Saturday, November 22, 2014

BEAUTIFUL BETHLEHEM


The warmth of the sun was on my back last week as I took advantage of beautiful Autumn days to get out and about with my camera.   I had been cooped up in the house for awhile nursing Roger after his 2 back to back surgeries and getting the house cleaned and back to normal after my last trip to Maine and pet sitting  for my daughter while she and family were on vacation. 

 The leaves are just about all off the trees now. Leaves and more leaves. Lots of work for Roger and his tractor when he is up and running again. He is feeling much stronger everyday.  




  I decided to go for a drive to one of the many parks we have in our twin cities of Allentown and Bethlehem (Pennsylvania). Monocacy Park came to mind.


Monocacy Creek runs through the park.




First I made a stop at our Hellertown Library. A very happy and cozy place to visit. It did not take me long to drop off and pick up a new batch of reading material.
I think of myself as a computer nitwit these days...addicted to my Kindle Fire. Recently Roger surprised me big time by taking me to the phone store and buying me the Amazon Fire phone...I can now sit in the car while waiting for Roger to shop at The Home Depot or Tractor Supply and get caught up on email or surf the internet, read or play games on Facebook. I can even get internet service with it on the Island in Maine which has no cell service! BLISS! I enjoy just browsing and clicking and in a few seconds I have a book to read. Nothing, though, can   take the place of my favorite library or bookstore- on a rainy day especially.



Our local bookstore about 5 minutes from my house.

It was gorgeous at the park! Fishermen and walkers, duck feeders, joggers were out but there was plenty of room to stroll and snap away.


Mr and Mrs were enjoying life now that the little ones had flown the nest.

Hey, what's with the  black duck with the green head?




Just couldn't get past the waterfall...it was so beautiful!
A lovely visit but time to move on. I left there and headed into Center City Bethlehem. Just taking in the sights on the way.  Oh, but first, look at that Steeple!!


Lately I have been having a love affair with church steeples. They suddenly broke into my consciousness on my way back from my last trip to Maine. Enroute to the Maine turnpike I have to wind my way up Route One, through coastal towns of Bucksport, Searsport, Belfast before I hit Augusta and the interstate. I was driving by a church that I had seen hundreds of times. But this time it looked different mainly because it had been repainted I guess.  I was struck by the beauty of it's plain-ness with a steeple that was tall and straight and a bit on the "no nonsense" side. Very ordinary, enduring and peaceful looking. A typical old New England church. I attended a similar looking church on the Island and have warm memories of standing beside my grandmother as a little girl listening to her sing the old hymns in her soothing alto voice.


TAKEN IN STOCKTON SPRINGS,






I have lived here in the Lehigh Valley for many years now. We moved from Maine to this area in 1980. My youngest child turned 5 the day we traveled here so it is engraved on my brain and I will never forget that day or it's date.  For all of those years I really didn't think about church architecture or the reason there are steeples on churches. But since seeing that Stockton Springs Church sitting up above the highway just before the overpass onto Route One I started thinking and I did a google search.  I found out a few facts I didn't know beforehand. Such as....church architecture  in America originated from European influence when the settlers arrived here and began building churches. They tended to build replicas of what they had seen in Europe. Most of our older churches today are just a scaled down version of a church or cathedral that you would see in Europe. Some of them are like Cathedrals built of stone. We have one of those in Bethlehem but it is almost impossible to get a good photo of it due to it being surrounded by trees, on the side of a hill and traffic is non stop there. Others are huge wooden structures but look very majestic.
 One such church is this one on the out skirts of Bethlehem. Not far away from this church was another more modern church, the designs very different from each other. It has a beautiful stained glass window that is probably even more so inside the church. This is the older church...

 So, I began to wonder about why churches have steeples and decided to do a bit of research. First of all, most steeples have 4 parts. The top is the Spire. Then comes the Lantern in which in days past (and maybe so today) would be lit at night. Then comes the Belfry where a steel or bronze bell was housed. Before we had modern technology a church bell was very important to the community. The church steeple was built tall enough so that the tolling of the bell could be heard over the houses as it floated far and wide. It let people know that the church service was about to start,  it alerted them to fires, a wedding or a funeral, and town meetings that met in the church in those days.  And, lastly, it could also be used to tell the time. I have realized that the steeple design sometimes dates the church. The newer churches don't have a belfry or a Lantern as a general rule. Just a spire. Some have a belfry but no bells. 


Sadly, the bells in the steeples are mostly a thing of the past. Due to steeple fires caused by lightning strikes, the bells were not put back in the newly constructed steeples. In  the town of Hellertown we have a church that peals out the time but also plays hymns on certain days of the week  and Christmas carols in December. Of course, the bell has been replaced with electronic equipment such as a Carillon, that digitally replicates the bell. My church no longer has a steeple after such a fire and the bell is mounted beside the church on a post.


A more modern approach to church design.


But, one thing that has not changed is what is atop the Spire. Although sometimes you will see a weathervane or some sort of finial, I much prefer to see a cross.

Moving on to  Center City Bethlehem




Since the lighting was decent and I was on a roll I drove the short distance to Main Street in Bethlehem, parked by the Moravian Book Store and walked around the city in search of churches with steeples. The Moravians settled Bethlehem when they arrived here in the 1700's. They were escaping religious persecution. We have to thank them for a very pretty community and a legacy of wonderful talents and craftsmenship that is still enjoyed and continues to flourish today.  For one thing we have the beautiful Moravian Star...  




And the Moravian Church....


which has...you guessed it...a lovely steeple...

And we enjoy the Bach Choir which travels all over the world.

There are many other buildings to enjoy but I need to get back on track. I will devote another blog posting to those.
Up the street, I mean hill, I found another old church.




It's bell is no longer in the belfry.


It has a lovely steeple.




One more church and I promise that is it for steeples and churches.









I found this statement as I was reading up on Steeples and their significance:

 "We were admonished by Christ who said in John 12:32, 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (I) will draw all men unto me.' This scripture challenges us to lift the cross of Christ up to the world. When we see a steeple and cross atop a church, pointing gracefully toward heaven, the church is also lifting Christ up so that all men might be drawn to him and his Promise."

I think this quotation sums it all up quite nicely.

Early churches believed that the church could communicate the truth of the bible to the common (and often illiterate) folk with symbols. Hence, the stories portrayed  in  stained glass  and the steeple pointing heavenward.

Today church architecture has changed but the steeple remains, for the most part, in "vogue". They make the church look tall not squat. They point heavenward, they enhance the overall harmony of the building, and..."they house the lightning terminals attached to lightning cables to properly direct a lightning strike to the ground below." Earthquakes and lightning are not kind to church steeples.

Well, I lied. I have to get in this one last church. A little Episcopal church that had roses still blooming in November despite frosts that we had had. It is so adorable as is the parsonage beside it. It has a cross on the top, a bell, and I believe digital music  that rings out  across the city of Bethlehem on Sundays.


Parsonage

  
I leave you with a picture of one of the many roses  on the bushes at the front of the church. The beauty of it on a Fall day takes your breath away... as does the beauty that is all around us if we will just stop and LOOK.

 MAY YOUR CUP OF BLESSINGS BE OVERFLOWING THIS THANKSGIVING SEASON AND THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
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