Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
[Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense
and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God
and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
The last chapter of Acts (Acts 28) begins with Paul shipwrecked on the island of Malta, and ends with him living in Rome, under the watchful eye of a Roman soldier. The Acts of the Apostles starts with the acts of various apostles but the second half is almost exclusively about the acts of one apostle: Paul. You might think that Luke would have ended the book with Paul’s trial and martyrdom but, instead, the book ends with Paul welcoming, proclaiming, teaching “with all boldness and without hindrance” in spite of essentially being under house arrest. Surely, the people reading this book knew of Paul’s death, but the author shows that the apostles have gone to the “ends of the earth” and their witness is not impeded.
It is an open-ended ending. We might ask, “He lived there two whole years, and what happened after that?” Luke seems to be saying, “You are what happens after that. You are the continuation of the story.”
Two of our churches are named for the apostle Paul, and so we end our survey of diocesan churches with them (and a summer chapel).
St. Paul’s, Troy, is the westernmost church in the diocese, located in Bradford County. The town is noted for the dairy farms in the area, and some of the members of St. Paul’s are farmers. Founded in the 1840s, the church sold its first building, on a hill, to a Roman Catholic congregation, and built an English style church on a main thoroughfare. At one point it looked like the church might be closed, but the congregation petitioned Bishop Dyer and the church continues its witness. Their ministry is grounded in prayer and healing. They work together well within the parish and are very ecumenical. They have a Lenten Lunch series with a Baptist church and raise money for the Troy Food Pantry. They seek to welcome all people, being hospitable but also giving them space. They have some active Lutherans in their parish, as there is no local Lutheran church. They also welcomed and supported two young men going on pilgrimage on foot across the country.
St. Paul’s, Montrose, extends its welcome in creative ways. Their opening service in their original church was Christmas Eve, 1832; the first church in Montrose to decorate their church with greens. Their current church was built in 1857. 70 years later a parish hall was given in memory of a former rector by his son, specifying that it was to be used in the service of the community as well as the church. Community groups meeting there include Boy Scouts, AA, an adult school, and a hospice. The congregation has taken on some new initiatives: they did an extensive renovation of their sanctuary; they created a canvas labyrinth for use in the parish hall; they live-stream their Sunday services, and post them on Youtube; they are making sleeping bags for homeless people; and they are having their first Women’s Retreat, on serenity and healing, held jointly with St. Peter’s, Tunkhannock.
Since 1924, St. Paul’s, Montrose, has also been steward of St. Matthew’s, Stevensville. Founded in 1799, with a church built in 1814, it is now a summer chapel. St. Paul’s members cross from Susquehanna County to Bradford County to do services on Saturday nights in this church which has no heat, plumbing, or electricity. They end the summer there with a well-attended hymn sing and ice cream social.
How are you and your church continuing the story of Acts?