“In the cavernous sanctuary of Salem United Church of Christ in center city Allentown, the Rev. Alice Roth began the Sunday morning service with the usual update to her elderly flock. Fortunately, no additional church members had been hospitalized that week, Roth reported to the 25 gray-haired folks seated in the back pews of the towering Gothic church.
Like the members of other churches in center city Allentown whose white congregations were once thriving, Salem’s members are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Some were baptized, confirmed and married there, before the neighborhood became predominantly Hispanic. Their Pennsylvania German ancestors were among the founding members in 1875.
In the church’s glory days, up to the middle of the 20th century, it held services with nearly 3,000 people — one of the the biggest UCC congregations in the country — and hosted world-famous opera singers such as Lily Pons in the 1930s. And the church’s own choirs performed in Philadelphia and New York.
Two years ago, however, the folks of Salem came to a crossroads.
With typical attendance of no more than 50 for a special service, they wanted Salem to remain a community church, but they could not financially support it anymore.”
Long article, but definitely worth the read. Lots of churches here in PA are facing the same sorts of issues. The problems are not unique to the Lehigh Valley, but are being seen all across the state. To this date no one has really figured out the single best strategy for responding the demographic changes rapidly underway in this State.
(Via The Morning Call.)