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19th century church in Emmaus undergoing much-needed makeover

Published On: Jul 21 2014 04:12:42 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 21 2014 05:01:39 PM CDT

The Emmaus Moravian Church in Lehigh County has been a community fixture since the 1700s.

EMMAUS, Pa. -

If you've ever been to Emmaus, Lehigh County, you've no doubt seen a bell tower.

"I remember growing up as a young girl, and when someone died in the congregation, the bell would toll the amount of years they lived," Linda Burkhard said.

The Emmaus Moravian Church's bell now sits silent, but the condition of its belfry is a loud reminder of what father time can do.

A giant crane carrying several painters and scrapers is restoring 19th century  construction.

The nearly 270-year-old church, the borough's first, is undergoing a $17,000 renovation to what you could call a spiritual high point, its bell tower.

"There is a lot of people who come and tour this place. We generally don't bring them up here, but they can still see down below," said Alan Kneller, the church sexton. "This will definitely make things brighter and won't see paint all over the place."

The founding of the church led to the creation of what would become Emmaus.

"When we were first here in the 1700s, the church was the community," Burkhard said.

Burkhard said that community involvement is still very much alive. She would know. She's a direct decedent of Sebastian Knauss, the churchs' co-founder.

"Humbling and very proud of it," she said.

Call it faith or just giving back, either way, Linda Wisser, the church's director of growth and development, is grateful the community and the shrinking congregation banded together to fund the restoration.

"That's the history of the Moravians, having faith in God and trust that will continue," Wisser said.

After the restoration wraps up in the next month, the bell tower will continue to stand tall for years, or centuries, to come.