History – Part 7

Cover of 100th Anniversary bulletin with picture of Rev. Samuel Hess

100th Anniversary Bulletin Cover

100th Anniversary

In 1970, various events were held to celebrate the church’s 100th anniversary, including a number of special church services with the following former ministers participating: the Rev. Dr. Edward O.Butkofsky, Rev. Richard Winters, Rev. Robert Taylor and Rev. Charles Limpar.  It was noted that six sons of the congregation had entered the ministry up to that time, namely: James Boehm, Erwin Bauder, Richard Schellhase, Leonard Heffner, Richard Solliday and Robert Taylor.

Dr. Frank J. Rauscher, a son of the congregation who became nationally recognized for his cancer research accomplishments, delivered the sermon on Youth Sunday in October. A Church Family Pictorial Directory was published. Herbert S. Weisel served as Anniversary Chairman.  The Rev. Dr. Reginald Helfferich, General Secretary for World Service of the UCC delivered a dynamic speech at the banquet held in the Hellertown American Legion, which was attended by more than 300 members in September.  One of the highlights of the evening was Frances Keiper’s Off-Broadway production, “Through the years with First Church”, in which many members participated.  Dr. William Longsdorf, President of the Northeast Conference, concluded the celebration at the Nov. 1 service.  Rev. Richard Solliday was installed as Associate Minister on September 20th.

Hellertown Centennial Celebration

Church News, September, 1972

Church News, September, 1972

In 1972, many Church members participated in the year-long Hellertown Centennial Celebration.  Over 20 men were members of Haas’ Hares, Brothers of the Brush group who grew mustaches and/or beards.  The celebration brought families and churches close together, and raised over $25,000 for the Hellertown Community Center.  Rev. Ronald Haney, another son of the congregation, was ordained in January, 1973, and was called to serve as pastor of St. Paul’s UCC, Allentown.

After having served as our pastor for twenty years, Rev. Haas accepted the call to Grace UCC, Frederick, MD, effective July 1, 1975.  Rev. Blake R. Heffner was ordained on June 8 and elected to serve as interim pastor.

On July 27, Robert W. Brown was ordained in St. John’s UCC, Allentown, where he had served as Youth Associate for the previous two years.  He became pastor of Dreisbach UCC in Lewisburg, Union County, PA.

On October 15, the 250th anniversary of the first communion of the German Reformed Church, an early forerunner of the United Church of Christ, was celebrated at Falkner Swamp Church, Gilbertsville, with some of the dignitaries of Penn Northeast Conference participating and members of our church attending.

With Rev. Blake R. Heffner having been called to serve as Assistant Pastor of St . John’s UCC, Nazareth, PA, in the fall, Rev. Harry Colver served as interim pastor and  Sam Gray served as student assistant, until the election of Rev. Fred Trimble, Jr. as pastor in January, 1976.

Rev. Fred Trimble

Rev. Fred Trimble, Jr.

Rev. Fred Trimble, Jr.

Rev. Trimble was installed as pastor in May.  Although the church historical records do not contain much in the way of accomplishments, the years of 1976 and 1977 were probably some of the most difficult in the life of the church.  A series of “problems and differences” between Rev. Trimble and members of Consistory, as well as other church members, led to special meetings of the congregation and meetings with officials of  Penn Northeast Conference.  The result of these meetings was a petition initiated by the Church Elders, and signed by many church members, calling for Rev. Trimble’s resignation.  The situation was determined to be a “mismarriage.”  Rev. Trimble submitted his resignation to Consistory on September 12, 1977, which later became effective February 28, 1978.

Rev. Ralph Althouse

Rev. Ralph Althouse

Rev. Ralph Althouse

In January, 1977, Rev. Ralph Althouse, retired former pastor of St. Paul’s UCC, Northampton, accepted the call to serve as Assistant Pastor at First UCC, Hellertown.  “R.D.”, as he became affectionately known, was especially strong on member visitation, and with his many years of experience, winning personality and wise counseling, held the church together through those most difficult times.  Rev. Althouse resigned in September, 1980, to enjoy his well-deserved retirement.

Rev. Floyd P. Swart

Rev. Floyd Swart

Rev. Floyd Swart

Rev. Floyd P. Swart was elected pastor in June, 1979, effective September 9, 1979.  Rev. Swart was born in Way, India. It is interesting to note that Rev. Swart’s parents worked in the same mission in India as Miriam Rogers, the Missionary our church supported for many years.

Rev. Swart served as Pastor of First UCC for 18 years, from 1979 to 1997. He found it necessary to retire due to health reasons. He was made pastor emeritus of the church in a ceremony on Sunday, April  5, 1998.  “Prior to serving in Hellertown, he was pastor at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, West Seneca, N.Y. and Ventnor Community Church, Ventnor, N.J.”16

Rev. Swart also served as president, secretary and treasurer of the Hellertown Area Ministerium, was convener of the Bethlehem Area Mission Council, served on various Penn Northeast Conference committees and was on the board of the Saucon Valley Community Center. He was also a volunteer for Meals on Wheels in Bethlehem.  Rev. Swart passed away on April 20, 2015.

After a self-study Task Force determined there was the need for a second professional staff person to assist the pastor, the Consistory and Congregation decided to take the “leap of faith” and look for a person whose responsibilities would be in the same area of all church programs, including Sunday School.

Gary Marsh

Gary Marsh

In 1981, Gary Marsh became our first full-time Director of Christian Education.  He was ordained as a Moravian minister in 1983 and served 15 months before being called to Minnesota.

Barry Holban became organist/choir director in November, 1982, succeeding Carol Butler who resigned in August.  David Somers was our Youth Director.

Carol Dague

Carol Dague

Carol Dague accepted the call as Director of Christian Education April 18, 1983.  Under Carol’s leadership, our Vacation Bible School was revitalized and continued to grow.  For the first time our budget reached $100,000.

In 1984, Boy Scout Troop 319, which was a part of the life of our church for many years, and produced 45 Eagle Scouts, celebrated its 50th Anniversary.

A chair lift was installed in 1985 to make basement rooms handicapped- accessible.  David Bennett was our Youth Director.  Patti and Kevin O’Connell were our Organist and Choir Director, respectively.

1986 was designated as our “Bible Study Emphasis Year: – we had 68 adults in 5 classes studying the “Through the Bible in One Year” program.

One of our long range goals in 1980 was to increase attendance.  The average attendance figure at worship services in 1987 was 207, or an increase of 54 since 1980.  Also, during a period of overall decline in both church attendance and Sunday School attendance in main line churches in the United States, we experienced a steady growth in our Sunday School, which reflected the wisdom of adding on extra staff.

The Brass Choir was started by Dan Deysher and Kevin O’Connell.  Since its founding, it has played for all special services at First UCC, as well as at other area churches.  The Brass Choir has also played at the annual meeting of Penn Northeast Conference, and twice at Musikfest in Bethlehem.  Patti O’Connell also started a very successful Children’s Choir, which participates in the Worship Service on special occasions.

We began the process of computerizing our church office in 1988. All membership information, financial information and word processing was computerized.  This year we hit an average Sunday School attendance of 100, marking a milestone in the slow but steady growth of our Christian Education Program.

Carol Dague was ordained January 4, 1991 as a Moravian Minister and installed as Associate Pastor of Christian Education on February 3rd.  Salaries and benefits of this arrangement strained the finances of the church (we had a $10,000 deficit at the beginning of 1990) to the point that we had a special stewardship drive designed by the Rev. Bill Green of the Conference office.  The result of that Special Stewardship Challenge was that we actually finished the year in the black.  We received large donations from the estates of three deceased members, which in the next several years were used to make our church totally handicap accessible, create a very attractive Conference Room, and refurbish a Kindergarten Room designed around the requests of the class and teachers.  A new Allen Organ was also installed during the year.

In 1992, our organist, Patti O’Connell, organized a Youth Choir.  That gave our church three choirs, plus the “Brass”, to support the Music Ministry of our church.  On September 13, the Churches of the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Area held an “Old Fashioned Sunday Afternoon” at Dimmick Park as part of Hellertown’s year-long 250th Anniversary of the Borough’s founding.

This year we had a Palm Sunday attendance of 314, which is the highest single service attendance in our recent history.  Our 18 baptisms during the year were also a record for the pastorate of Rev. Swart, and a good omen for the future of our Church School.

Rev. Carol Dague preached her final sermon on February 23, 1993.  After having served First UCC for 10 years, Carol was called as Pastor of College Hill Moravian Church, Bethlehem, PA.

Nancy Welser, formerly Director of Pre-School at Salem UCC, Catasauqua, was hired in September to be our Director of Christian Education.

The year 1994 started out with some of the worst snow storms in years.  We were forced to cancel two Sunday morning Worship Services and just about every Wednesday evening Lenten Service.  As summer approached, matters took another unfortunate turn as Rev. Swart became seriously ill with a 3-week hospital stay and a 3-month home recovery period.  It was a time that tested the mettle of our lay leadership, but all came through this period with flying colors.  A new Pictorial Directory was prepared as one of the items planned for the celebration of the Church’s founding, to be celebrated in 1995.

Rev. Swart met Rev. Robert Brown at the Annual Conference Meeting in 1995, where Linda Lennon and Jennifer Klotz, members of our church, were introduced as candidates for ordained Christian Ministry.  Rev. Brown related to Rev. Swart that he was the last person from our congregation to be ordained, and he was the 13th minister ordained from the congregation (which makes Linda and Jennifer numbers 14 and 15).

In September, Nancy Welser resigned as DCE.  The 125th Anniversary Communion and Brunch was held July 23rd, with Rev. Theodore Haas (our Pastor from June, 1955, to June, 1975) delivering the sermon.  To further celebrate the Anniversary, a Pork and Sauerkraut Dinner was held on October 7th, with historical pictures displayed, and attended by former pastors – Rev. Dr. Blake R. Heffner, Rev. Robert Brown and Rev. Carol Dague, and their families.8

NEXT – Part 8: (Currently being edited)