Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
There was not a needy person among them,
for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.
They laid it at the apostle’s feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Acts 4:32-37 paints an ideal vision of the early community of believers, with no private ownership. Barnabas, who sells a field and brings the money to the apostles, is contrasted in Acts 5:1-11, with Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who sold their property but only brought a part of the proceeds to the apostles. Both husband and wife fall down dead when confronted with their actions.
I sometimes wonder if we should be reading the story of Ananias and Sapphira in church during stewardship season but, strangely, this periscope is missing from the lectionary!
Our diocese has benefitted from the stewardship of many people. Some are remembered because they had great means as well as great generosity. Like most of us, they probably fell somewhere between Barnabas, who gave everything, and Ananias and Sapphira, who kept some of their wealth for themselves.
Many of us have gone to ECW gatherings, youth events, or retreats at Kirby House. This was originally the summer home of Fred Morgan Kirby (1861-1940) and his wife, Jessica. Kirby made his fortune, along with Frank Woolworth, starting Five and Ten Cent Stores. Kirby’s were centered in Wilkes-Barre, but extended as far as New Orleans. Kirby eventually merged the company with F. W. Woolworth. Kirby House has over 20 rooms, and landscaping that includes an authentic Japanese Garden. In 1955, Kirby’s family gave the home to be a Christian conference house with an endowment to preserve and maintain it.
Those who have visited St. Mark’s and St. John’s, Jim Thorpe, have seen the legacy of Asa Packer (1805-1879). Packer began work repairing canal boats, but eventually built the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company; greatly expanding the rail lines to carry coal to eastern cities. He was a state Representative and a judge. A faithful member of St. Mark’s Church, in what was at that time called Mauch Chunk, Packer and his family gave generously to the church, both buildings and beautiful objects within them (including the window above). He founded Lehigh University and the Packer Chapel is a memorial to him.
Sayre Hall in the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, has been the host of many diocesan meetings, and is named for Robert Sayre (1824-1907), who helped found the cathedral. Sayre, whose father led the first worship service at St. Mark’s, worked under Packer at the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and became one of the founders of the Bethlehem Iron Company (later Bethlehem Steel). Like Packer, he gave generously to Lehigh University, and St. Luke’s Hospital, as well as the cathedral. The 1909 book of the diocese says, “In him the widow and the orphan, the sick and the needy, ever found a friend.”
Give thanks today for those generous stewards, both known and unknown, who gave to build up your parish and our diocese.