Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?
For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem
for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Like Jesus before him, Paul has set his face toward Jerusalem (Acts 21). He said farewell to the congregations he started, knowing that he would not see them again. When he arrives in Jerusalem, he meets with the church leaders and goes to the temple, where he causes a riot among the people. Roman soldiers break up the riot and bring Paul to the barracks. The die has been cast, and the rest of the Acts of the Apostles spells out what happens to Paul arising from this riot.
Paul became a martyr, not in Jerusalem, but eventually in Rome. Today we think of two churches, St. Alban’s, Sinking Spring, named for the first martyr in England, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Mountain Top named after Martin of Tours, who had an encounter with Christ that changed his life, and who became a bishop and the patron saint of France. Both saints were Roman soldiers, like those who carried Paul to the barracks..
St. Alban’s had its first worship service in 1962, in Wyomissing Borough Hall. Started with 26 families, it has been building both its congregation and the physical church since then, becoming a parish in 1974. A year later, they became the first Episcopal church in Pennsylvania to have women openly celebrate the Eucharist. In 2012 they built a larger church on their property. It is a parish that is active in many ways. One of their special ministries, since 1987, is the St. Alban’s Christian Learning Center, which began with six children, and currently has 53. The pre-school’s mission is “to touch our community for Christ, on child, one family at a time.” An unofficial ministry seems to be to retired clergy, as there are a number who worship there, sometimes going out to serve other congregations, but returning to St. Alban’s as their church home.
St. Martin-in-the-Fields, began as a community Bible Study, right after WWI. It had people of different denominations but became an Episcopal church because their lay leader was Episcopalian. Their first church was in a chicken hatchery, which they outgrew, and started meeting in a small school house. A church was finally built, using local stone, with the first service held in 1927. The church has windows depicting many of the apostles, and altar window featuring St. Martin. An unusual ministry of the parish is to host a Kite Festival in the fall, on their grounds, reaching out to young and old. Their connection to the out of doors will be celebrated this Sunday with a Rogation Sunday Service, asking God’s blessing on their spring plantings, and welcoming four-legged friends at the service.
Have you ever gone somewhere, knowing that there were likely challenges there? What gave you the courage to go?