frederick was the husband of the former Margaret Kuntz, and together they were the parents of two sons: David and Clark. Frederick's sudden death, so unexpectedly, in December of 1981, left a great void in the lives of many, and in the heart of Ebenezer Church. A truer friend would be difficult to find, and he is deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.
Even after the death of so vital a member of its group, the choir carried on. Sadly, though, Frederick's death served to highlight a trend that has been taking place in recent years. As the number of members of groups like the choir have continued to drop, very few young members have stepped forward to take the place of those who have gone.
Fortunately for us, these dedicated people have carried on, recruiting new members, and also coercing former members to rejoin their ranks. The male membership of the choir is presently at one of its lowest points ever, while the women, fortunately, are holding strong.
What will the future hold for Ebenezer's choir; only time will tell. One thing we can be sure of . . . as long as there is an Ebenezer Church and an organ to make the music, there will be a church choir to sing those hymns of long ago to remind us of the musical heritage that our forefathers (and mothers) at Ebenezer created and left for us over these past two hundred fifty years.
The decade of the 1960s was a difficult one, ministerially, at Ebenezer. Gone were the days when pastorates lasted for ten, twenty, or even thirty years. The longest that any of the pastorates at Ebenezer would last during the 1960s was a mere five years. As one minister left, another would arrive to take his place-a trend that would not change until the close of the 1960s.
By spring of 1964, Rev. Marks had been with the Ebenezer U.C.C. congregation for just short of five years. His active involvement with both the charge and the Synod made him a desirable candidate for a position in the Synod hierarchy. When just such a position became available, it was Rev. Marks who was slated to fill it. As June of 1964 came to a close, Rev. Marks departed from the Heidelberg Charge for the position of Minister of Administration and Program for the Penn Northeast Conference in Palmerton.
With his schooling completed, he was ordained and took on his first pastorate, that being the St. David's Charge near Millersburg. He filled this post from June of 1959 until the end of January, 1965, at which time his call came to the Heidelberg Charge.
Rev. Benner is married to the former Pauline R. Ritter of Bethlehem, and they are the parents of four sons. He was well-liked by the U.C.C. congregation; however, his pastorate at Ebenezer was a very short one-just under two years. Once again, a call to a better position had come, this time to a U.C.C. church that was not restricted in its pattern of worship by a union-church agreement.
During the period preceding Rev. Benner's arrival, and the period after his departure, the U.C.C. congregation at Ebenezer was fortunate to have procured the services of the Rev. Charles D. Rockel, D.D. Rev. Rockel, by this point in his life, was retired and thought to have been about seventy years of age when he served at Ebenezer.
A product of the old school of religious training, much like Rev. Bachman, and also a local boy at heart, a son of Salem Reformed Church in Allentown, he was a welcome addition as interim pastor. He was a forceful pulpit orator, and a very dynamic preacher, who was not always too keen on some of the modern trends within religion.
An example of this he related to the adult Sunday-School class one Sunday morning while leading the group. He stated how tired he had become of continually being asked the question, "Are you saved, are you saved?" by people who felt that they had been. His response to the question, after reflecting upon his lifetime devotion and commitment to Christ and his ministry, was as follows: "I don't know, but I'm working on it."
He remembered "the Consistory members anxiously pacing the sidewalks in front of the church, with the time rapidly approaching for the service to begin" and no candidate in sight. When he finally did arrive, he "came driving a shiny, new Chrysler New Yorker" that had been borrowed for the occasion.
Obviously, the Consistory and the congregation were impressed by the trial sermon, not just by the borrowed car, and offered the position at Ebenezer to Rev. Heintzelman. Little could those people have known, on that hot July Sunday, that the pastor whom they would choose that day would be the last pastor of their choosing, to serve the original U.C.C. congregation at Ebenezer.
Rev. Russell L. J. Heintzelman is the son of the late Fred A. and Iva (Schleicher) Heintzelman. He was born in Germans Corner, Lehigh County, on February 26, 1931. He grew up in that area, attending the local schools. As a teenager he attended high school in Slatington, with a number of his one-day parishioners, graduating with the class of 1948. After completing his high-school education, he went on to Penn State University, graduating in 1952. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, from 1952 to 1954, he entered the Lancaster Theological Seminary, graduating in 1958.
After his ordination in Holy Trinity U.C.C., Slatedale, on June 22,1958, he was called to his first pastorate. He served the Deep Creek U.C.C. Charge in Hegins from 1958 until 1963. In that year he accepted the pastorate at Solomon's U.C.C. in Macungie, serving there until 1968, when the call to the Heidelberg Charge came.
Pastor Heintzelman brought with him to Ebenezer his wife, the former Corinne M. Miller, and their three sons: Michael, David, and Stephen. The congregations at both Heidelberg and Ebenezer welcomed him and his family to the charge whole-heartedly.
Pastor Heintzelman's arrival at Ebenezer finally, and happily, signaled an end to the turmoil for the U.C.C. congregation that was caused by the pastoral turnover of the 1960s. It would be a long time before the U.C.C. congregation was faced with a ministerial charge again.
Fortunately, the people at Ebenezer had made a good choice. Not only was Pastor Heintzelman a loving and caring individual, he also was, and still is, a friend to the many members of the congregations that he served.
While the U.C.C. congregation was dealing with its changing leadership, the Lutheran congregation was itself not immune to that same problem. It, too, for so many years had become accustomed to pastorates that lasted for a decade or more. The rapid succession of ministers in the 1950s had abated somewhat with the arrival of Rev. Schaefer. However, at the January 3, 1965, meeting of the Lutheran Council, it was reported by Rev. Schaefer that he had accepted the call to Calvary Lutheran Church, Laureldale, and that he would be leaving effective February 14,1965.
His departure was obviously a great loss to the members of the Lutheran congregation. They were very happy with Rev. Schaefer and were sorry to see him leave for greener pastures. His leaving left a great void in the Lutheran congregation. From February of 1965 until July of 1966 the Lutheran pulpit was filled by the Rev. Corson Snyder of Allentown, a kindly man who had served the Lutheran church well in his many years of full-time ministering.
·Rev. Fisher's pastorate at Ebenezer, although it was short, did, however, have a special significance. Shortly after Rev. Schaefer's departure, the Lutheran Council decided to break up the old Lutheran Charge. In a vote held by the Lutheran congregation on July 1, 1965, it was decided seventy-six for and twenty-three against that Ebenezer Lutheran would become a one-church parish. So it was to this brand new parish that Rev. Fisher came, and filled its first pastorate.
With Rev. Fisher's departure, in the early part of 1969, the Lutherans were faced with an empty pulpit for one last time during the 1960s. Although the minister who would eventually replace Rev. Fisher would not fill his position until the calendar had once again changed, and a new decade had begun, he, nevertheless, would sound a final note on that decade of ministerial change that was the 1960s.
Prior to his arrival at Ebenezer, Rev. Hunsicker was the assistant pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Souderton. He held this post from 1968 through 1969, at which time the call to New Tripoli came.
Coming with him to Ebenezer was his wife, the former Joan Thompson. During Rev. Hunsicker's pastorate at Ebenezer, he and Joan became the parents of two daughters: Amanda and Laura. Rev. Hunsicker was well-liked by young and old alike. He was a good preacher, whose deep speaking voice held the attention of many a member of the Lutheran and U.C.C. congregations.
By far and away the single most important theme during the 1960s was that of the constant upheaval created by the numerous ministerial departures. Fortunately, through all of this upheaval, both congregations survived. For while ministers came and went, the congregations remained pretty much the same. Thankfully, they did. Weaker congregations may not have fared as well during a period of such constantly changing leadership.
In addition to the strong congregations during this period, there was also effective church leadership by both the Lutheran Council and the U.C.C. Consistory, and also by the Joint Council-Consistory. It was really these three groups who helped to lead the church when leadership was needed.
One last thing that helped during this period was the unity between the congregations. As was mentioned earlier, this was a period when both congregations were working together, not against one another. Had any of the factors been different, had the congregations not gotten along, had they not had effective leadership, had they not been strong. . . who knows what the outcome may have been.
The l960s, by all that has been written here, may have seemed dominated by one theme; however, that is not the case. The church leaders did spend a large part of their time dealing with this situation; however, other things did present themselves to them.
Probably the most important of these was a failed attempt during the late 1960s at setting equity on the church. The idea, which was not a bad one and which may have saved some headaches down the road, was to set a valuation on the church building at a time when neither of the congregations was trying to buy the building, or trying to sell the building, thus achieving an unbiased, fair valuation of said property.
A committee of church members was selected to participate in this venture. Although details on the process are somewhat sketchy, it seems that the object was for each individual to determine what he/she felt the value of the church property to be.
When all of the members had compiled their total valuations, the numbers were to be tabulated, and then divided by the number of participants, arriving at an average valuation for the church. The ultimate purpose of setting this valuation appears to have been that, were something to happen to either of the congregations, a value would be readily available that had been fairly set by members from both congregations.
Unfortunately, the records seem to indicate that there was a rather large amount of misunderstanding about the concept of "equity," and just what the setting of it represented, by members of both congregations. Ultimately, the concept of setting equity came to a crashing conclusion during the year 1969 when, by a congregational vote by both congregations, it was soundly defeated.
Another less serious topic that caused some discussion at a November, 1964, meeting of the U.C.C. Consistory, would definitely prove that the times were changing. It seems that a request had come from the youth fellowship group. However, this was not a request to hold a car wash or to run a bake sale; it was a request to hold a dance in the church basement.
The church fathers, historically not ones to look favorably upon the desires of the younger generation, but possibly not wanting to be considered too "square" by their children, decided to allow a dance to take place . . . their only stipulations being that "there would be strict supervision and also a high set of moral standards to go by."
The 1960s would also bring a new family to the position of church janitor. Upon the departure of Mr. & Mrs. Fister in the year 1948, Mr. & Mrs. Earl Daniels were hired as replacements. They would continue on in this position until the untimely death of Mrs. Daniels in December of 1961. Shortly thereafter, Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Mantz were hired to fill the position. Together they continued on in these duties for a period of over twenty-five years. With Arthur's death in November of 1987, Frances has filled the position alone, continually ensuring that we have heat on cold Sundays, an immaculate place in which to worship, and a multitude of other details too numerous to mention. To these people we owe thanks for a job well done, as cleanliness is next to godliness.
Lastly, the 1960s saw the celebration of yet another milestone in our church's history. On November 7, 1965, the 75th anniversary of our present church building was celebrated. The speaker that day was the Rev. Earl Marks, returning from his post with the Synod, to provide his "reflections" on this momentous event. The liturgists were the Rev. Richard E. Benner and the Rev. Corson C. Snyder. The combined choirs presented the anthem, "All People That On Earth Do Dwell."
Over two hundred fifty people attended that day, including former pastors Bond, Linn, Schaefer, and Marks. A letter was read that had been sent by Rev. Thomas Bachman who, at that point in time, was widowed and was residing with his son in Omaha, Nebraska. Also in attendance was the Rev. Ralph Althouse, a son of the former minister, who himself had gone into the ministry. After the services, a fellowship hour was enjoyed by all in attendance.
As a more permanent memento of this occasion, an updated history of Ebenezer Church was written. Entitled "A Quarter Century Of Ebenezer Union Church 1940 - 1965," it was a companion work to the history that had been written in celebration of the church's 50th anniversary in 1940, and it brought the history up to the current time. Copies of this paper-bound volume were sold at an unbelievably low price of 50 cents apiece.
With the arrival of Rev. Heintzelman in 1968, and of Rev. Hunsicker in 1970, Ebenezer Union Church embarked on a journey that would carry it to the highest highs of union cooperation that had ever been known by the two congregations. These two ministers, by building upon the foundation of peaceful co-existence that had been constructed over so many of the previous years, crafted an environment of unparalleled harmony that surely was the envy of all of Ebenezer's neighboring union churches.
Much of this harmony came out of a resolution which was passed in October of 1966 by the Lutheran Council. At that time, it was decided that the Lutheran congregation, which had recently become a one-church parish, would begin to hold services every week. Its service schedule would alternate. On the weeks of U.C.C. church, the Lutheran services would be held at 8:00 a.m.; on the alternate (regularly-scheduled) Lutheran Sundays, services would continue to be held at 10:15 a.m.
As the summer of 1970 approached, both ministers (Heintzelman and Hunsicker) must have been prepared for what was coming. Summer services in most churches had become the least attended of all yearly services. Rather than let another summer of poor attendance pass by, a plan was devised, and an "experiment" was set in motion.
At a meeting of the U.C.C. Consistory on April 29,1970, the minutes note that "a new step in (the) approach for unity was made thru a suggestion by Rev. Heintzelman."That suggestion was to hold Joint Council-Consistory meetings, Joint-Committee meetings and, most importantly, Joint-Communion services.
The first Joint-Communion services were to be held on June 7, 1970, at 8:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. The minutes state that "both pastors would be present at each service with no prior announcement made as to the role in which each will officiate."The ministers had done their planning well, as this joint service would open the door for the next step in their plan.
The next step, taken during the summer of 1970, was a step in the right direction for both congregations. Obviously, these two progressive-minded ministers both thought along the same lines. Both realized the ridiculousness of carrying on two services during a time of year when there were hardly enough worshipers for one service. With this in mind, a suggestion was made, building upon the success of the Joint-Communion service, to have additional regular joint services during the coming summer. These services continued during the summer of 1970 for about eight weeks.
This "summer of unity" for Ebenezer set the stage for what was to follow the next summer. That summer, again building on their previous successes, the ministers once again initiated their joint-summer services. This time the joint services ran for a period of four months.
At the end of that period, optimism was high for the future of union services. A survey was taken of the two congregations, with some interesting conclusions. The overall response was wholeheartedly in favor of continuing these services-the final vote, one hundred eighty in favor, seven opposed.
Some responses to the survey, on its individual points, are worth noting. Some felt that union services year-round would be "possibly trying for elderly people," and another member felt that "older people because of tradition are not ready to accept this type (of service), but middle-aged and younger people want it." This member did feel, though, that "older people would grow into it."
On the other hand, many members were in total agreement with Revs. Hunsicker and Heintzelman. One member stated, "The choir put it beautifully in (the) song 'Our God Is One God.' How immature to make minor differences into mountains and stumbling blocks." Another said that this was "fantastic-this is the first real step we've made toward real unity in fifty years. It is time to move together, not apart. A house divided against itself cannot stand-even if it is the Lord's." And yet another put it most succinctly by stating, "Most everybody liked this union service.
Probably the most telling sign of the success of the joint-summer services was that summertime attendance was up at these services. Sadly, though, the congregation and the ministers were the only ones impressed by the success of these services. After much discussion on the matter, the Joint Council-Consistory could reach no agreement on where to go next. This lack of a consensus on the matter was probably the first readily noticeable crack in the facade of the union agreement between the two congregations. Time had begun to run out.
To say that things immediately turned sour for the union church is untrue, although these experimental union services were definitely the high-water mark for Ebenezer Union Church, as we knew it. With the possibility of union services fifty-two weeks of the year completely out of the picture, the Joint Council-Consistory did, however, make provisions to allow for some union services to continue. Mid-week Lenten Services, Good Friday Services, and Christmas Eve Candlelight Services would be allowed to continue running on a union basis indefinitely.
The spirit of cooperation that had carried the two congregations through the turmoil of the 1960s, and on into the good years of the early l970s, did continue on for many years after the union experiment. The union services showed that the congregations were certainly agreeable to working towards a united goal, even if their respective leaders weren't. Many members of both congregations drew no particular line of affiliation to either congregation when it came to Sunday morning worship. Sunday was the Lord's Day, not the Lutheran's or the U. C. C.'s, and if the spirit moved you, you would worship no matter who was conducting the service.
This spirit of unity prevailed amongst the two congregations almost 'til the end of the union history. It was only at the meetings of the church leaders that the problems were starting to surface, and the dissention between the two congregations had begun to form. Troubled times lay ahead.
The decade of the 1970s saw a great wave of nostalgia flooding the country. In the wake of the 1960s, a losing war in Vietnam (in which sons of Ebenezer once again fought as they also had in Korea) and the Watergate scandal, many people began longing for the simpler days of our forefathers, and of days gone by. Ebenezer was feeling it, too. At the suggestion of Fleetwood druggist, Arthur Rauch, a former member of the U.C.C. congregation, the idea of "Homecoming Sundays" was revived.
His energy and enthusiasm led to that first Homecoming on October 11, 1970. The reason for these Homecomings was to celebrate the fifty-year anniversary of the confirmation classes. The special guests were the surviving members of those confirmation classes, and any others confirmed more than fifty years previous. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Ralph Althouse.
Once again, Homecoming services had become a happy, joyous occasion for renewing old friendships, and making new ones. After the services, a catered luncheon and fellowship were enjoyed in the church basement. Happily, these Homecoming Sundays have continued to this day.
It was also with an air of nostalgia that the U.C.C. congregation marked the passing of its long-time leader, the Rev. Thomas Bachman. Rev. Bachman who, by this point in his life, had become a resident of the Phoebe Home in Allentown, passed away on August 28, 1971. He was laid to rest in the cemetery at Neff's Church, the church of his youth. His passing sounded a long, sad, final note on a glorious career and, although gone from Ebenezer for many years, his death was surely felt by the many whose lives he had touched. A monetary gift was sent to the Phoebe Home in his memory.
As the summer of 1975 approached, the Rev. John Hunsicker received the call to a new congregation, and resigned his position. His new position was the pastorate of Zion and St. Matthew Parish in Weatherly. Rev. Hunsicker would serve this parish until 1982, at which time he left to become a Mission Developer at Covenant Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas. Since that time he has led them to erect and dedicate a new church, after meeting in an elementary school for six years.
loss, again, of such a vibrant young minister was felt by the Lutheran
congregation. The Lutheran Council set about to find a replacement for the
departing Rev. Hunsicker, and its choice
couldn't have been a better one.
Hired as a replacement was the Rev. David L. Roper, who arrived at Ebenezer on November 1,1975. Rev. Roper was born in Reading, the son of M. Lawrence and Catherine E. (Schlouch) Roper, and grew up in the Kenhorst and Shillington areas of the city. Upon graduation from Governor Mifflin High School in 1967, he entered Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology.
In 1971 he entered the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg. As part of his seminary training, he served for one year as a field worker at Memorial Lutheran Church, Shippensburg. He received his clinical pastoral education at Delaware State Hospital in New Castle, Delaware.
Rev. Roper served his internship at St. John's Lutheran Church, Shiremanstown, and was graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity in 1975. He was ordained in Grace Lutheran Church, Shillington, on October 26, 1975, and one week later arrived at Ebenezer.
Rev. Roper and Rev. Heintzelman worked well together, also. The pair of them carried on, as best they could, within the limits that had been set for them, with the task of promoting union harmony whenever and wherever possible.
Thanks to them, the union church at Ebenezer survived as long as it did. The arrival of any other minister may have brought the curtain down on this union arrangement much sooner than it did.
One group of people at Ebenezer who both Revs. Heintzelman and Roper always had time for was the children. Whether it was by using the junior choir in their services, through Vacation Bible School, or the use of the children's sermons, they always made children feel special at Ebenezer.
One area, certainly of particular concern to these ministers, was the Sunday School and its operations and, more importantly, its participation. Over the past twenty-five years Ebenezer Union Sunday School has experienced both ebb and flow, which has affected every aspect of the Sunday School. With God's grace, as this portion of the Sunday-School's history is drawing to a close, the Sunday School is in a flow pattern in terms of the dedication of its staff, the programs which it offers to its members and the community, and the number of its members.
At different times throughout the past twenty-five years, the Sunday-School organization has included department heads, a nominating committee from the Joint Council-Consistory, and has had several reorganizations. At present, the organization is comprised of the officers, teachers and helpers, the pastors, and the spiritual committee.
Sunday-School meetings have gone from every other month to every month as the Sunday School and its programs have grown. Teacher training, workshops, and retreats have been held periodically over the past twenty-five years. Policies and statements of purpose have been established and/or reviewed over the years.
Goals have been established within the Sunday School. Family-oriented programs and service projects have been incorporated into the calendar. Ebenezer Sunday School participates, or has participated, in One Great Hour of Sharing, Lutheran World Hunger, Thankoffering, Prison Project, Daniel Moser Memorial Clinic Project, and has donated to Bethany and Topton Homes, Allentown Rescue Mission, and the Ebenezer Union Building Fund.
Throughout the years the Sunday School has been involved with stimulating and attracting members. Several differing policies have been in effect for contacting absent students, an attendance contest was held in 1974, and radio spots and a bulk mailing have advertised our programs.
The facilities available to the Sunday School for classes have been the basement area and sanctuary. The stage and narthex were also used until a temporary mobile classroom was erected outside. This gave three additional classrooms. During the last twenty-five years the area in the basement has been carpeted and painted. Chalk, bulletin boards, and receptacles were installed. Fire extinguishers have been brought up to date throughout the church, basement, and mobile unit.
The grounds outside have changed over the years. The baseball field was established in 1971 and the outside picnic area was approved as an Eagle Scout Project in 1978. The picnic pavilion has been cared for over the years and recently revamped (1988) for better utilization. New, sturdy picnic tables were donated and, as this history is being written, plans are in the works for enclosing the outside stage into a bandshell.
Equipment has been purchased as needs have arisen. A new piano was purchased in 1982 with the Frederick Mantz Memorial Fund. Over the years the Sunday School has built up an equipment inventory including a mimeograph, filmstrip and l6mm movie projectors, a copy machine, TV, and VCR. These are in addition to several record players and tape players.
The grouping of classes, as well as the format and time of the Sunday-School hour, have changed. Several times there have been joint-opening exercises; teaching of the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, and the Twenty-Third Psalm; and special prayer time. Classes and curricula have undergone transition, based on space availability, class size, number of teachers available, and curriculum. At present, there is a nursery-to-sixth-grade class, which uses Augsburg Witness curriculum; a seventh-grade and eighth-grade class, linked to the confirmation programs, which use chosen curriculum; a senior-high class, which uses curriculum selected by the teacher; an adult-discussion class, which uses class-selected materials; and another adult class, which uses an Augsburg curriculum.
Several items on the Sunday-School calendar, as noted in the following paragraphs, have been around for the last twenty-five years, even though they may have changed format at times.
The Sunday School still sponsors part of the fee of Summer Church Camp and presents a program of introduction during the winter months. A banquet is held to thank the teachers, officers, and helpers, and the Sunday-School Birthday Calendar is still sponsored.
Vacation Bible School remains a constant on the calendar of events, and has changed basically only in the month and length of the program. Service projects have ranged from very local (Northwestern Ambulance Corps and Germansville Fire Company) to global (Virgin Islands, India, and Africa) in scope. Summer Sunday School has had its ups and downs over the years. It has ranged from having special films, etc., during the month of August, closing during August, closing for the whole summer, to the present program of broadly-grouped classes with a more informal curricula during the summer months.
The Sunday-School Picnic has seen several changes over the years, but still remains one of the biggest events. Entertainment has ranged from local church groups to various bands from around the area. Besides good food, there have been fish ponds, flea markets, cake walks, dunking booths, patron tickets with door prizes, and pony rides, to name a few.
The Christmas program format has ranged from each class making its own presentation to a variety show of the Ebenezer Sunday-School Family. Each style always brings the wonderful message of Christ's birth. White Gifts and monetary offerings over the years have been split evenly between Topton and Bethany Children's Homes. In the late 1960s and early 1970s gifts were sent to servicemen. Candy and oranges have been given to the Sunday-School children over the years.
New ideas have been, and continue to be, included in the calendar of events of the Sunday School, as we strive to provide opportunities for education and fellowship. These are noted in the following paragraphs.
The Easter Egg Hunt was started by the Girl Scouts in 1968. Although the Sunday School has taken over this event, the Brownies continue to provide and color the eggs for the hunt. The Family Hike from Gambrinus to Leaser Lake was first proposed by the adult-discussion class in 1982. The hike now draws upwards of one hundred people and is enjoyed by all who participate. Mother's Day and Father's Day were once recognized by the giving of flowers or plants to the mothers and combs to the fathers. The Sunday School has now combined this observation into Christian Family Life Week, with special activities. Other church days which are being observed include Ascension Sunday, Pentecost, Stewardship Sunday, and Bible Sunday, which is an hour of fun, songs, games, and contests.
Advent Night, another favorite activity, was begun by the Women of the Church in 1978. The Sunday School helped defray the cost of the materials for crafts. A covered-dish supper was included in 1981. The event is sponsored entirely by the Sunday School nowadays and includes a covered-dish supper, making family Advent wreaths, various crafts, a short worship service, hanging the greens outside, and a carol sing.
As this period in the history of Ebenezer draws to a close, the Sunday School is an active body seeking to teach and practice the Word of God by way of its classes, programs, and activities, and living examples of the staff.
With a sense of nostalgia, many long-time Sunday-School participants have reminded us of a group, that was an off-shoot of the Sunday School, that certainly deserves some recognition. That group was the Sunday-School Orchestra.
The orchestra was thought to have been started sometime in the 1920s by the late Daniel Kerstetter, and consisted of piano, stringed instruments, brass and reed instruments. Their official function was to provide the music for the Sunday-School opening and closing exercises. These exercises were held as one large group, at which hymns were sung and prayers were prayed.
In addition to these opening and closing exercises, the orchestra also performed at Christmas Festivals and other Sunday School and church activities. After a period of inactivity, the Sunday-School Orchestra was reorganized by Frederick Mantz in 1950. A partial membership list includes: Ray Bachman, William and Berdine Kistler, Arthur Mantz, Franklin Mantz, Frederick Mantz, Mark Mantz, Raymond Mantz, William and Miriam Masters, Ruth Oswald, David Rabert, Howard Rabert, Joseph Rabert, William Rapp, Lucy Reichard, Carl Reitz, David Reitz, and Erma Snyder.
The orchestra's final demise came in the year 1962. At that time the wooden curtains were installed, which divided the basement into classrooms. It was felt that opening exercises were no longer necessary so the band with no place to play, unfortunately, disbanded.
The period of time encompassing the years from 1975 to 1985, was definitely not a time of giant strides for either congregation. In looking back, with only the perspective of five years, and not the added wisdom of fifty and five years, it appears that these ten years were probably the most uneventful ten years in our church's history. However, rather than looking upon this as a detraction, we should look upon it as the final years of true peace and happiness that the two congregations would spend together.
The era of good feelings that had been produced during the early part of the 1970s, happily allowed the two congregations to coast on for the ten years that followed. Sadly, though, walls were beginning to be built behind the scenes, on the foundations that had been laid in the 1960s, that would eventually serve to divide the union, once and for all.
Shortly before he left Ebenezer, Rev. Roper, along with Rev. Heintzelman and a number of other ministers and representatives from the area Lutheran and U.C.C. churches, took part in a mission to expand ministries beyond their own. The result of this mission was the establishment of a summer chaplaincy program at the Allentown-Lehigh Valley K.O.A. Campground. Rev. Heintzelman, in his reflections on Ebenezer, felt that this had truly been "a great outreach ministry for Jesus Christ."
Two other subjects, that are worthy of mention during this period in our church's history, were the establishment of a part-time position of minister of visitation by the U.C.C. congregation, and the renewed interest in the celebration of Harvest Home. The pastor-of-visitation position was established to assist Rev. Heintzelman in ministering to the sick and shut-ins. Hired to fill this position was the Rev. Edwin Nagle and, upon his resignation, the Rev. Richard Crowe.
Rev. Heintzelman also wrote in his reflections how he felt that, through very special efforts by both congregations and Consistory, the Harvest-Home celebrations of the mid-1980s were made such memorable events. The bounty of the harvests that were displayed on those Harvest-Home Sundays once again reflected the rich agricultural heritage of our Pennsylvania-German ancestors. Photographs of these displays were included in a booklet on the Harvest Home Festival, compiled by the Rev. George Harting.
As this period was drawing to a close, a call to another congregation came to Rev. Roper, which he accepted. He served his pastorate at Ebenezer until August 14,1984. Rev. Roper left for his new pastorate, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kutztown, sadly leaving behind the many friends he had made during his days at Ebenezer. With his departure, the walls of the "house divided" neared completion.