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Congregation bids ‘Goodbye’ to Church of the Manger UCC

“This is a difficult time for the members of Church of the Manger,” said the Reverend Dr. Don Quayle as he welcomed parishioners at the building’s final service Oct. 29. “Saying goodbye to a building which has been their spiritual home for many years,” he continued.

“On the other hand,” remarked Quayle, serving as supply pastor, “it is a day of anticipation for an exciting future at St. Thomas UCC.”

Dwindling membership and rising costs to maintain Church of the Manger United Church of Christ, 1401 Greenview Dr., Bethlehem, as well as mortgage payments for an addition, have led to the painful decision to sell the property and merge with St. Thomas UCC, 902 E. Macada Road.

The suburban church building, built 70 years ago, is slated for demolition. The new owners are planning to erect condominiums on the site.

Congregants and friends filled the pews as a host of pastors who served at Church of the Manger spoke of memories and quoted scripture. These included Rev. Dr. C. Walter Long, Rev. George Eckstein, Rev. Sharon Harfman, and Rev. Marian Johnson.

“Whatever God does endures forever,” exhorts PNEC Conference Minister Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bates as she delivered her sermon.

Rev. Debra Hess, pastor at St. Thomas UCC, commissioned those gathered to, “Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness.”

The church choir provided music for worship. Associate Choir Director Samuel Creyer, a retired Bethlehem Area School District high school art educator sang “Love Grows Here” as he strummed the guitar. Loretta Hein, accompanied by organist Mark Dennis, performed “Silent Night” on handchimes.

“The people were so generous and so mission minded. It was just a joy working with them,” says Long. “During the time I was here we took in 638 members, 312 weddings, 250 baptisms and 212 funerals.” The retired pastor served from 1972 to 1997. Long now lives in Moravian Village and attends Bethany UCC in Bethlehem.

“I love this place. I grew up here,” says Joshua Weirbach, baptized 46 years ago. His youngest daughter, 4-year-old Lilah Hope Weirbach, was the last one baptized at the church. While Weirbach was raised in Bethlehem, the family now resides in Salisbury Township. They plan to transfer over to St. Thomas.

Attendees later enjoyed refreshments in the building’s Fellowship Hall as they reminisced and looked to their future as members of St. Thomas beginning the following week.

For information, visit ucc.org/church/church-of-the-manger-ucc/

Press photos by Ed Courrier The Weirbach family rushes to get to church on time at the Church of The Manger UCC. Photo coverage continues on page A2. Story continues on A3.
“This is a difficult time for the members of Church of the Manger,” says Supply Pastor Dr. Don Quayle, at the start of the final service.
Dr. Don Quayle, serving as supply pastor, welcomes the congregation to their final Sunday at Church of The Manger UCC Oct. 29.
Mom Crystal Gabriel quiets her fussy 4-month-old son Grant during the closing service for Church of The Manger UCC. While from New Jersey, she, Grant and her 1-year-old son Jack were visiting her mother-in-law Diane Gabriel, a longtime member.
Lilah Hope Weirbach is with her 9-year-old sister, Regan and mom, Judy Haney. Her dad, Joshua Weirbach is in back.
Rev. Dr. C. Walter Long with his Bethlehem friend Debbie Long and her therapy dog “Flash.” The camera-shy Border collie is a rescue from a shelter.
The choir sings “Hymn of Promise.” In front, from left, are Joyce Stackhouse, Janice Gorman and Tina Walp. In back, from left, are Loretta Hein, Carol Klinger and Associate Choir Director Samuel Creyer.
Bethlehem resident Ruth Engle receives a small wooden cross from Carol Klinger at the end of the final service. Klinger, a longtime choir member, explains the crosses were crafted from wood taken from the church pews. Engle has attended Church of The Manger UCC for 60 years.