Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
“In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak,remembering the words of the Lord Jesus,
for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
In my mother’s family we recycle first names. There are quite a few ‘Maria’s, all pronounced the old English way, with a long “i”, that confuses everyone else. Something similar happens in the New Testament.
Today is the feast of St. Philip and St. James. There is a Philip in the Acts of the Apostles, but he is not this saint: the disciple named Philip. There are two James mentioned in Acts, but neither is this James (sometimes called ‘the less’). The Greek name is Jacobon, which looks like it should be pronounced “Jacob” but is translated ‘James’ (perhaps the old English pronunciation).
It is likely that the disciples Philip and James continued their ministries but, if so, they were quiet workers in the background. Today, we consider three churches named for another James, the first disciple of Jesus to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2).
A second patron saint of St. James’, Drifton, might be Sophia Coxe (whose first name was pronounced with a long “i”; perhaps the old English way). Sophia and her husband, Eckley Coxe, a coal mine owner, were founders when the cornerstone of the church was laid in 1883. Sophia was called the “Angel of the Anthracite” because of the care that she gave to the Welsh, Scotch, English, Polish, Russian, Czech and Italian miners and their families who worked in the Coxe’s mines. She employed two nurses who visited miners’ homes daily. She was concerned with children and education, and she taught Sunday school at the church.
In the spirit of Sophia, who was all about ‘service and sacrifice’ the generosity of the people of St. James has continued. Whenever there is a known need in the community the congregation finds a way to meet it. They have a special ministry is to the elderly – individual visits to nursing home residents, as well as worship services and private communions. In addition, support a food bank and special cash funds are donated each Sunday to special causes.
“The congregation is like a finely tuned, well-oiled engine,” the long-term supply priest says of St. James’, Schuylkill Haven. This small parish works together, with good cohesiveness, to keep things going, even without a regular clergy presence. This quality is part of their history. Between 1839, when the church was admitted into union with the diocese, and 1873, they were without a rector. “But during all the years they were without a Clergy-man, and therefore without regular services, the Sunday School was kept up by a band of faithful workers” (Diocese of Bethlehem and Harrisburg, 1909 by Jonathan Miller, p. 603).
Today the members reach out to the community through spaghetti dinners. They keep the church immaculate and care for the homebound who can’t make it to church. The supply priest says, “The grace of God is that here is this parish that is so self-sufficient, but even with a tiny budget they still have a priority to donate to the food pantry.”
St. James’, Dundaff, is a summer chapel that serves people, mostly from the Crystal Lakes area. It began in 1835 in a billiard room, and now is the only church in Dundaff. A recent article states, “St. James’ senior warden, Robert Schreiber, says that the church, ‘embraces Christians of all faiths and ages to join us at God’s table.’ He says the church is also open to other denominations and religions for, ‘fellowship and faith sharing’” (Happenings Magazine, July 31, 2015).
Saints, known and unknown, continue to sustain our parishes and ministries, as they have from the first.
Who are the saints in your parish who give more than they receive?