Sunday, October 14 was a day planned and anticipated for almost a year, as the Schoeneck Moravian Church, just north of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, celebrated its 250th anniversary with a lovefeast, special anthems and a guest bishop.
Bishop C. Hopeton Clennon, pastor of Schoeneck from 1994 to 1999, served as the anniversary preacher. He reminisced about being a Caribbean pastor of the Schoeneck congregation (carving a pumpkin, planting a garden and riding a lawn tractor were all new experiences to which he was introduced by Schoeneck members), and then focused on “Preparing for the Next 250 Years,” one of the themes of the day.
The Moravian Daily Texts for significant days in the history of the congregation formed a second theme of the service, which opened with Pastor Terry Folk reading the Daily Text for October 3, 1762, the date on which the congregation was founded. During the lovefeast, the choir sang a setting of the text and hymn, “Lord Jesus Christ, be Present Now,” composed for the occasion by Jill Bruckart, Schoeneck’s former organist and choir director.
Director of Music Ryan Morrow commissioned composer Brian Henkelmann to write an anthem for the occasion, and the senior choir also sang “Then Shall Your Light Appear as the Morning,” a setting of the Daily Text for the day of the dedication of the present sanctuary in 1889. Henkelmann also provided new words and a setting of the hymn, “Highly Favored Congregation,” which used handbells, brass, choir and congregation. The service closed with the reading of the Daily Text for October 14, 2012.
As an anniversary gift to the wider Moravian Church, the congregation also commissioned composer Margaret Sandresky to write organ arrangements of three Moravian chorales, which will be performed for the first time at Schoeneck on Christmas Eve, Good Friday, and Easter. Plans are to make them available to other Moravian congregations in the near future.
Organized in 1762
The Schoeneck congregation was officially organized on October 3, 1762, after several families living north of the exclusively Moravian community of Nazareth requested someone to come preach to them. After several years of worshiping in a home, a log building was constructed on land owned by the Nazareth Moravians. The log building, which initially served as church, school and parsonage, was eventually replaced by a stone church in 1793 and a stone parsonage in 1826. The stone church, in turn, was replaced by the current brick structure in 1889. The 1826 parsonage still stands next door to the church.
The congregation has been celebrating the anniversary throughout 2012. Ten anniversary events, one per month, were planned in addition to the final service. Eight services featured former pastors, student pastors, an interim pastor, and the current pastor speaking in worship. Members of confirmation classes of the past were located and invited to a “homecoming” recognizing their class. Each of the events honored confirmation classes ending in a number; on the anniversary Sunday itself, members of classes from 1939, 1949 and 1959 through 2009 were honored. An anniversary banquet was held on September 29, with over 200 people in attendance.
Working with Esperanza
The congregation chose Esperanza for Bethlehem, the Moravian work on the South Side of Bethlehem, as its anniversary mission project. On several occasions, members were asked to bring diapers to church, to be given to the young families of Esperanza with small children. Schoeneck’s confirmands and their mentors worshiped at Esperanza one Sunday evening (and delivered diapers). The children involved with Schoeneck’s Summerfest program collected $1800 to give to Esperanza’s “Move That Church” initiative, which provides assistance in helping people get to worship, particularly transportation concerns, and provided 29 backpacks filled with school supplies. Esperanza was also the beneficiary of several special offerings.
The Watchword of the Schoeneck congregation for the anniversary year is 1 Colossians 16:35: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us, that we may give thanks to your holy name.” The congregation has been doing so for the past 250 years, and looks forward to its next 250 years of worship and mission.
Susan M. Dreydoppel is a member of Schoeneck Moravian Church, a member of the Eastern District Executive Board, and the author of Faithful Spirits, the anniversary history.