We are a newly consolidated congregation, founded in 1997, from four United Church of Christ congregations: St. Paul’s and Christ Memorial both in West Hazleton and Grace and Emmanuel’s both in Hazleton. We began with a dream…. What if???
Forty years ago we began talking about the posibilities of coming together. First two of the congregations talked, but that didn’t even come to a vote. Then two other congregations talked, but that ‘blew apart’ because of ego’s (clergy and laity). Then several years later, another vote was taken by two congregations about ‘sharing a minister’ but that was negative as well. All of these ‘talks’ needed to happen, so that in 1994 we were able to form the Inter-Church Board made up of three people from each of the four congregations. St. Paul’s sent: Bill Gould, Ken Stecker, and Peg Sonderschaeffer. Christ Memorial sent: Rich Heiser (co-Chair), Denise Wagner, and Henry Mauser. Grace sent: Mildred Shermer, Bob Koch, and Ron Kellmer. Emmanuel’s sent: Sandy Vitagliano (co-Chair), Darlene Russell, and Galen Whitebread. These folks were the Shakers and Movers.
They began forming Joint Committees to work on: 1) Four Joint Services we had per year, 2) Joint Christian Education Ventures e.g. Youth Group, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation Class, 3) Get to Know You Activities e.g. picnics, Sr. Socials, etc. The next big decision was to hire a Sr. Pastor and an Assist. Pastor to minister unto all four separate congregations. Rev. Jane Hess was hired as Sr. Transitional Pastor and Rev. George Bahner was hired as Assist. Transitional Pastor.
They invited people from our National Staff of the United Church of Christ to help us with the process and decision making. We had many meetings including three All Church Congregational meetings. Then in December, 1997 we voted at the same polling place as four separate congregations over a period of two weekends. At a Joint Worship Service on December 4, 1997 the votes were announced and all four congregations voted to move forward with the Consolidation. The Charter for the new church was opened and remained open until March 3, 1998 when it was closed, a new consistory elected and a Constitution and By-Laws voted on. From then on we worshipped together in one location. We used one facility for three months and then moved on to the next for three months, etc.
There was yet another study done on all four facilities. We voted to sell our current properties, purchase land and build a new building. The loan was secured through a local bank and we moved into our current building in February 2001.