History – Part 6

Architect's Drawing of Addition

Architect’s Drawing of Addition – 1955

New Church and Sunday School Building

Planning for the Building Fund Drive

Planning for the Building Fund Drive

A Loyalty Dinner to kick-off the Building Fund Drive was held early in 1955 at the American Legion Building, with 375 church members in attendance.

Groundbreaking for Church Addition, June 19, 1955

Groundbreaking for Church Addition, June 19, 1955

Two fund drives, and monies earned in previous years from church dinners and bazaars, allowed us to break ground in June of 1955 with $82,000 in hand against an estimated project cost of $175,000. The thought was to build as much as our funds would allow, take out a mortgage for most of the balance, and proceed to finish the building as income became available.

Many things were done to reduce the final cost of the structure such as: dismantling and reusing the front porch from the original church building; dismantling and reusing the counters, cabinets, drawers and sinks from the old kitchen; using pastel coloring in the wall plaster to eliminate the need to paint any interior walls; and retaining the heating system in the original church building as long as it would last, to postpone major heat piping alterations to a more manageable time.

During the design of the building, a major problem arose. As it had already been decided that the new structure would be built on the same lot and would be attached to the existing stone church building, the question of exterior facing material became a major concern. At this point it is our belief that the Good Lord took over. In idle conversation with the Golf Professional of the Bethlehem Steel Club, he mentioned to one of our Building Committee members that a golf course alteration was about to be undertaken that would entail the removal of many tons of stone from the old quarry on the golf course —- the same Deemer Quarry idled for years, from which the stone was extracted for our original church building!  Inquiries led to meetings with Bethlehem Steel officials who, after hearing our story, graciously donated the stone to our project and in addition, provided a site where the stone masons prepared and stored the stone until needed. About the same time it was made known to the same Building Committee member during office conversation that Bethlehem Steel Chairman E. G. Grace had directed that the Company provide all the steelwork at cost for the new First Presbyterian Church (his personal church) to be built on North Center Street. Through subsequent conversation with many influential Steel people, we were able to gain the same treatment. The net result was that the 70 tons of steel used in our edifice, including detailed engineering, fabrication and delivery, cost our congregation about $18,000! Talk about divine intervention!

Construction was moved at a good pace by the following:
General Construction: R.B. Bracy, Allentown
Plumbing: H.Gates/S. Repash, Hellertown
Heating: S. Repash, Hellertown
Electrical: Brown Electric, Hellertown
Engineering: Moyer & Horlacher, Allentown
Architect: Christian Guldberg, Bethlehem

As construction progressed, an excited and enthusiastic congregation responded with earlier and greater contributions on pledges to the extent that more of the total project was completed early on.8

1956 Dedication Program Booklet

1956 Dedication Program Booklet

The following is a description of events from the dedication program for the new church and church school, June, 1956.

On the 12th of June, 1955, the Rev. Theodore Edward Haas was installed as pastor of Christ Church. This has been a busy year for our minister, who previously had served as assistant pastor to Dr. Frederick D. Eyster, pastor of Christ E. and R. Church in Hagerstown, Maryland. In addition to attending to the duties that belong to his office as pastor, which would be enough for any new minister, he has been helping to solve problems that arise constantly in the construction of a building.

More than 700 persons communed during the Easter 1956 season, the largest number to commune in the history of Christ Church. Robert N. Taylor, Jr. was ordained to the office of the Christian ministry on Sunday, June 26, 1955. The Rev. Mr. Haas, with the help of all of us, is striving to make our church a source of rich blessing to the community.

On the 19th of June, 1955, the Rev. Theodore E. Haas took the first shovel of earth from that portion of the lawn which was being dedicated to the building of a new Church School and Church Addition. Members and friends of the church were guests at a Loyalty Dinner in the American Legion Community Building on Tuesday, September the sixth, 1955, at 6:30 P.M.; here a financial drive was begun that insured the completion of our new building. On Sunday, October 9, 1955, at 3:00 P.M., as the corner-stone was laid, another milestone was added to the history of Christ Church, and symbolized the continuing growth of a congregation eighty-five years old. 14

Today, the tenth of June, 1956, we have reached the culmination of our efforts, the dedication of the new Church and Church School. Where God leads us in the future, may we have the grace and faith to follow.14

1956 Globe-Times Dedication Article

1956 Globe-Times Dedication Article

Participating in the Dedication Service on Sunday, June 10, were the Dr. Frank W. Teske, President of East Pennsylvania Synod bringing the greeting, and the Dr. Robert V. Moss, Jr., Professor of New Testament and President Elect, The Theological Seminary in Lancaster, preaching the sermon, “Built On The Rock.” 8

A Community Night Service was held Tuesday, June 12, 1955 with the Revs. Ernest Miko, J. C. Van Doren, David F. Gebhardt, T. E. Haas and Dr. Howard J. B. Ziegler taking part.

A Homecoming Night Service was held Thursday, June 14, 1955.  Revs. Charles M. Limpar, Robert N. Taylor, Jr., Richard H. Winters and Dr. Edward O. Butkofsky all took part in the service, which was followed by a reception in New Fellowship Hall.

The dedication activities culminated with a Holy Communion and Memorial Service on June 17, 1955.8

sketch of new church building

Becoming the First United Church of Christ

On June 25, 1957, the Evangelical and Reformed Church merged with the Congregational Christian Church to form the United Church of Christ, and on June 14, 1957, our members voted to change our official name to First United Church of Christ, Hellertown, Pa.

In January 1960, a new constitution and by-laws were adopted by our church to conform to those of the United Church of Christ.

In October, the 90th Anniversary of the founding of our church was celebrated.

The Church Youth program from 1963 to 1969 was directed by student assistants Stephen Nicholas and Robert Voelker from the Moravian Theological Seminary, and Richard Solliday from the Lancaster Theological Seminary.  Mr. Leonard Heffner was ordained into the Christian ministry, June 9, 1963.

A mortgage burning ceremony was held on November 20, 1966, marking the clearing of the debt on the church building, erected at a cost of $225,000. The debt was paid off in a remarkable 10 years!

The congregation assumed the full financial support of our missionary to India, Miss Miriam Rogers in 1967.

Mr. Ronald Haney enrolled as a student for the ministry at Bangor Theological Seminary in September, 1969. 8

NEXT – Part 7: 100th Anniversary, 1970