In as much as future generations may wish to know something about the organization of the congregation, together with the names of its earliest members, who by great self-denial built a House of Worship, and feel it is my duty to write a brief history, which will give the necessary information about some of the principal events in the early history of the congregation.
From records now in the possession of the congregation, it seems that religious services were held in a school-house on the lot on which Emmanuel's church now stands, as early as the year A.D. 1849, and some say as early as 1845.
Rev. Isaac Shellhammer, a minister of the Reformed Church, living in Black Creek Township, came and preached about once every four weeks. He preached altogether in the German language, and his records are in the same language. As the congregation was small, and the people poor, his salary was from $10 to $15 per annum. *note: (It was the custom of the day to supplement the payment with goods -- often farm produce). He died in 1873, and is buried in the cemetery adjoining a church which is called in honor of his name, the Shellhammer Church, in Black Creek Township.
Then came Rev. J.B. Poerner, (Reformed), who preached only a little over a year. This was in 1859. His records were very beautifully kept. Under his ministry the congregation was organized as "The Union Evangelical Reformed and Evangelical Lutheran Congregation", organized January 29, 1859, in Dorrance, Luzerne County, PA., under the pastoral care of Rev. John Bernhard Poerner, minister of the Evangelical Reformed Church. His salary was about $40 per annum.
Rev. henry Hoffman, Reformed, from Conyngham, recorded his first baptism in August, 1860, who was pastor until 1866. He was followed by Rev. A.R.Hottenstein, Reformed, from Berwick, who officiated from 1866 to 1868.
Efforts were made to build a church, as the congregations were growing, the cornerstone of which was laid November 15, 1868. Rev. David Kuntz, Lutheran, from Cherryville, PA., and Rev. S.S. Klein took part in the exercises.
In the spring and summer of 1869 the church was built and was dedicated Sunday, August 15, 1869. Rev. William Rath of Allentown assisted at the service. This is his own record of the event in a letter, September 1, 1888. The Church in Dorrance was consecrated Sunday, August 15, 1869. I preached the first sermon in the morning. Text 2 Chron 29:5 "Heiliget each nun, das ihr heiliget das Haus des Herrn".
(Sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God.)
The day was very warm. The church could not hold all the people who came, some of them eight or ten miles. No disturbance of any kind. The nicest dedication I ever saw or took part in."
Rev. John M. Clemmens began his labors in this congregation in 1871, which were continued until the time of his sickness in the spring 1880, followed by his death in Conyngham, September 11, 1880.
In the year 1895, the church was rebuilt and greatly improved and the Sunday School room, size 28 by 28 feet; and a spiral 70 foot high containing a bell was erected. Dedication services were held January 26, 1896. Rev. Lindenstruith and the Lutheran Pastor, Rev. Beysher and Rev. Kershner for the Reformed Congregation officiated. The approximate cost of the reBuilding was $3,000.00, all of which was made up by voluntary contributions. During the reBuilding of the church, services were again held in the Greenwood School.
Services were now conducted at regular intervals of every two weeks, every sixth service being held in German, the rest being held in English. Communion was celebrated semi-annually, preparatory services being held the Saturday previous. The membership at this time was approximately 139. A union Sunday School was conducted in the church not connected with either congregation. The fourth Sunday of each month was observed as missionary Sunday at which time the collection was equally divided between the two congregations for benevolent purposes.
Rev. John C. Chatlos began serving the Wapwallopen Charge as a supply pastor in November of 1945. He was officially called as pastor on December 5, 1945, and was installed on January 20, 1946. During the next 4.5 years Emmanuel experienced a net gain in members of 16, from 104 to 120. The five point charge grew from 370 to 430 during this same period.
Although Pastor Chatlos and his new bride had been promised a new parsonage, they were forced to find temporary living quarters in a four room apartment on River Road in Wapwallopen at Mr. & Mrs. Ray D. Moomey's house. Upon the birth of 2 children within 10 months the apartment became too small and the charge purchased a 6 room parsonage for the Chatlos'in 1948 on Hobbie Road. Rev. Chatlos reported this was a very comfortable home with space for a vegetable garden and a room for the pastor's study on the second floor.
Because there was no health insurance program, and having the hospital bills of his two children, Phillis and William, he took on a second job, arranged by Millard Smith of Mt. Zion, Slocum, for a six week period in the summer of 1949. He worked the Truesdale Colliery of the Glen Alden Coal Company earning twice the salary at this job that he could earn for a whole year's salary as a rural pastor.
A Youth Fellowship was organized in 1949, with Mrs. Evelyn Moyer and Mrs. Ruth Rinehimer serving as counselors. Pastor Chatlos resigned on June 30, 1950.
In May, 1949, the Building of the Parish Hall was begun by digging the cellar.
In August, William Eigenbrod began to construct the Building with the help of volunteers. Members of the consistory put a roof on the building, paying for same.
A public supper was held at the hall August 26, 1950.
Penn Northeast Conference was organized in 1957, as a result of the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Churches.
The Rev. Charles F. Williman was ordained on Father's Day in June of 1956 and began his pastoral duties in the Wapwallopen Charge the next day. He immediately discovered that there had been no confirmation classes the previous four or five years. As a result, a two year confirmation program was developed. The class had 59 youths from the five churches.
It was during Rev. Williman's ministry that a joint charge treasurer was established so the minister could be paid on a monthly basis with one check. Previously, each of the five churches individually paid their portion of the pastor's salary directly to the minister.
Because Rev. Williman was called by the Wapwallopen Charge, he sought to do as many things as possible on a charge wide basis. Consequently, Christmas Eve and Easter Dawn services were joint charge services. A charge wide choir was developed and the 5 youth fellowship groups were consolidated inoto one charge youth fellowship. In 1960 a Summer Student Minister from Lancaster Theological Seminary was employed to assist with the worship and charge activities. David Mohr was the first in a long line of student minsters who served the Wapwallopen Charge.
Since the parsonage that The Williman's were living in was in disrepair, it was decided to build a new parsonage in Wapwallopen. Careful attention had been given to include a study as well as an extra bedroom and bathroom for out of town guests. The Williman's moved into the new parsonage in the Fall of 1959.
Although the first vote on charge realignment in November 1961 failed in 2 of the 5 churches, the efforts of Rev. Williman laid the foundation for the changes that were to come in the decades ahead. Rev. Williman's ministry at Emmanuel and the Wapwallopen Charge came to a close on December 31, 1961.
July 5, 1963, the consistory decided to hold alternate weekly services at the Parish Hall on the Sundays that the Lutheran Congregation was using the church.
Under the pastorate of Rev. Thomas Hoffman (1965-1968) discussions were held with the Lutheran Congregation with regard to disbanding the Union Church.
July 16, 1967, a Joint Meeting of the United Church of Christ and the Lutheran Congregation was held to vote on the purchase of the church Building by the United Church of Christ. The outcome was as follows:
|UCC||Yes: 53||No: 10|
|Lutherans||Yes: 31||No: 41|
The proposal was referred to the Study Committee for further action. In 1968, it was decided by congressional vote to separate the Union church. The Lutheran Congregation agreed to sell their interest in the church Building to the Emmanuel United Church of Christ congregation.
April 7, 1968, a congregational meeting discussed the project, and voted to borrow the money to purchase the church.
March 28, 1969, a new organ was donated in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Warren Moyer.
April 26, 1970: Consistory meeting voted to make the final payment on church Building to Hobbie Lutheran Parish.
Rest Rooms were added to the church in 1970. The church took over the maintenance expenses of the Parish Hall - in 1973, until this time, the Busy Bees had taken care of the costs.
Rev. Harry W. Keppley, Jr. served as a student supply pastor to Emmanuel UCC for a two year period, 1969-1970. He was called as full time pastor in 1971 and served for five years until 1976. During his pastorate, with the help of his wife, Ruth, the first Cherub and Youth choirs were organized. Pastor Keppley introduced, on a regular basis, the use of church worship bulletins and a monthly charge newsletter. The membership of the church grew from 160 to 2019 during these five years.
The Ordination Service was celebrated for Kenneth Bickel on September 11, 1977.
Rev. Kenneth R. Bickel was called in September, 1977, as full time pastor. He served for 13 years until February 1990. With the encouragement of Pastor Bickel and under the able leadership of his wife Nancy, the music program was strengthened with the addition of the Junior choir. A senior citizen group called the Twilighters was organized and continues to meet once a month. With the growth of the Mountaintop and Dorrance communities and the efforts of Pastor Bickel, Emmanuel experienced a significant growth in membership and worship attendance. During these 13 years the congregation grew from 219 to 319.
In March, 1979, plans were submitted for new Sunday School rooms.
August 5, 1979, at a congregational meeting, it was decided to sell the Parish Hall. At a Consistory Meeting on this same date, a steeple and cross in memory of Scott Readler was donated by his parents, Clifford and Gladys Readler, to be erected after a vote by the congregation.
January 5, 1982, an emergency meeting of the consistory voted to have repairs made to roof trusses, as the church was unsafe. The Parish Hall was used for worship services until the repairs were completed, February 14th.
June 13 1982, the church decided to incorporate. Emmanuel was incorporated at a cost of $300--which was taken out of the Building Fund.
August 18, 1982, Shari Austin was accepted as organist by the Consistory.
October 2, 1983, the Eternal Sanctuary Light was given by Harriet and Ray Seward in memory of their son, Dean Seward. It was dedicated November 20, 1983.
A congregational meeting was held April 15, 1984; at this time it was decided to hire an architect to design the new addition for the church. The congregation also agreed to sell the Parish Hall for $25,000 after the new addition was completed.
May 6, 1984, Ralph Malone was hired as the architect for the new building.
September 7, 1984, a congregational meeting accepted a bid of $150,000 to erect the addition to the church.
The ground breaking ceremony for the new addition was held September 9, 1984.
The dedication of the new Fellowship Hall was held April 25, 1985. Rev. Kenneth Bickel brought the Message: "Abounding in Hope". The Rev. Dr. William Longsdorf, Penn Northeast Conference Minister, participated in the dedication.
The Building Committee was:
In 1986, the Congregation decided to explore the possibility of renovating the old Sunday School room and the Church sanctuary.
On May 3, 1987, Celebration Day was held to burn the mortgage.
The following major items have been added:
The congregation voted to sell parsonage and give the new minister a Living Allowance at a meeting on September 30, 1990.
The congregation voted to extend the call to Pastor K. Ray Lecrone, October 28, 1990. He began his duties on December 1st and was installed on February 3, 1991.
The Renovation Committee was reorganized that Spring and directed to develop a proposal for renovation of the sanctuary, restrooms and the addition of church offices. They labored through the Summer and Fall and presented a plan for renovation to the congregation on December 15 which was approved by an 80-yes to 6-no vote. On April 5, 1992, Champion Builders was awarded the contract for the renovations. It was decided to borrow money needed for renovations from the First National Bank of Berwick with an open line of credit at prime plus 1% of $250,000. The ground breaking ceremony was held on May 10, 1992.
On June 3, 1992, the parsonage was sold for $97,000, and the money from the sale was invested. The interest from this money was to be used for the pastor's living allowance.
The new facilities which included the sanctuary, narthex, Sunday School rooms, restrooms and church offices were dedicated on October 25, 1992. The Penn Norhteast Conference Minister, Rev. Donald Overlock, brought the message "Unless The Lord Builds The House". The former pastor, Rev. Harry Keppley and the present pastor, Rev. K. Ray Lecrone, participated.
The Congregation has grown in numbers over the years from 139 in 1895 to 317 members in 1994.
The Busy Bee Society was organized February 24, 1916, by Rev. F.W. Brown at the home of Mr. And Mrs. C.M. Heller. The first officers were:
This dedicated group was untiring in its efforts to support the church. In the early days, they made and sold bonnets, quilted, were paid for scrubbing the school at the beginning of the school year. The first meeting gave socials and private dinners (these were often cooked and served outside, at Cy's Grove!), as well as many other imaginative ways they used to raise funds to help defray the expenses of the church.
The Busy Bee Society has continued in this same tradition, giving unsparingly of their time, talent and energy in any capacity that is most productive.
The members hold bake sales, give dinners, and are indispensable in their help and instruction in cooking and serving our church dinners.
The Youth Fellowship was organized in June, 1946, by Rev. and Mrs. Chatlos. This is a very active group. They can be counted on to cheerfully help serve the church dinners, they give carnations to all the mothers in the church on Mother's Day, organize the children's Halloween Party, pick ground pine for Christmas Wreaths to decorate the church, and go caroling to older members and shut ins. Once a year the youth serve a dinner for the senior citizens and they also make donations to the Building Fund.
This group, in addition to regular planning meetings, holds social and sporting events, participates in the yearly Hunger Fast, holds various fund raisers to support their own activities and contribute to the church.
The Christian Women's Service Club was organized in the summer of 1985, during the ministry of Kenneth R. Bickel. They began meeting in the Parish Hall, but their first meeting in the new Fellowship Hall was held September 3, 1985. The first officers were President: Nancy Bickel; Secretary: Nancy Smith; Treasurer: Rosemary Myers.
Among their many activities, the members of this club sponsor the yearly Mother-Daughter Banquet, manage the Food Bank, and in addition, the last few years, the CWSC has "adopted" a Head Start family in this area for Christmas; preparing a food basket, purchasing and wrapping a toy for each child in the family, and supplying necessities for the children when possible--often winter coats.
The Men's Fellowship was organized during the time Pastor Kenneth Bickel served as our minister. They hold a fellowship meeting once a month, sponsor two very successful Ham and Chicken Dinners each year, and help with many other projects.
In June,1985, a Senior Citizens Group was suggested, and soon became "The Twilighters".
This group meets for luncheons each month, and made many quilts, and also did some quilting for individuals, under the direction of Clark Moyer. The profits from these activities were donated to the Building Fund--totaling over $4,000. The first officers were President: Clark Moyer; Secretary: Seba Harry; Treasurer: Bill Rinehimer.
The Twilighters also do handicrafts, and view educational, religious, and entertaining movies. They take several bus trips together during the year, which are organized by Alda Zindle.The pastors who served in the church were:
Starting in 1849, Emmanuel (then the Reformed Church) began its service to God. Men, women and children would gather in a one-room schoolhouse to worship Jesus Christ. Throughout the years, there has been a great deal of growth at Emmanuel. Membership has grown, the church building has been expanded and lives have been changed spiritually.