calendar January 8, 2015 in Bishop, Congregations

In Closing, St. John Shares Light

Updated Jan. 9 with link to Inquirer article. 

When members of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pottstown, extinguished their candles for the last time on Epiphany night, the light didn’t go out.

St. John’s held its final worship service after 72 years ministering to South Pottstown on Jan. 6. “We have always ended Epiphany worship with a procession out of the church. We’re going out into the world to share our light amid the darkness,” said Pastor Susie Folks. Though the congregation has closed, the light from St. John’s is still spreading. “The legacy goes on wherever we go,” Pastor Folks said. “

One tiny candle can light up a whole room,” Bishop Claire S. Burkat said in her sermon. “Certainly it is a day of sadness. But hidden within this time of mourning is a tiny flame of hope.”

Bishop Burkat

Bishop Burkat holds vials of frankincense and myrrh, representing the gifts of the magi.

When the Wise Men followed a start to honor Jesus’ birth they could not have known the greater light that would shine through his death, the bishop said. At first, the crucifixion would have seemed a normal event under Roman rule. Yet it “exploded like divine fireworks into the world, and has filled generations of people with hope,” the bishop said. “You are part of that flame of hope,” she reminded the congregation.

Bishop Burkat inspected severe flood damage at St. John’s on her first day in office in 2006. The people invested resources and sweat equity to get the congregation back in action, she said, then paid forward the assistance they received from other congregations by donating to ELCA churches that experienced floods. On St. John’s last day, a check for more than $900 was mailed to assist Rejoice Lutheran Church in Erie, Colorado.

Pastor Folks and Barbara Myers participate in the closing liturgy.

Pastor Folks and Barbara Myers participate in the closing liturgy.

The light from St. John’s will continue to spread. The congregation’s paraments will be sent to their companion Korogwe Lutheran Parish in Tanzania. The congregation’s residual funds will be divided between Heifer International and ELCA World Hunger, Folks said. The processional cross that has led Pottstown’s Good Friday procession will continue that service, donated to First Presbyterian Church. Collections from the WELCA group and Sunday School have gone to Ministries at Main Street, a local homeless ministry that has used St. John’s Parish House as its intake center for several years, Folks said.

But it is the people of faith nurtured at St. John’s that will reveal the congregation’s true legacy as they move on to other churches and new ways of service, Bishop Burkat said.

Pastor Folks and Dean Bill Vanderslice of Upper Montgomery Conference after the service.

Pastor Folks and Dean Bill Vanderslice of Upper Montgomery Conference after the service.

“You may be a small congregation – but you are being sent out like the magi, following the star to the place where Jesus resides,” the bishop said. “Each of your little candles is lighting up the world, and your faith in Jesus in word, witness and service is a fragrance and precious gift to be carried and shared.” — Bob Fisher


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