Remembering Reading Moravian

Seated toward the rear of Reading Moravian Center, formerly known as Reading Moravian Church, I can hear the strains of the passion chorale, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” being played by the brass choir.  The mournful tune calls to mind the alternative verse: “What language shall I borrow?”  This day in late March, knowing that Reading Moravian’s days are numbered, I can’t help but ponder that question.  Indeed, what language can be borrowed to capture the essence of an evaporating congregation and a church that will soon be closing its doors for good?  This is a tough one.  

In 1994, I had the pleasure of interviewing long-time members of Reading Moravian for the creation of an 80th Anniversary video.  I did most of the interviewing while my sidekick, Shirley Odum, did the taping.  Stories abounded of a church that began its life in a fish store and grew to become a thriving congregation complete with a Sunday School orchestra, brass choir, senior choir, chapel choir, and a faithful membership.

In 1973, when an addition was added to the church building, and under the pastorate of the Rev. Doug Caldwell, a small Fastnacht-making fundraiser grew into a full-fledged 72-plus-hour enterprise as the church transformed itself into a doughnut factory.  More than the money raised, the yearly event provided a wonderful opportunity for fellowship and community outreach.  The aroma of fried dough wafted all the way to 13th St!

Community outreach was always a mission of Reading Moravian Church.  The church had a stand at the Reading Fairgrounds where members served breakfast, lunch and dinner to patrons amid the roars and revs of the race cars.  In more recent times, and in conjunction with Helping Harvest Food Bank, a community food pantry was set up. Additionally, from 2008 to 2020 (when the pandemic hit), a community meal was served once a month, reaching an average of 85 people per meal.  Clearly, this congregation took to heart Christ’s message from John 21: “Feed my sheep.”

On this day in late March, the Advent star still shines above the pulpit.  Behind it, the cross reigns.  The juxtaposition of the two call to mind the march of the liturgical seasons: A birth; a death, and a resurrection.   In the bulletin under the heading “Ministers” are three words: “All of Us”.  As members of Reading Moravian go forth to join with the Lititz congregation and the larger world beyond, they will carry Reading Moravian within their hearts, bringing with them a new resurrection.

A sign taped in the choir loft gives standing instructions for Christmas Eve services.  It states: CHOIR LOFT LIGHT OUT, p. 15 “Behold a great….”  The electrical lights will go out at Reading Moravian Church, but the inner light of Christ goes forth.  Behold a great and heavenly light!

Mary Arguelles of West Reading, Pa. shared this remembrance. Photos by her husband, Frank.The Reading Moravian Church congregation was officially brought under the aegis of Lititz Moravian Congregation in 2017. It has operated as a community outreach since then. It’s closing worship was held in May.