The brothers and sisters of the Palmyra Moravian Church rejoice as we celebrate our 150th Anniversary on May 17, 2013. Our mission statement: “Grow in Faith, Live in Love, Share the Hope, as we Journey with Jesus” will guide us as we continue to serve the Lord through the ministry of our congregation.
In looking back on our beginnings, it was the Rev. Phillip Henry Gapp who began visiting Palmyra, New Jersey in 1851. He came to this small community by crossing the Delaware River from Philadelphia by steamboat to build up Christian gatherings in the homes of German speaking people.
As the meetings grew in attendance so did the need for a church building and in the fall of 1860 a suitable lot was located and purchased for $150.00. A 23-by-35 foot church was built and the 19 charter members saw their church consecrated on May 17, 1863.
During a special Church Council held on March 9, 1902 it was agreed by a unanimous vote to build a new church due to the increasing membership of the congregation. The original church was torn down; the congregation dedicated their new church on May 29, 1904. The church bell was purchased in March 1905 from the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Md. The parsonage first constructed in the 1880’s was completely renovated in 1909, doubling its size.
In 1933 Riverside and Palmyra Moravian Churches held the first Moravian Easter Dawn service for all Christians in the surrounding communities at Lakeview Memorial Park. Some 25 brass instruments led an 80-voice choir with an estimated 10,000 worshippers in attendance. Today, Palmyra joins area churches of other denominations for sunrise services on Easter.
The local building boom of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s enabled the congregation to experience a significant increase in membership. A new Christian Education building, dedicated in 1960, is today used by the Sunday School, several Girl Scout Troops, Vacation Bible School, Men & Women’s Prayer Breakfasts, Fellowship dinners, Ecumenical services, Peach Festivals, Pancake Breakfasts and other special services.
The original church steeple was struck by lightning in 1947 and had to be removed. In 1977 a new steeple, patterned after the original one, was installed, returning the church to its earlier beauty.
A congregation blessed
Over the years Palmyra Moravian has been blessed to have 24 pastors; today, the church is led by the Rev. Andy Kilps. All came with great faith and a determination to serve the Lord and the people of this congregation.
We are a beacon in the community as the church now rings out to all with our recently installed Carillon Chimes. The Social Action committee in our church serves the Lord by reaching out to those in need in our community and the world. They also support two international children. Our newly formed Outreach Team will focus on evangelism — sharing the good news of Jesus with those in our community.
Members young and old
Today our church continues to have an active congregation of young and old members, all willing to bring their talents and gifts to serve the Lord here at Palmyra.
Ruth Wittmeyer has been a member of Palmyra Moravian Church for 95 years. She is happy to tell you that she is the oldest member of our congregation at a young age of 95. Her great-grandfather Emanuel Roberts was one of the early members of our church. Ruth says she likes “all the traditions of the Moravian Church, especially the Candlelight service.” Since she was baptized she has known 12 of the pastors who came to Palmyra. One of her fondest memories is the 12 years that she was a Youth Advisor. Ruth hopes, “our church will continue to bring families together as they worship in our sanctuary.”
One of our newer members, Chris Pfeiffer, said that having been born and raised in the Moravian Church, he fondly remembers Candlelight services, Lovefeasts and the Childrenís Messages. “Since becoming members my wife Lauren, daughter Rylie and I have been blessed and welcomed in with open arms by the congregation,” says Chris. “We are so happy to be part of the Palmyra Moravian family and grateful to have such a great place to continue our spiritual growth. We look forward to our daughter Rylie taking part and carrying on the rich history and traditions that make Moravians unique.”
Celebrating 150 years
We began our 150th Anniversary celebration on May, 17, 2012. With the theme “A Faithful Past, A Hopeful Future, the Journey Continues!,” our anniversary logo appears on our Sunday worship bulletin, our anniversary ring tray and our anniversary Christmas ornament. An anniversary banner, which has been placed in front of the church, gives a visible witness to the community of our joyous celebration. Activities in our 150th year have included a “Day at Camp Hope” in October and in December our children presented art work describing what our church means to them.
The 150th Committee has also taken a trip to the Archives in Bethlehem, Pa. to bring back historical items and information that will help us create a 150th anniversary booklet for our members. A signature quilt is being created to honor our 150th celebration and when complete will hang in the Christian Education Building. Also a DVD is being put together that will include new and old photos as well as interviews with previous pastors of Palmyra. We look forward to holding a special congregational dinner, which will be a catered meal planned for May 4th (giving our women a much needed break!).
We are looking forward to a Palmyra Moravian Church Historical Drama in which our children will actively participate on May 5th.
Sunday, May 19th will culminate our 150th year of celebration. We will have Holy Communion during the morning service and in the afternoon we will hold an Anniversary Lovefeast service at 4 p.m. with Bishop Chris Giesler bringing the message. We will end our celebration with a festive Anniversary dinner.
After a century and a half of ministry we have a lot to be thankful for. Our Lord Jesus has guided and blessed the people of Palmyra Moravian Church every step of the way. In the assurance of faith we know He will continue to do so! Indeed, as our 150th Anniversary theme proclaims, we have “A Faithful Past, a Hopeful Future, the Journey Continues!”
Karen Poppert is a member of Palmyra Moravian Church in Cinnaminson, N.J.