On Sunday, September 21, 2021,
the Church of the Good Shepherd
celebrated 50 years in its church
The following history is taken from
the October 1971 Dedication Book
The early Reformed settlers in this area worshipped at Longswamp and Salisbury. In 1843 discussions began with the Lutherans at Zion Lehigh Church for the Reformeds to use the church for the worship of God. On August 26, 1843 the Lutherans entered into an agreement with the Reformed people living within the bounds of the parish to make Lehigh Church “union”. On Christmas day of the same year Lehigh Church was officially consecrated as a Union Church.
Reformed and Lutheran people have always been interested in education. The people at Lehigh Church saw the need for good Christian Education and with this in mind they established a Union Sunday School in 1850.
In the spring of 1894, it was decided to build a new church, which is the present Lehigh Church. The cornerstone was laid April 6, 1894. The building was consecrated to the glory of God on November 25, 1894.
During 1935 the men of the church carried out the “back-breaking” task of excavating beneath the church to meet the need for a basement. The basement was needed to give additional room to the overcrowded Sunday School, as well as the need for other conveniences for both congregations and their organizations.
The arrival of January 1964, saw the dissolution of the four-church parish that consisted of Lehigh Zion; Weisenberg; St. John’s, Fogelsville; and St. Paul’s, Seiberlingsville. Our congregation was linked with St. Paul’s, Seiberlingsville, to form a two-church parish. As a result of this arrangement, our congregation purchased a parsonage. Final settlement was made in April of the same year.
SERVICES EVERY SUNDAY
During the year 1965, there was a great deal of talk for each congregation at Lehigh Church to have worship services each Lord’s Day instead of on alternating Sundays. Late in the year the congregation approved the proposal that Lehigh Zion United Church of Christ become a single Church parish and to have worship services each Lord’s Day, alternating with the Lutheran congregation between 8:00 A.M. and 10:30 A.M. In order to make this arrangement workable, our congregation called its first full-time pastor.
Services every Sunday began in January of 1966. A special service of recognition on becoming a single church charge was held on January 9, 1966. Our former Pastor, William O. Wolford, and the Rev. Earl R. Marks, Assistant Conference Minister, were the speakers.
Another change that resulted from having worship services each Sunday was the dissolution of the union choir. Since it was almost impossible for the union choir to sing at both services each Sunday, it was decided to dissolve the union choir and have each congregation organize its own choir. Our choir was organized in December of 1965 when it began rehearsals under the direction of Mrs. Verna Seagreaves.
We celebrated the one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary of our congregation during a special service on November 10, 1968. The Rev. Dr. Robert V. Moss, Jr., President of Lancaster Theological Seminary, later to become President of the United Church of Christ, delivered the main address.
Early in 1968 discussions began with Lockridge Memorial Presbyterian Church, Alburtis, as to the possibility of consolidating our congregations. Discussion and planning continued until August when both congregations voted on and approved the Plan of Consolidation. Both congregations were to begin worshipping together in Lehigh Church the first Sunday in January of 1969, but due to the resignation of the Rev. Donald Wenzel. Pastor of the Presbyterian Church, consolidated worship services began in October of 1968.
This was a high-water mark in the religious life of our community and a great step in ecumenism. We are proud of this consolidation. A special service to celebrate this wonderful venture was held on February 2, 1969, with the Rev. Thomas Foster, Moderator of Lehigh Presbytery, and the Rev. Earl R. Marks, Assistant Conference Minister, as speakers.
A NEW CHURCH BUILDING
October 7, 1964 is the date that marks the beginning of the process that has led our congregation to the building of a new church. On this date representatives from the Lutheran and United Church of Christ congregations sat down together to discuss the union situation at Lehigh Church.
After many months of self-study and discussions an equity figure of $90,000 was approved by both congregations in March of 1968. During the month of October of that same year, both congregations voted on and approved the proposal that the United Church congregation sell its share of the church property to the Lutheran congregation based on the equity figure approved earlier in the year. A special union service was held on Sunday evening, December 29, 1968, to sign the Papers of Dissolution that ended the union arrangement at Lehigh Church.
In January of 1969, Heyl-Treby Associates was selected as the architects to design our new church. The Building Committee began its work immediately with Mr. John Philips of Heyl-Treby Associates.
Many months of frustration and negotiations came to an end on Sunday, October 26, 1969. On this date, the Site Committee came forth with a definite proposal on a site for congregational action. The site presented to the congregation was the Geisinger property located along Penn Avenue and Quarry Road in the Borough of Alburtis. Approximately five acres were to be purchased at a cost of $2,560 per acre. The members of the congregation overwhelmingly approved the proposal presented by the Site Committee.
Another momentous decision was made on December 7, 1969, when the congregation voted to change their identity from Lehigh Zion to Church of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ.
Many months of excitement and anticipation as to the design of the new church ended when the Building Committee presented preliminary plans to the congregation on March 1, 1970. The congregation voted their approval of the preliminary plans.
The Building Fund Campaign began on February 16, 1970, under the leadership of Staudt Associates of Reading, Pennsylvania. A goal of $120,000 was established. the Every Member Canvass was held on Sunday, March 15, 1970. The response of the congregation was tremendous and by the time of the final report on March 26, we exceeded our goal by raising $139,320. It was indeed a time of celebration!
A special congregational meeting was held August 16, 1970, to present the final plans at a total cost of approximately $394,000. Unanimous approval was given by the congregation.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held with much praise, thanksgiving, and anticipation in our hearts, on October 11, 1970. The Rev. Edward T. Schantz, Pastor of Longswamp United Church of Christ and Moderator of Penn Southwest Cluster, delivered the sermon.
Cornerstone Services were held on Sunday, June 6, 1971.