Infinite Grace: Nazareth’s History

Infinite Grace: 

The History of God’s Grace at Grace Bible Fellowship Church of Nazareth, Pennsylvania

Ronald Hoyle

November 14, 1998

In 1898, the small town of Nazareth, with a population of 2,000, had thirty recently-defined city blocks, unpaved streets, and numerous buggies. The fledgling Home Missionary Society of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, led by Home Missionary Presiding Elder C. H. Brunner, was influential in having the Plainfield Township-Nazareth Mission recognized at the February 7-10 annual conference.  The Bethlehem class, with its “elders” in the early years, the Gospel Workers (founded in 1895), and the Gospel Heralds in subsequent years helped to plant what is now Grace Bible Fellowship Church.  In the autumn of 1896, under the Gospel Workers Society, Miss Frany Wismer came to Nazareth to assist Sister Lucy Musselman (widow of elder Jonas Musselman).  The conference listed the following women stationed there in December 1, 1896:  Mrs. Musselman (Nazareth District leader), Miss Wismer (band leader in Nazareth, later replaced by Cora Felty[1]), and E. C. Dech (band leader in Plainfield Township).  These women reported continual blessing through 1897.  In 1898, J. B. Knerr was appointed as Nazareth’s first licensed preacher, supervised by W. B. Musselman.  The conference appropriated $40 for the year to help shepherd the six members in Plainfield Township, the one hundred pupils in Sunday School, and the six adults in Nazareth.  (The 1896 conference records show the total giving from Plainfield Township as $137, with no pastoral assignment, but a property value of $800.) 

Joseph Raisley and his wife Celia owned a plot of land seven miles northeast of Nazareth toward Bangor on what is now called Rasleytown Road.  They sold this plot[2] “for a chapel” in April 1889 to the Trustees of the MBC for $20.  Mr. Raisley was one of the trustees along with George Teel and W. B. Musselman of Bethlehem.  (A record in 1892 speaks of Plainfield as a circuit with Bethlehem.)  The George Teel family had been touched by the Gospel and experienced healing through the ministry of A. B. Simpson in Phillipsburg, NJ, before the land was purchased.  A Union Sunday School met weekly in the chapel[3] that the men had constructed themselves.  Permelia Teel was the Sunday School Superintendent there for a number of years.  It appears that she did not like attending the quarterly conferences, because she was often presenting excuses for her numerous absences.

The above mentioned Home Mission Society held meetings either in churches, halls, houses, tabernacles (tents), and the open air.  Their work was totally dependent on God’s provision.  The society paid the first month’s rent at each new place and partly furnished the hall and the living space for the worker(s) who were supposed to be self supporting.  “But in new openings, eating on the boxes and doing without carpet is often the condition of our workers’ homes in the beginning; and the workers accepted donations of eatables, bedding, furniture, carpets, tracts, etc.”[4]  The Gospel Workers (women) intermittently went door to door, held open-air meetings, and helped in rented halls or people’s homes or under the tent in the surrounding towns of Bath and Bangor.  They also sold the Gospel Herald magazine and the “Daily Food Wall Rolls.”  Converts to Christ were baptized in the East Bushkill stream near the present-day Joneshill-Bookshill junction on Route 191.  In addition to evangelistic meetings, the believers (the class) began to study the Word regularly.  They would meet in the home of Isaac Hertzog at the corner of Belvidere and South New Streets, the Frank Abel store on East Center Street, and the second floor of the Unangst building,[5] before renting a hardware store at 18 North Main Street.  What faith it took for those few Mennonites to open their door at an angle across from the imposing Moravian Church in a town of 2,000 inhabitants.  One dare not forget the chapel in Plainfield Township and its members, who for more than 30 years were a vital part of launching the Nazareth area-wide ministry.

Early growth in Nazareth was certainly hindered by the frequent changes of the “elders” through 1905—E. R. Heywood, W. F. Edmonds, W. S. Hottel, and T. E. Clewell. The Sunday School in Nazareth began in 1901-02, and Charles Lilly became the first male Sunday School Superintendent in 1907 at the age of 17.  By 1908 the quarterly conferences began discussing building in Nazareth, and funds were solicited.  Early delegates to the denomination’s annual conference were from Plainfield Township;  William Fehnel was the first one from Nazareth.  Members attended the numerous services on foot, by horse, by buggy or wagon, and on bicycles.  With an appropriation from the Gospel Herald Society of $60 per year, Pastors Kublic (1906-8) and Reinhart (1908-10) saw membership grow to twelve in Plainfield and thirty in Nazareth.  The believers worshipped without instruments and sang from the Ebenezer Hymnal, printed in 1887, the Standard Church Hymnal revised in 1892, or Garden of Spices used from 1903-1913.

The cement companies with their job opportunities and the trolley connections to Bath, Bangor, Easton, and Bethlehem caused the town to reach a population of 3,378 in 1910.  P. J. Musselman was assigned in October to the Plainfield-Nazareth Mission.  He led the people in the purchase of a lot on South Broad Street in June 1911, and the initial construction in October through December.  The men helped as much as possible in the construction.  (Thomas Fehnel worked 214 hours.)  The cornerstone of the 28 x 44 foot building was laid on November 25, 1911, with $1,420 spent on construction materials through December.  The second quarterly conference met on February 10, 1912, in what is now called Grace Chapel.  The total building cost was $4,240, partially covered by gifts totaling $670 in 1910-11 and $2,939 in 1911-12.  Mr. Isaac Hertzog[6], a photographer, was advisor to the building committee, and donated $1,000 for the chapel.  The pulpit and the pews were a gift from the Easton “class.”  W. G. Gehman, Presiding Elder, dedicated the building around March 24, 1912.

Report of W. G. Gehman

Nazareth, PA—In the evening, we held services here in the new church.  The attendance was large for Nazareth.  Quite a number of outside people were present and almost spell-bound apparently having never heard the Gospel in this fashion.  The Heralds sang powerfully and their messages, we believe, also were effectual.  The pledges for GHS by the time they are all in will be somewhat higher for Nazareth in spite of chapel building.  In Plainfield they will not be quite as high.  Pastor P. J. Musselman has reasons to be encouraged. [The Gospel Banner, April 11, 1912, Page 236 (12)]

In 1913, at the end of Mr. Musselman’s ministry, membership in Plainfield stabilized at nine and in Nazareth at twenty-nine.  Subsequent pastors were E. T. Schick (1913-14), R. Bergstresser (1914-17), and G. F. Yost (1917-18), who continued to receive the Gospel Workers and/or Heralds to evangelize in the area in the open air and under the tent.  The message was still one of salvation, healing in the atonement, and the second coming, but the Methodist emphasis on perfection had been replaced by teaching on the Deeper Life.  In this period, the pastor could have contact with all, but only “fellowship” with believers.  Members were encouraged to be “intimate” so that the unsaved might be brought into a relationship with the pastor.  It was understood that the Pastor’s wife and her children belonged to her husband to carry out his will.  She was expected to be “the prettiest sheep in the flock,” but should not “tell everything to her relatives in preference to her husband.”[7]  This was the period of growing interest in Foreign Missions.[8]  A new hymn book , Rose of Sharon Hymns, containing 755 hymns and Gospel songs was published by the conference in time for camp meeting July-August 1917.  Every quarter, on a Sunday afternoon with the Presiding Elder in charge, there was singing, preaching, business meeting, foot washing, holy communion served from a common cup,[9] and, of course, an offering for the Presiding Elder.  (The conference purchased a camp meeting site in 1910 in east Allentown.  Church members were expected to attend there to hear messages on conversion and sanctification.[10]  Many faithful found their way to Mizpah Grove on the trolley via Bethlehem and then to Allentown.)  The one year (1918-19) ministry of William and Anneda Heffner was much appreciated because he was an evangelist, she played the harpsichord, and they sang well together.  The delegate from Nazareth remembered how much a prankster Brother Heffner was.  Mr. Charles Lilly received a decorated chocolate-covered Easter egg from his pastor, which in subsequent days proved to be only a polished coconut.  Under Brother Heffner’s supervision, the Nazareth “charge” hosted the annual MBC Sunday School convention in the Moravian Church on May 12, 1918.  The Gospel Heralds were present with their stringed instruments and the spirited singing was a blessing to all.  For the Heffners, the appropriation from the Gospel Herald Society had risen to $18 per month.  The more serious J. G. Shireman[11] arrived in September 1919 and convinced the class that time had come to purchase a parsonage.  (A lot had been purchased in early 1913, and discussions had been held periodically about building or buying a house.) With a membership of ten in Plainfield Township and thirty-five in Nazareth, the church members agreed to purchase the house on the south side of the church for $2,750.  By the time renovations were completed in 1920, the total cost was $4,000; but the church took twenty-five years to liquidate the indebtedness incurred.  In 1921 a sexton was hired to clean the church and tend the fire at $8 per month.  Pastor Shireman did not endear himself to the little class still meeting in the Plainfield Township building when he suggested it be closed.  The last separate financial report was made in September 1919, and on October 10, 1919, ten adults transferred their membership to Nazareth, seven being the extended Teel family.  It would appear that the Union Sunday School continued through June of 1920 when the chapel was closed and sold for $200.  One almost senses competition between the two “schools” when Plainfield reached an average attendance of forty and Nazareth reached seventy-nine during that period.  One year later, with just one Sunday School, the average attendance was only fifty-one.    Membership in the station now totaled forty-eight, and offerings stood at $2,981.  A year later Sunday School attendance stood at seventy-three, and membership at fifty-three.

The population of Nazareth in 1920 reached 4,288, but the town was beginning to feel the effects of the declining slate and cement industries.  With the advent of the reasonably priced automobiles, the trolley service was more and more limited.  For a while there was responsiveness to the Gospel in Bangor to the point that land was purchased there for $1 from the above-mentioned Isaac Hertzog.  Individual communion cups were used for the first time in February 1921.  Monthly appropriations from the conference were still at $18 in 1923.  The trustees at the time of the pastoral change in 1922 were Charles Lilly, Albert Gaumer, and Erwin Godshall.  Pastor F. B. Hertzog[12] was stationed in Nazareth from 1922-25, and he and his wife were deeply loved by the members.  Their appreciation was demonstrated when they gave F. B. his first car—a Chrysler with real glass windows.[13]  Believers and pastor attended Sunday School conventions and camp meetings at Mizpah Grove by trolley, railroad coach, automobile, and truck.  F. B. Hertzog is remembered in a later parish for the following incident:

. . . during a Sunday evening service, Brother Hertzog was emphasizing the need for doing one’s best in every situation.  Then, stepping from behind the pulpit and in clear view of the congregation, he said, ‘If you’re going to jump, jump to the best of your ability.’  Then he went into a crouch and sprang six or eight inches into the air.  He then said, ‘you didn’t think an old pastor could do that, did you?’  It is reported that ‘he brought down the house’ with that one.

A member of the Zionsville church gratefully recalls how Pastor

 Hertzog one day at Mizpah Grove Campground knelt with him in prayer to make certain of his salvation.  Perhaps most significant was the comment made by a former parishioner of South Allentown, “F. B. and Sister Hertzog lived what he preached.[14]

The old-timers remember when the pastors had to live on the fruits and vegetables that the members raised.  Every year after Annual Conference, they had a special service where the Christians brought in fruits, vegetables, meat, pumpkins, and etc. for the pastor’s needs.  Then they would sing, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove me now, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will pour you out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”  Harvena (Lilly) Weaver remembers Isaac Hertzog hiding $1 bills around the church on Wednesday nights.  The children were asked to find them as quickly as possible shouting, “Praise the Lord.”  He would then give the funds to the church from the “money street” which he had hung from the front door to the pulpit area.           

Pastor R. L. Woodring was assigned to Nazareth in October 1925 and would remain until 1934.  Annual Conference ruled in the late 20’s that the pastor’s tenure could now be nine instead of three years.  Financial records note that there were 89 members and friends who supported the work.  The indebtedness on the parsonage was lowered by $1,000 in the church year 1929-30, but the debt of $2,450[15] would be carried 15 more years.  Subsidies from the denomination would continue at $15 per month.  Membership would remain stationary at 83 (most members were employed by the cement companies or were farmers).  In 1928 the streets of Nazareth were paved.  In 1930 the population reached 5,505, with the Lutheran, Reformed, and the Evangelical (Methodist) churches now rivaling the historic Moravian church.  In the October 1933 Annual Conference minutes, one reads the following resolution:  “We as a conference declare ourselves as not being antagonistic to the use of musical instruments in connection with our religious worship.  The question shall be left to the discretion of the various individual congregations to be decided by a 2/3 vote of the quarterly conference.”  The Nazareth class would take its time for such a vote.  Pastor Woodring died suddenly in June of 1934 at the age of sixty.  Parishioners remember his last Sunday in their midst when he sang beautifully these words from “An Evening Prayer.” 

Evening Prayer

Saviour, breathe an evening blessing

Ere repose our spirits seal

Sin and want we come confessing

Thou canst save and Thou canst heal

Should swift death this nite o’ertake us

And our couch become our tomb

May the morn in heaven awake us

Clad in bright and deathless bloom

                           –words James Edmeston

In 1936 the Ralph Hendershots, former Lutherans converted during revival meetings in late March, became members and were baptized in the above-mentioned stream.  In 1937-38 Mr. Hendershot was first an auditor and later the Sunday School Superintendent.  Surely he and Florence were instruments in helping encourage a positive response when a vote for a piano was finally taken on December 26, 1937.  Could the successor of Pastor Woodring, H. K. Kratz, known for his conservative ways, be responsible for the slow moving of the wheels of change?  Pastor Kratz and his family made great sacrifices for the ministry of the Nazareth and Northampton classes when the circuit was established in 1934.  The minister preached alternately morning and evening in the two churches every Sunday.  The Great Depression had touched all the families, and church offerings were slim.[16]  A new church officer, the class leader, was now responsible for the mid-week service in the absence of the pastor, and an offering was now received (beginning in 1936) once a quarter for a pastoral retirement fund (until then insurance coverage was frowned upon).  One could summarize these Mennonite Brethren in Christ believers as loyal, plain, separated, obedient, and self-sacrificing.  Presiding Elder William Gehman had been influential in changing the doctrine of sanctification away from the Wesleyan second blessing teaching to the Deeper Life message on personal holiness.  The women could wear hats, but without feathers or flowers.  No jewelry[17] was allowed on fingers or in ears, and men could not grow mustaches.  Weddings were held on Sunday mornings or only in the presence of church members.  (Gordon and Mildred [Teel] Habrial in 1948 were the first ones to be married in the church in the presence of unsaved friends and family members on a Saturday rather than a Sunday.)  Parades and celebrations were considered worldly, as of course, was the “movie house”; especially the one next door to the church.[18]  Pastor Kratz in his paragraph in the History of Nazareth 1740-1940 wrote, “A small but intensely faithful and devout denomination, the M. B. C. fulfill in ample measure their obligations to the welfare of the community.”  Evangelist Rutledge held protracted revival meetings in the church periodically in the years 1939-42.

As America was drawn into the Second World War, the population of Nazareth stood at 5,700 (little growth in 10 years), and the M. B. C., being historically pacifist discussed and established a policy to fund conscientious objectors in special camps or as medical aids.  As the war progressed, some church young men willingly joined the various branches of the armed forces.  The camp meetings at Mizpah Grove were canceled between 1942-45 because of gasoline rationing and other shortages.  The youth group which had existed for a number of years, now joined a movement organized in the denomination in 1944 called “Menno Youth.”  The members signed the following covenant:  “Having turned to God from sin to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, and in humble dependence upon the Lord who has redeemed me by His blood, I covenant by His grace to be faithful to my trust and loyal to the

principles of the Society that I represent.  I also trust Him to enable me to bear my humble witness upon every suitable occasion and assist as the Lord may prosper me in spreading the knowledge of the Gospel everywhere and be loyal to the principles and doctrines of the Church.”

It was common during these years for the Nazareth class to close down for three weeks so its members could attend the Mizpah Grove meetings to profit from the revivalistic, dispensational, missionary and evangelistic messages, as well as the instrumental and vocal musicians.  The Christians thus had opportunities to hear other M. B. C. pastors, so they might know a little about a new pastor who might be suddenly assigned to them at Annual Conference.  Each summer, healings were recorded and souls saved at camp meetings.

Isaac Hertzog and his wife continued to support the local ministry until his death in 1940.  Little by little the burden of the parsonage was lifted until it was erased in 1944.  A moment of deep testing came to Pastor Kratz and the flock in Nazareth when three of its leaders (Charles Lilly, Charles Smith, and William List) were tragically killed, along with 28 others, in a gigantic explosion at the Sandts Eddy Cement works in March 1942.  God was faithful in raising up other leadership locally.  Then Pastor David Thomann[19] and his wife, Pauline[20], came in 1943 from the Gospel Herald Society to pastor the church.  Their musical gifts (he played the piano & accordion and she the trombone), their energy, and their youth brought new life to the circuit for a three-year period.  Two daughters were born to them in Nazareth.  It was not always easy to travel back and forth to Northampton, so Brother Thomann was thrilled when he was able to purchase from Ada Lilly a recent-model yellow Chevy with fog lights and a spot light on the driver’s side.  The town cinema was next to the parsonage, so the pastoral couple could hear the sound track of the film while seated on the back porch. Their annual salary was less than $1,500, collected through the stewards in the two churches.

A. M. Sprock and his wife, Libby, found themselves appointed to the circuit from 1946-48.  Records show that nine members of the Teel family and Harriet Rasley (Raisley) were still much involved in the church.  Special evangelistic services were held at least once a year.  A missions’ Sunday was held once a quarter beginning in 1942.  Membership appears to have declined during this two-year period.

In 1948 early discussions were held about training pastors at a Bible school rather than through the Gospel Herald Society (which had become Home Missions in 1948).  In the early years, pastors were approved by examination of required reading courses or by on-the-job training.  An evening school was begun in 1949, and then a day-school for training full-time Christian workers—male and female, pastors and missionaries.  Total giving from the churches in 1949-50 for the training institution was $11,641. (Nazareth took an offering of $9.08 in April of 1951.)  Jansen Hartman was named president of the Berean Bible School located in Allentown in September 1950.  In 1952 he became Director of Home Missions as well.  Berean would provide a good number of the pastors in the denomination in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.  In 1949 the Conference adopted a nine-year limit on ministry in a congregation or leadership role (P. E./D. S.).  Two years later it was resolved “that at the last session of each local conference, the members present vote by ballot as to whether or not they desire a chan[Comment1] 

ge of their pastors . . . .  The result of the vote shall be kept in confidence by the Presiding Elder and the Delegate (of the local church).”[21]  Thus a first step was taken to allow the congregation to choose its own pastor and the eventual abandoning of the influential Stationing Committee.

E. N. Cassel already in his 70’s came to Nazareth in 1948, whose population now stood at 5830.  He and his wife, with their years of experience and godly lives, were deeply loved and were effective in the ministry.[22]  A memorable service was held on October 7, 1951, when Pastor Cassel retired after 51 years in the work of God.  The members gave Brother and Sister Cassel fifty-one dollars in fifty cent silver coins dated 1951, each of them receiving half of the gift!!  Wives of pastors were coming into their own!!!  Pastor John Riggall and his wife Mary Ann and young family were assigned to the charge that autumn and had the joy of participating in Grace’s first missionary conference where the offering was $108.90.  The Women’s Missionary Society was created in 1953,[23] and a monthly missionary offering was received the first Sunday of each month beginning in 1955.  Metal missionary barrels were distributed for weekly use in Sunday School in November of 1956.  Mrs. Betty Dyke and her husband Herb from the Easton Church were known also in Nazareth; prayers and periodic gifts were made beginning in 1949 for their work in India under the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  Mr. Norman Granda[24] called Pastor Riggall a “wind-splitter” for his dynamic preaching, and Mrs. Evelyn Granda called him the “flying parson” because he drove rapidly the eight miles between the two charges of Nazareth and Northampton each Sunday morning.  God blessed the Grace church with numerical growth; and the trustees in December of 1957 first considered lengthening the Broad Street church by twenty-five feet and continued discussing the need for enlarging or building a new structure.  Pastor Riggall loved music, and so did Harvena Lilly, who upon her marriage to Ray Weaver, rented a Hammond organ for the wedding on March 24, 1956.  The church continued to rent the organ until it was purchased by the church for $2,500 on April 15, 1956, with a loan from Conference.  The Menno Youth also contributed $50 to the project.  The final repayment of $615 to the Conference was made October 11, 1957.  The church, being concerned for reaching non-churched youth with the Gospel, became interested in the interdenominational ministry called HI-BA (High School Born-Againers), and pledged support of $10 per month for a two-year period.  The “ordinance” of foot washing was still being practiced in the church at the local conference, probably at a mid-week service or on a Sunday night, because Mrs. Mabel Remaly was authorized in 1959 to buy new tubs (one for each sex) and towels.

            John Golla and his wife Ann became spiritual leaders in Nazareth after Annual Conference in 1958.  The denomination bought Victory Valley Children’s Camp near Zionsville in 1955, so the church children now began attending a week-long denominationally-run camp.  Serious discussion across the Conference began as early as 1955 concerning a different name for the denomination.  After much praying and negotiating among the brothers and sisters, the pastors, and the elders, the name Bible Fellowship became official in June of 1959.[25]

            The 60’s brought many other changes to the denomination, other than its new name, and these affected Grace Bible Fellowship Church.  A revision of church government by the Conference was considered as early as October, 1955, but it was not until January 1968 at adjourning session that rule by elders was adopted.

            In October of 1961, the pastors and delegates at Conference defeated the article in the Faith and Order (by a 2/3 majority) which considered feet washing as an ordinance (sacrament) and one to be practiced in each church.  The Nazareth church abolished the said practice on November 28, 1961.  The conference-wide government was changed from leadership by a Presiding Elder to one by a salaried District Superintendent in January 1962.  The Official Board recommended that Grace Church have a choir, and the pastor was given a fixed salary of $300/mo. beginning in 1962-64 and in 1964-65 at $400/mo.  Discussions were ongoing about relocation; the minutes read “We discussed the challenge of a future building.  We dismissed with this challenge, ‘Get hold of it and let it get hold of you.’”[26]  A long exchange of ideas was held in the Spring of ’61 about the need to end the circuit with Northampton/Walnutport.  A request was made at Annual Conference in September to dissolve the church circuit; said request was granted.  Pastor John Golla became Nazareth’s full-time pastor, after 28 years.  God’s blessing was evident as 25 new members joined the church in 1961-62.  The thought of a new building emerged again and again.  A student from Berean Bible School—James Beil, later to become pastor at Grace in 1967—began to help in the evening services.  Interest in home and foreign missions continued to grow to the point that a request was made in January of 1963 that Grace Church support regularly a missionary assigned by the Board of Foreign Missions of the BFC.  By 1964, a new upright piano was bought[27] and communion was served at a Sunday morning worship service with the pastor officiating, with the District Superintendent having his visit in the evening.  The budget system for church expenses was instituted January, 1968.

            Richard Kline was called as pastor in October, 1963.  With only a balance of $4,200, it was decided to look at 2 choice acres of property at Beil and Rose Inn Avenues in the northeast suburbs called East Lawn.  Eventually these two were purchased for $8,000, with three more purchased in the following months.[28]  Ground breaking was October 25, 1964.  The church then contracted with Unified Church Structures for a master plan for developing the entire site.  As the building plans were approved, the church was able to sublet to local contractors and most of the materials were bought locally.  The building seated 225, including the possible overflow under the balcony, and also had a kitchen and Sunday School rooms.

            Leon Sheats (a transfer from the Easton BFC) was named building collector and Leroy Buss did the landscaping.  Paul Teel (son of  George Teel of the first chapel in Plainfield Township) furnished most of the oak wood from his farm for the sanctuary furniture, and Norman Granda “considered it a joy” to make the pulpit furniture (transferred to the present sanctuary).  The complete cost of the building was $76,000.   Second National Bank of Nazareth held a $69,000 mortgage for 20 years.  Dedication service was held November 5-6, 1966, with District Superintendent T. D. Gehret on Saturday and the pastor on Sunday.

            The ‘60’s were also the period of the week-long evangelistic meetings.  Florence and Ralph Hendershot as well as Ethel and John Steiner were the youth sponsors.  Pastor Richard Kline resigned in the summer of 1967 and was replaced by Rev. James Beil and his wife Gail.  Camp meetings continued at Mizpah Grove through the summer of 1968, after which the “summer conference ministry” was transferred to Pinebrook Bible Conference in the Poconos on Labor Day.

            A new parsonage was built next to the church in 1971 at a total cost of $29,500.  There were semi-annual local conferences held during years 1970-72, then only an annual business meeting.  Elders—as many as eight—were first elected to give spiritual leadership in July 1972.  Pastor F. B. Hertzog had returned to Nazareth in September 1966 as administrator of the Bible Fellowship Home on New Street.  He would continue to help also in Grace Church through 1975 and beyond when he retired from his ministry at the Home and was replaced by Grace’s Pastor James Beil in October 1974.  A. L. Seifert was the last full-time denominational leader, in 1970.

            The 1970’s found Grace Church trying various methods for reaching out to non-believers.  Pioneer girls touched non-churched children in the early 70’s and AWANA clubs met from 1976-1980.  Vacation Bible School was also a tool to share the Gospel.  For adults there were evangelistic campaigns, Billy Graham films, Family Life Conferences, and various musical groups.  A long-range planning committee was established in 1975, as well as a goal attainment committee which considered specific goals for 5 years.  As Sunday morning attendance continued to grow, serious plans were made to modify the existing building to accommodate more people.  An expense of $35,000 was approved in the summer of 1981, and work began immediately freeing up the space under the balcony.  Pastor Beil had been replaced by his brother-in-law Pastor Paul Zimmerman in 1974, who was then replaced in 1979 by Keith Plows and his wife Lois.  The local church by then was totally responsible for “contracts” with its pastor.

            As the church entered the 1980’s, ten or more committed believers from the Easton BFC transferred to Grace Church, as that church closed in August of 1982.  Betty and Herb Dyke, missionaries assigned to Easton, would transfer their membership to Grace until their retirement in 1987.  That decade saw the passing of three influential men in the life of the church:  Norman Granda, Chester Heimer, and the venerable Pastor F. B. Hertzog.  Before his transfer, Pastor Zimmerman wisely sought a pastor to minister to the youth, so from July 1978-February 1980, Philip Yerrington served until he left for the mission field, partially supported by Grace Church.  With an enlarged church family, it became necessary to lighten the load of the elders by creating a Deacons’ Board in 1983 and to establish by-laws.  Tom MacMillan was assistant pastor under Keith Plows from October 1982 through April 1987, when he became full-time pastor of Grace’s daughter church in Bangor.  Carl “Bud” Fischer began his assistant pastoral ministry in June 1987 until December 1991, when he accepted the pastorate in Blandon BFC church. Robert Hershberger served as assistant pastor from mid-1992 through the end of 1995.  In order to meet pastoral needs, the church purchased a second parsonage on North Broad Street in September 1983.

            With the Nazareth church continuing to grow, the leadership, after much praying and planning, released thirteen of its members to begin regular Sunday worship services in September 1986 in a rented facility in Bangor.  Pastor Tom MacMillan was the organizing pastor of Cornerstone BFC.  Eight months later there were twenty-five members.  One year after its start up, average attendance was ninety-six, with twenty-three interested families.  But all would not go well among the leaders, so the numbers began to dwindle little by little.  (Twelve of the Grace people who helped in the church planting experiment would return to the mother church in 1992.)  The elders continued to wrestle with the need for enlargement.  After the mortgage burning on March 23, 1986, funds were now being reserved for an extension of the Christian Education wing.  An addition of $400,000 was considered, and the projected start-up was to be in 1990.  Long months were spent in negotiating with one architect and ultimately it was mutually agreed to terminate the contract.  The church then hired architect Wayne Batten from Bethlehem, a member of the BFC family, to draw up new plans for a building to include the following:  sanctuary seating 300, foyer, rest rooms, three offices, and library, in addition to the previously planned Sunday School rooms.  Church minutes in February 1991 speak of a projected cost of $985,000.  Construction took place during 1992.  Grace had cash assets at the beginning of the year of $266,538 and had building expenses totaling $698,000 including loans during that fiscal year.  Through 1993 another $289,000 was spent on the new building, bringing the total cost to $988,000 ($400,000 being a bank mortgage and $100,000 being loaned by members and friends of the church).  What a day of rejoicing when the building was dedicated on May 23, 1993.  More than 104 years had gone by since the ten original members met in Plainfield Township in a frame 15’ x 30’ building built by their own hands.

            The five years between 1993-1997 have seen the membership increase from 204 to 240.  The building debt has decreased from $502,200 to $259,500, with all personal loans being paid off.  Monthly mortgage payments stand at $2,800 for 1998.  The elder board has expanded to nine men plus the pastoral staff.  Key committees include the following:

1.   Christian Education

2.   Membership and Ordinance

3.   Outreach (Evangelism, Missions)

4.   Music

5.   Spiritual Life (Discipleship, Fellowship, Growth Groups)

6.   Strategic Planning

Each member is considered important in reaching out to the 20,000 people in the area.

            Pastor Plows made a mission trip to Europe in 1992 for three weeks, while the newly installed Assistant Pastor Robert Hershberger led the church.  Since the needs of the growing number of young people were considered a high priority, it was decided that a youth pastor was needed on staff more than an assistant pastor.  Jeff Ruhl, his wife Shirl, and four children, replaced Pastor Hershberger in January of 1996.  Retired missionary Ron Hoyle (aided by his wife Doris) became Pastoral Assistant in October 1997.

            From the humble nucleus and rustic chapel in Plainfield Township, with the evangelistic help of Gospel Workers and Gospel Heralds, Grace Chapel was built in the heart of Nazareth in 1911-12.  Through the depression years, World War II, and the limitations of the circuit with Northampton, the MBC in Nazareth struggled but survived.  In a step of faith, the yet small nucleus moved in 1966 to the East Lawn northeast suburb of town into the first unit of its master plan.  By 1993, with a pastoral staff of two men, the membership of almost 200 launched by faith into the construction of a million dollar addition in a neighborhood now filled with upper-middle class houses.  Grace Church is indeed a demonstration of God’s marvelous grace.


Traveling elder or itinerants—ordained minister; in early days reassigned often by the conference

Steward—lay person responsible for soliciting gifts for the pastor’s material needs

Rent collector—lay person responsible for soliciting gifts for the pastor’s housing

Trustee—lay person responsible for administering the material and financial needs of the local ministry and reporting income/expenses.

Sunday School Superintendent—male or female lay person who supervised the Sunday School ministry locally

Deacon—lay person responsible for caring for the church building and parsonage and for the material needs of the poor members

Class (Station)—a group of believers meeting regularly for prayer, preaching, evangelizing, and fellowship

Class leader—lay leader of the class—qualifications and responsibilities of present-day elder

Delegate—lay representative of the local church to the annual conference

Charge—a local church to which a pastor was assigned by annual conference

Circuit—field of work, usually two churches (or more) sharing a pastor

Quarterly conference—congregational meeting held four times each year for reporting to and stimulation of the local church, chaired by the Presiding Elder or District Superintendent in the early days

Annual conference—yearly denominational meetings which last three or four days when pastors, delegates, and committees give reports and are stimulated spiritually

Mission—a pioneer church-plant created by Annual Conference, led by one or more Gospel Herald or a pastor and subsidized by Annual Conference funds

Licensed evangelists—male or female part-time worker in early days initially approved by the local church and then by annual conference

Presiding Elder/District Superintendent/ Conference Superintendent—spiritual and administrative leaders of the denomination who chaired church business meetings, assigned pastors, and visited churches to evaluate the local ministry

Appointment—assignment of a pastor to a specific local church, made by the stationing committee

Appropriations—subsidy of the Gospel Herald Society (later Church Extension) for a local unorganized church

Home Missionary Society, Gospel Herald Society, Home Missions, Church Extension—conference agencies responsible for the supervision of male workers engaged in pioneer church planting

Gospel Workers Society—an arm of the denomination in early days to use gifted women in evangelism; later the women worked at the Union Gospel Press

Tabernacle or tent meetings—temporary evangelistic efforts under a tent with itinerant evangelists and vocal and instrumental music

Open-air meetings—preaching of the Gospel and singing on street corners or parks with the distribution and sale of Christian literature

Poor fund—gifts collected for those with little resources, especially for medical needs

Board for Missions—sending agency that supports full-time foreign and home missionaries

Layman’s Benevolent Society—agency funded voluntarily to help defray funeral costs

Applicants for annual conference license—men who are being considered as full-time ministers in the BFC

Licensed/ordained ministers—men approved to pastor in the BFC conference of churches

Probationers—men preparing for ordination who are serving a probationary period of service in a BF church

Camp Meeting—week-long meetings of church families during which they lived-in tents at a camp grove where BFC pastors and outside speakers and musicians preached salvation, sanctification, and the second coming


YearPastor(s)Average SS AttendanceBaptisms during 5-year periodTotal MembershipTotal GivingHome & Foreign MissionsPastoral SalaryAllotment from Denomination
1896Plainfieldenrolled 10009$   137$    19$    50 
1898J. B. KnerrP          85P          7P                6N                6    252                                 95$40
1903W. S. HottelP               22N              29P        19P                8N                9928 10772
1908E. E. KublicP               12N              3124P              12N              301,312 47560
1913P. J. MusselmanP               26N              36 13P                9N              291,115 29860
1918G. F. YostP               36N              5530 P              10N              352,134365543180
1923F. B. Hertzog7824483,7668111,049216
1928R. L. Woodring8542833,5716401,555216
1933H. K. Kratz652832,155272749180
1938H. K. Kratz7931911,538276500120
1943H. K. Kratz483652,080333590
1953J. H. Riggall6015595,1455811,385
1958J. H. Riggall8725739,6351,1512,300
1963J. E. Golla93359315,4961,8864,000
1973James Beil1574712929,4884,5556,700
1978P.  Zimmerman1224213738,4458,45010,445– 
1983K. E. Plows1684516495,43112,00018,054
1988K. E. Plows15938175146,71616,90725,521
1993K. E. Plows19938198220,17421,93736,322
1997K. E. Plows20034240279,01329,17550,544

C. H. Brunner in a brochure “The Church and Missions-1930” summarized the offerings for missions in Plainfield-Nazareth as follows:

               Plainfield    Dates 1896-1919          G.W.S.   $   230.62 Home Missions                $   319.86               Foreign Missions              $   380.35

               Nazareth     Dates 1899-1929          G.W.S.   2,116.84 Home Missions                    3,773.46               Foreign Missions              5,412.62   

 [1] Cora Felty’s weekly report December 29, 1896:  “The Lord has manifested His healing power, also cleansing power and these things the Devil could not stand. . . . In visiting from house to house I find some [people] really hungry to know something of Christ and of the Holy Ghost . . . . Let us move on shouting the victory through the blood of Jesus.  Gospel Banner Report, p. 12.  Vol. 19, No. 52.

[2] Deed in the Courthouse in Easton.

[3] Still standing today as a private residence with its original slate roof, 15×30 feet.

[4] February 1896 Annual Conference (see yearbook, p. 23)

[5] With a 3rd floor, it still is a business establishment on the southeast corner of Broad and Belvidere Streets.

[6]Isaac Hertzog was a regular attender who never became a member.  He gave several generous gifts over the years.

[7] Address by W. B. Musselman at 10th annual Ministerial Convention, 1899.

[8] Esther and Mamie Teel left for service with the Gospel Workers, ending up at the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, Ohio.

[9] The local “elder” did not officiate at the Lord’s Table.

[10] In the early 1920’s Mrs. Ada Lilly sold her engagement ring so she and her three children could spend a week at Mizpah.

[11] In 1900 Mr. Shireman wrote an essay on “the Minister”– “He should be too busy to find time for  a vacation, for fishing, hunting, or animal recreations!?!”

[12]F. B. Hertzog was no relation to Isaac Hertzog.

[13] William Gehman of Emmaus, a MBC member, owned a Chrysler dealership.

[14] June 1981 Fellowship News

[15] This loan was held by Mr. Martin Klepplinger from Nazareth who had reimbursed Permelia Teel, her part of $850 in 1934.

[16] See chart in the appendix of church finances for 5-year periods over the past 100 years.

[17] Wedding rings were only authorized in the mid 40’s

[18] The Broad Street Theater, built in 1926.

[19] Nazareth’s first pastor to attend a Bible college—N.Y.C. Missionary College (C. & M.A.)

[20] She is a descendant of Jonas Musselman, one of the early “fathers”, and his wife Lucy, Gospel Worker District Leader who preached in Nazareth in 1896.

[21] October 1951 Annual Conference Yearbook

[22] Evelyn Teel was a short-term missionary in Kentucky from July 1948 – October 1949

[23] The first WMS was started at Bethel in Allentown in 1949; a conference-wide WMS organization was organized in 1956.

[24] Mr. & Mrs. Granda joined the church in March of 1958

[25] The choice had been between Bible Fellowship and United Bible.  Nazareth M. B. C. members voted 27 yes and 3 no for the new name on April 11, 1959.  Denomination-wide votes were 1580 to 507 and, by churches, 56 to 6.

[26] Donald Siegfried, secretary of the board.  He would never see the dream come true because he was tragically killed in a vehicle accident.

[27]There was even discussion about a baby grand.

[28] First two acres bought for $8,240, 10/18/64; second two acres @$4,000/acre 9/16/69; fifth acre 1972-73


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