History of the Church of the Mediator
- Allentown in 1863 when Mediator was founded
- The Early Years
- Officially Founded
- The Church at Front and Furnace Streets
- Charter Granted
- An Attempt at New Birth
- Seeking a New Home
- Finally a New Home
- The Beginning of a New Phase
- The Associated Parishes and Beyond
- Fire Damage
- Our Current Rector
Allentown in 1863 when Mediator was founded
Talk by Frank Whelan presented to Adult Forum March 10, 2013, found here
The Early Years
Since a church is not built first and then a congregation gathered
around it, the Mediator was probably the inspiration of a group of
people from as early at 1825. This
group seems to have been led by a Rev. Rodney of
During the interval of three years (1859 to1862), occasional services
were held by clergymen from
The Church of the Mediator was officially founded in 1863 when an
Episcopal Sunday School was established by a churchwoman, Miss Baum, of
The Church at Front and Furnace Streets
The cornerstone was laid for the first
church building on July 4, 1866 at the corner of Front and Furnace
On January 14, 1869, just one month before the consecration of the
building, the court first received the Church’s Charter of
Incorporation. On April 17
that year the Charter was granted. The
names of Henry Colt, Levi Horace Gross, John D. Stiles, Samuel Lewis,
James W. Wilson, Moses Leach, Frank S. Kent, William A. Jones, J. A.
Detrich and Jacob Thomas were affixed to the document as Wardens and
Deacons, and that of E. N. Potter as rector.
Henry Colt seems to have been Senior Warden in 1869.
Despite this rapid turnover of clergy – there were six
different administrations within the first nine years – the church was
finally built and consecrated on February 21, 1869 by The Rt. Rev. B.
Wister Morris, Bishop of Oregon and adopted the name The Church of the
Mediator after a
In 1872, The Rev. Charles E. D. Griffith, who had served, first as a lay superintendent of the Sunday school while a student at Philadelphia Divinity School and then for a year, 1866-67, as minister-in-charge, was recalled as rector and served for six years until 1878 when he resigned and went to Ashland.
At times the Sunday school numbered between 200 and 300 with 50 communicant members. (It must be remembered that at that time “communicant members” of the Episcopal Church were only those that had already been confirmed and that children in the Sunday school would not have yet been confirmed so were not on the rolls as communicant members.) Mr. Griffith baptized nearly a hundred children during his pastorate.
A separate building, a library and reading room, was erected in 1877.
On weekdays the building was used for reading and sewing, while
on Sundays it was utilized for
Again there was a very rapid turnover of the clergy – three, also rectors of Grace Church - within six years. There were also long periods of vacancy in the ministry. By the late 1870s the iron industry was in decline, and many of the original families had left the area. The church never again seemed to reach the prosperity it had gained in the early sixties and seventies, in that location. Further detriment came in the 1880s when a railroad spur was laid next to the church property resulting in the church becoming so greatly damaged that services had to be discontinued.
Although services were resumed later, they were only sporadic. There was no rector during all of this period. The Church of the Mediator had almost ceased to exist. It lost its separate identity in 1886 and became a mission of Grace Church, Fifth and Linden Streets. Under this arrangement, sermons were delivered by The Rev. Hugh Roy Scott, The Rev. Ormes B. Keith, and The Rev. Charles Russell Bonnell of Grace Parish.↑ Return to Top
An Attempt at New Birth
In 1906, the church building and rectory were remodeled and an
attempt to build up the lost membership was made by The Rev. James B.
May, who was rector of St. Stephen’s Church, Catasauqua.
A service to celebrate the re-opening of the church was held
Thursday, February 15, 1906 at 7:30 in the evening.
At the service, The Rt. Rev. Ethelbert D.
Talbot, DD, LL, D,
Bishop of the diocese gave the principle address and The Rev. Robert H.
Kline, pastor of Grace Church, Allentown, delivered an address on the history of the church.
Other clergymen who spoke were The Rev. Reginald S. Radcliffe,
formerly of Slatington, and then of
Seeking a New Home
A nucleus of faithful communicants from the Sixth Ward, augmented by
a substantial body of people living in the West End of town and formerly
affiliated with Grace Church, met for the first time for services and
Sunday school on the first Sunday in March, 1912, in the
In the meantime, with the advice of The Rt. Rev. Ethelbert
First Bishop of Bethlehem, there was purchased for the sum of $25,000
the present site of the church at the corner of West and Turner Streets.
The small dwelling located on the property, later to be occupied
as the Parish Office, was remodeled as a chapel.
Services were held there beginning in the fall of 1912 under the
direction of The Rev. James B. May, of Catasauqua with the assistance of
Richard Dubbs and other lay readers from Leonard Hall,
The first Vestry of the new church, elected at a congregational meeting held on Tuesday in Easter week, 1912, was composed of the following men: John F. Hersh, Senior Warden; Thomas W. Milnor, Junior Warden; Charles C. Ward, David McKee, Charles W. DeRose, Alfred W. Wentz, Benjamin H. Baker, Julius C. Farenkoph, George Heiney, and John N. Troxell.
One year later, in March 1913, the Vestry extended a call to The
Rev. Robert Nott Merriman, Rector of St. Stephen’s Church, Brooklyn,
Finally, a New Home
During Mr. Merriman's tenure plans for the new Tudor-style parish house, the first floor
of which was to be used as the church, were drawn by Hewit, Granger and
Paist, architects of
During Mr. Merriman's time with Mediator the first Boy Scout troop in
It may be
In 1942 Mr. Merriman started a third Parish Register, the second one
of 1913 having become completely filled.
At the time of his death on Easter Tuesday, 1949, he had entered
from the beginning of his ministry at the church the names of 1,152
communicants, he had baptized 588 infants and adult persons, he had
presented 635 for Confirmation or reception into the Church, 200 couples
had been joined in Holy Matrimony in the parish, and he had performed
the last, sad rites of the Church over exactly 300 persons departed this
life. The tragic, sudden
death of Mr. Merriman on Easter Tuesday in 1949 was one of shock and
sadness for the parish. He
had been seen walking down
The Beginning of a New Phase
From February 1, 1950 to June 30, 1951, The Rev. C. O'Farrell Thompson was rector. During the months of his ministry there were the first signs of renewed interest, reorganization of parish groups and increase in attendance and financial support. However, personal reasons led to Mr. Thompson's resignation after a few months, halting for a while the trend toward substantial growth that had become apparent.
Following The Rev. Thompson was The Rev. Arthur M. Sherman, who served Mediator from August 1, 1951 until 1962. During Father Sherman's time at Mediator a ten-day Parish Mission in Lent of 1953 was held; regular mid-week celebrations of Holy Communion were established; growth of the Church school; growth of financial support; growth of average Sunday attendance; enlargement and improvement of the kitchen; conversion to oil heat; addition of two fire exits and acoustical ceiling to the hall of the Parish House and a fire exit to the basement; and a building fund campaign in February and March, 1955. Membership rose to 576 communicants in 1957. Having taxed the original facilities for a number of years, a new sanctuary was needed. On February 14, 1956, ground was broken for this new sanctuary. An extension would link the old Parish House-Chapel with the new church, which would seat 330 in the nave. Its imposing marble cross on a brick exterior encloses a worship space of simplicity and dignity, bejeweled by three brilliant lancet windows of stained glass which tell the story of the Mediatorial Work of Christ. The new church sanctuary was dedicated on May 4, 1958.
Our rector from 1963 to 1969 was David Bell
Birney IV, who
later became the Bishop of Idaho and then went on to become the
Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts. The Pastoral
Institute of the
The Mediator celebrated its One Hundredth Year by hosting the
Diocesan Convention. Near and dear to Father Birney's heart was
the mission portion of the Church's work. In August of 1969, with
his new bride Ginny, Father Birney prepared for an assignment in the
mission field of
The Associated Parishes and Beyond
After serving 12 years as the Executive Secretary of the Overseas Missionary Society where he was both author and world traveler, The Rev. A. Theodore Eastman, who later became the Bishop of Maryland, became the rector of The Church of the Mediator in 1970. During a relatively short ministry of three years, he instituted a surprising number of far-reaching innovations and activities. His innovations included: formation of the Commission System which remains the basic structure for involving laity; the formation of the Associated Parishes, organizing the efforts of two mission churches, St. Anne's and St. Elizabeth's, under the auspices of The Church of the Mediator; Vestry and Commission Head retreats for planning purposes; the establishment of parish neighborhood groups for discussion and fellowship; and the "Living Room Dialogues" between Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.
It was with the help of Father Birney as a result of his experience
A deepening of the spiritual life of the parish was fostered through the Bethel Bible Series, a program that provides an overview of the Bible. The Prayer Group was also formed and continues to meet weekly. The Prayer Group has strengthened the whole life of the parish by maintaining a prayer chain for people in crisis and conducting Quiet Days and occasional retreats. Cursillo, a renewal movement, was given to our Episcopal diocese by the Roman Catholic community.
The Rev. A. Malcolm MacMillan was called to the Mediator from
Father MacMillan also enlarged the Commission System. He was exemplary in pastoral care and saw outreach of the parish to the community as true Christian mission, raising the sights of the parish toward that goal through his extensive community involvement.
Together with The Rev. William Barker, Msgr. Robert Coll and other
outstanding churchmen in the community, Father MacMillan was
instrumental in forming Operation Rice Bowl in the
In November 1986, The Rev. R. Bruce Birdsey arrived from the Atlanta, Georgia area to become the rector of the Mediator and served the parish until leaving to further his career in writing and receiving a call to serve as Assistant Priest at St. Phillip's Church in Brevard, North Carolina, in the latter part of August 1998. During his 12 years, a number of changes and improvements took place.
Begun in 1992, a Growth and Renewal Campaign resulted in the expansion of the Education and Music ministries. This same campaign saw the completion of a number of repairs to the building and the air conditioning of the Church and the Commons Room. The Commons Room kitchen was designed and finished. Offices and Sunday school rooms were painted and decorated. An Assistant Priest was taken on board to expand the Children and Youth Ministry. A new Organist/Choirmaster was hired due to the retirement of the then organist/choirmaster, Stella Nase, who had served in that capacity for many years.
Since 1992, the Just for Kids, or "JFK" program has
operated at the Mediator as an after-school ministry for students from
In recent years, the Mediator has sponsored two Vietnamese families. Also, during this time, a social group known as the Movie Group was organized, and a Men's Breakfast group meets bi-weekly for fellowship and a meal. In 1995, due to the generosity of a member of the congregation, a new Allen Organ was installed.↑ Return to Top
On Monday, June 17, 1996, a roofer's torch began a dramatic fire which swept The Church of the Mediator. The Nave, Narthex, Brides' Room and all basement areas below were flooded from hose streams and rain water. The office area was also damaged by rain water. Firemen used vinyl sheeting to minimize water damage to the new organ and office equipment. The restoration plan included an opportunity for the congregation to give written suggestions. During this time of restoration, a number of improvements were added such as providing space for wheelchairs in the Nave. The Very Rev. Robert Schenkel was our interim rector at that time during our rector's sabbatical and, with his efforts and the combined efforts of contractors, church staff, and Senior Warden, things ran smoothly until the restoration was completed. Our services were held during this time sometimes on the front lawn and more often in what used to be the sanctuary but had been converted to the Commons Room when the new sanctuary was built. Volunteers from the parish, and even some neighbors, contributed roughly 3000 volunteer hours toward the restoration of the Church. In October 1996, the Church was rededicated in a celebration service attended by the newly-elected Bishop Paul Marshall.
In early August 1998, the Senior Choir, led by Organist/Choirmaster Dr. Douglas Himes, left for a two-week tour of English Cathedrals. This tour was the culmination of two years of preparation. The choir sang Evensong Services and two Holy Eucharist Services in six Cathedrals.↑ Return to Top
Our Current Rector
Our current rector, The Rev. Maria W. E. Tjeltveit began her ministry with us on September 1, 1999. Under her leadership, the parish has continued to grow spiritually adding such things as mid-week Bible study programs in the day and evening hours, not only in Lent and Advent, but at other times throughout the year. Fellowship within the parish has grown to include not only the Movie Group and the Men's Breakfast, but an Under 40s Group, a Book Club, and Dinner Groups that meet monthly in peoples' homes in small group settings.
During many years of reaching out to our neighbors, we have been home to many AA groups, along with the Scottish Dancers, the West Park Civic Association, and literacy tutors. In the most recent past we have also offered space to the Community Justice Panel and the Lutheran Academy Basketball.
Our outreach into the community and the world takes many forms each year. A list of those activities can be found here for your further information.↑ Return to Top