Simple question, right? Several years ago, we asked our parishioners to tell us a story about their relationship with St. Andrew's. Here are some of those stories and why our parishioners call St. Andrew's there home:
Mistake to Blessing
I moved from Virginia on June 3, 2013. On Sunday, June 9th, off I went to a little church I saw on my ride in. I was looking for a Lutheran Church, but when I drove up I didn’t see a Lutheran Shield. Scott was in the Memorial Garden and before I could get out of the parking lot, he threw his cigarette away and came to greet me. (I was a smoker for fifty years, so I know how hard that can be.) He showed me around, and I was very impressed with him. I took the first pew on the right and I felt welcome from the beginning. Although I was overdressed, it was refreshing to see others in casual attire, so I later scaled back. Dixie showed me around the town shortly after my visit. This became my church family. I have grown spiritually by becoming a part of St. Andrew’s. I thought I got here by mistake, but I realize now what I have gained, and it was really no mistake at all but a blessing.
A Conversation at Scouts
When I was young I was in Catholic school for 4 years. Then they wanted tuition, and mom and dad couldn't afford it. So we went to public school. Well, as I grew up I stopped going to church. I didn't believe in what they were doing, so I stopped going for years. Then Bruce started going to Boy Scouts, and I started thinking about going back to church, but I didn't know where. Then Paul Romeril started in Bruce's troop, and after a while his mom, Kae, and I became friends. At that time my mom already had passed away. Kae had asked me a couple of times about coming to church with her, but I just wasn't ready. Then in 2011, dad passed and I was pretty upset and she asked me if I wanted to go to Easter Sunday service and I finally said yes. I really like it here.
Very Accepting of Us
In the Spring of 2006, I started looking for a church to have our twin boys baptized. Most churches declined stating that we needed to be members in order to have them baptized there. Amazingly, St. Andrews was the only church to accept us with open arms. How refreshing - a church that actually welcomes newcomers! And it wasn't just the priest accepting us - on the day of the baptism, Sunday, July 30, 2006, the entire congregation was warm and welcoming to our entire family. After that, it was easy to become a member of the St. Andrews church family!
Home Away from Home
In December, 2005 our daughter (Franklyn & Lorna) gave birth to twin boys prematurely. She had a fourteen- month old daughter at the time, and we saw the need to give her a helping hand after the boys were released from the hospital. As a result, I took six (6) weeks of vacation from my job in Barbados and came to Bethlehem in January to assist with the care of our grandchildren.
On our previous visits to Bethlehem, we attended a church but I never felt welcomed, as it was a large church and I was accustomed to smaller churches. Therefore, I sought to find another church where I could worship and feel part of the congregation, during my frequent visits to Bethlehem.
While here in Bethlehem, in January, 2006, I accompanied a relative to Giant Supermarket on West Union Blvd, and on our way back home, we passed an Episcopal church. I was excited when I realized the close proximity of the church to our daughter’s home. As a result, I set out to find the name of the church and the times of service. My investigations revealed that it was St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
The Sunday following my investigations, I attended the 10.00 or 10.30 service, (don’t remember the exact time of the service then) and felt welcomed. I was impressed with the interior of the building, and the warm welcome I received from one of the Ushers who was on duty. The service was enjoyable, and the sermon was quite inspiring. After the service I was invited to the coffee hour and those present made me feel quite welcomed and invited me to visit again.
The following Sunday I took our grand-daughter with me, and again was welcomed and an invitation was extended for her to join the Sunday school. I was sent a welcome note after attending the service, and I was so touched, that I told our daughter and her husband about the welcome we received and how much I enjoyed the service and that the Sunday School Superintendent had spoken to me and had invited our grand-daughter to Sunday school. It was at this juncture that I made a conscious decision to make St. Andrew’s my church away from home.
I invited my daughter and her family to visit the church and they did. I am proud to say that as a result of my visit, my grand-sons were welcomed into the Christian family at St. Andrew’s when they were baptized in June 2006.
Liturgy Grabbed Me
I came to St. Andrew's in 2009. I was first drawn to the parish because it was the closest Episcopal Church to where I lived. The first Sunday I was there I was drawn to the Liturgy. It is a nice mix of new and old. I also knew Scott from a time at St. Elizabeth's and really enjoy his sermons each Sunday. What keeps me here is the friendliness of everyone. I feel at home here.
A Date that Will Never Be Forgotten
I have been an Episcopalian since I was 8 years old. I was a member of St. Paul's Church in Manheim, PA and when I moved to Bethlehem in 1989 I never transferred my membership and for a time became a Christmas and Easter Church attendee. Then on September 11, 2001, two planes hit the World Trade Center. My niece, by marriage, was working in the American Express Buiding that stood next to the towers.
For several hours we didn't know where she was or what was happening. Her husband was traveling on business in Kazakhstan. My niece was lucky enough to catch a train after the first plane hit and was on her way home when the towers went down. A week later, my nephew was finally able to get to Vienna and catch a flight back to the states. 9/11 was on a Tuesday.
That Thursday I was driving past St. Andrew's and felt the need to be in a church. I came into the sanctuary and sat for the longest time crying for all the people who had lost their lives and thanking God for keeping my niece and nephew safe. I found St, Andrew's that day. I came to church that Sunday and my first friends were Harry & Sue Large. In case I had any doubts that God guided me that day.
On June 17, 2002, about 9 months after 9/11 my niece gave birth to a son. His name is Andrew.
5th Time's a Charm
I was working on Diocesan Staff when I supplied a Sunday or two after the retirement of Fr. David Jones. I recall Faith Ingalls was a pleasant and helpful choir director/organist and helped orient me to the service. I really didn't know anyone from St. Andrew's at the time but I always thought St. Andrew's to be somewhat "mysterious" as no one was very active on Diocesan Committee and Commissions. Flipping forward many years, I was back in the Valley and had just come off the experience of St. Elizabeth's and its eventual closing.
I was called by Jane Teter to "fill in" for Palm Sunday due to an unexpected and sudden hospitalization of Leslie Evans--their Rector at the time. "Filling in" on Palm Sunday is a little like being a surgeon and called in at the last minute to "fill in" to perform a brain surgery. But being the type always up for the unusual I agreed.
Even more daunting was the next weekend when I was called to "fill in" for the Easter Vigil! It was zany for me at the time, but fun in a somewhat twisted way. Well, as luck would have it, I ended up being appointed their "Priest-In'Charge" and the relationship grew in depth and width and now I am on the verge of being "officially" the fifth Rector! It’s humbling and exhilarating at the same time. And I have come to be attached in an intimate way with this Church called St. Andrew's and its wonderfully diverse cast of characters!
Search & You Will Find
In 1977, Walt and I were married in a Lutheran church he'd attended in Phillipsburg, NJ. We let religious affiliation slide after that when we moved to Bethlehem, though I continued to read-up on various denominations. In 2005, we seriously discussed finding a church and narrowed the search to Episcopalian. We drove by St. Andrew's several times. Each time, I felt drawn to it: we needed to attend St. Andrew's and maybe St. Andrew's needed us, as well. That feeling was amplified when we went into the Memorial Garden. The next Sunday we made our first visit. Harry and Sue Large were very welcoming and, needless to say, we joined. It was a long journey to find a church ... but we finally arrived.
Good Memories Keep You Coming Back
Well, here goes. My memory recall isn't really great. I wish I could remember all the names of the people that I have encountered at St Andrew's.
I joined St Andrew's back in 1969. I was about 12 when we moved to Bethlehem from Camp Hill. My father was a Pennsylvania State cop, and every time he got a promotion, we moved.
Prior to that, we lived in Allentown and were members of The Mediator next to West Park. In Camp Hill we belonged to a really small Episcopal church named Mt Calvary, so I was glad that my parents found St Andrew's, another small church. (Mediator was a little too large) We lived on 9th Ave and the church was close. I remember volunteering for summer Bible School and I rode my bike from 9th Ave to the church every morning. It was so much fun. I remember the fall Bazaar every year with the dinners. I loved working with the people there. Mrs. Jastremski, Ellie Mattes, Sue Hansen, and many more. I belonged to the children's choir--back then we had a children's choir and an adult choir. I enjoyed the youth group, which I also belonged to. I was so glad to see that the youth group has reclaimed its original area downstairs. That is where we had our space also. I remember, David Yem, Emily Nothstein, Ann Jastremski, Donna Franssen, the Bowlby twins(!). It was a wonderful time. Christmas Eve services that made you feel warm all over, with the candlelight.
As I got older I decided to volunteer to teach Sunday School. I really enjoyed it. Those kids are now married with children of their own! I was married at St Andrew's, by Father Jones, in 1983. I wouldn't have had it any other way. My father's funeral service was there in 2001 with Mother Romeril. I am still attending St Andrew's and as I walk through those doors on Sunday mornings, I still remember fondly, all the years spent there and am glad for all the people today, that have and are still devoting their time and skills to this precious little church. To keep it alive. I thank God for all of you and for Father Scott, who has breathed life back into this most wonderful place.
Thank you all,
Yes, there is room at our inn!
Two years ago when a plea came out from the Trinity Soup Kitchen that the existing shelters were full and the nighttime temperatures were predicted to go below freezing, our church joined several other area churches to provide a network of emergency respite caring one night per week from December through March. Efforts to provide food, warmth, and shelter got underway very quickly and many volunteers were eager to participate.
We accommodated about 25-30 guests each Friday night that first year (about 65 different people) during the cold winter months. Volunteers took turns and shared jobs. Some cooked and served dinner, others prepared a hot breakfast early the next morning. Some folks stayed overnight and others came in the morning to help with clean-up. Our guests watched videos, played games, read, and talked. We provided a warm, safe place in our parish hall (which would have been heated and empty otherwise) where they stretched out on sleeping bags and mats on the tile floor to get a goodnight's sleep.
Our guests politely expressed their appreciation each week for the hospitality we shared with them. Aswe listened to their stories we learned that people are homeless for many different reasons and lengths of time. After the van picked them up around 8 AM they were on their own until it came again around 6 PM to take them to the next sheltering church for the night.
They spend their days walking, riding the bus, visiting the public library and reading, and eating lunch at area soup kitchens. What began as a compassionate effort to help others in need during the harsh winter months became an eye-opening experience for us which increased our awareness and our appreciation of our lives, our families, and our creature comforts. Our effort to reach out to others and invite them in enriched us.
This year, for the third consecutive year, we're preparing to serve the increasing number of people who are hungry, homeless, and in need of shelter in The Christmas City and the surrounding community in cooperation with other area churches. We will open our doors to them beginning on Christmas Eve.
Additional Stories are continued here.
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
1900 Pennsylvania Ave.
Allentown, PA 18109-3187
The Rev. Dr. Gerard Gaeta OblSB
St. Andrew's office
hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays
9AM to 1PM
10:30 AM on Sundays
Masks optional and CDC
Tuesday Study Group
Lively discussion sparks spritual growth on Tuesday mornings from 10:30 to noon in the downstairs Harry Large Common Room. We are currently exploring the Acts of the Apostles. Please join us!
Ministers of the Parish
The Rt. Rev. Kevin Nichols
The Rev. Dr. Gerard Gaeta OblSB
Supply Priest (through 2023)
The Rev. Lane Perdue
Organist/ Choir Director
Finance Committee Chair
Visit St. Andrew's Facebook page.