Don Knapp: 60 years a priest

By Bill Lewellis

Every church should be poor, not because members are not generous, but because it gives away what it has. –Don Knapp

Knapp.Don.2007Father Donald Knapp will celebrate 60 years as a priest on May 27. He was ordained a priest in 1957 for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown. He was received as a priest in the Episcopal Church June 13, 1968 in Philadelphia by the late Bishop Robert DeWitt. He ministered for 24 years as rector of Grace Allentown before retiring in 1994.
I met Don after having resigned from the bishop’s staff of the Diocese of Allentown – both of us then former RC priests. During my first Sunday at Grace, I listened to the best social justice sermon I’d ever heard, matching the scripture readings with a story from that morning’s newspaper. In the liturgy, from the pulpit and among his parishioners, Don was nothing if not current. I used to joke years later that Don preached the sermon he prepared at the early service, then read The Morning Call, and preached a second sermon at the later service, referencing stories in the newspaper.
Monica and I eventually asked Don to preside at our wedding. Neither of us had yet been received into the Episcopal Church. Don did the deed, without ecclesiastical permission, in the Schuylkill County home of Monica’s parents. He was not concerned about a "godly admonition." He had already received one.

He and Virginia shepherded us at Grace, with grace, through our early years as Episcopalians.
One day, Don asked me how I found him. “I kept a file on you. You were a former RC priest serving in another denomination within the five-county confines of the Diocese of Allentown." Don loved it. “You had a file on me?” he used to boast out of context whenever he needed to smile.

I suspect that few now remember that Don was among those who laid the groundwork for the ministry of lay Eucharistic Ministers in the Episcopal Church. In 1985, he spoke with the late Mark Dyer, then Bishop of Bethlehem, requesting that Grace Church be permitted to begin a pilot program of preparing lay Eucharistic Ministers for ministry to the sick and shut-ins of the parish over a period of one year. Bishop Mark asked Don to submit an evaluation of the program after the year’s duration. He then carried the evaluation to the 1986 General Convention in Phoenix, where it was passed and given official status. Bishop Mark conveyed the good news to Don from Phoenix by telephone.   
Don also focused at Grace on preparing the parish to use the 1979 Prayerbook; with it, the study of liturgy and the use of newer styles of contemporary music.
During those early years in Allentown, he helped eliminate the parish debt by the sale of the rectory and the parish choir camp in the Poconos. This enabled Grace to greatly expand its physical facilities and open itself to  ministry in Center City Allentown. The parish inaugurated a 4-A Day Care Center, a food bank, a clothing bank (which later developed into a partnership neighborhood thrift store with Trinity Methodist Church), a Senior Citizen Craft Shop, a Prison Ministry, Saturday afternoon movies and popcorn for neighborhood kids, Grace Montessori School and the Aids Outreach ministry.  The ministry of Grace Church became “grace in the city.”

As the center city ministries were developing, Don worked with the parish in expanding its Sunday liturgy to include contemporary modalities, especially a family liturgy where everyone gathered around the altar, especially children, and an uplifting style of music was used. The music of the Celebration Community, based in Aliquippa, contributed much to this style.
During his years in the inner city, Father Knapp was active in a number of social and justice-related commissions. He was a founder of the Lehigh County Prison Society, a member of the Mental Health Association, served on the Community Action Development Corporation and was a member of APSO (Appalachian Peoples Service Organization). He served on the Diocesan Council, the Social Action Committee, the Diocesan Liturgical Commission and was a founding member of the Diocesan Clergy Association.
A Lehigh County judge told me that whenever he saw Don in court he knew he was soon to hear a plea for a poor or marginalized defendant. And he girded himself – "Here comes Father Knapp" – for what he suspected would be a sermon after court.
“I had no master plan,” Don said, “but as the needs of people and opportunities surfaced, the Grace Church parishioners and building were there, offering a helping hand. I attribute all these years to God’s gracious love and the sacrifices of many, both within Grace Church and other citizens and churches in the area. Within, and at the heart of all this, was our worship, fellowship, prayers, and ministry to the borning, the living and the dying.”
Before coming to Grace, Don served as rector of Holy Sacrament Church in Upper Darby. After retirement, he continued in ministry as interim rector in Sinking Spring, Hellertown, Lebanon and Kutztown, as supply priest wherever needed and as an active member of the Diocesan Peace Commission, the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding and St. Anne’s Church in Trexlertown.
Don’s spouse, Virginia, is a retired elementary teacher, currently music director at St. Anne’s. They have three grown children:  Lorraine Frycki of Massachusetts,  Mary Giannelli of Allentown and Donald of California. They have four grandchildren: Stephanie, Matthew, Rachel and Elena Grace.
Now 88, Don suffers the general physical difficulties associated with his age, including loss of his eyesight and balance. He and Virginia live at Luther Crest Senior Living Community in Allentown. Virginia reads his email to him, [email protected].
Don was never timid about challenging people from the pulpit. He once proclaimed one of the best stewardship quips I've heard: "Every church should be poor, not because members are not generous, but because it gives away what it has."

A labyrinth grows in Allentown

By Margie Peterson
The Morning Call
May 24, 2013

Reminiscent of the beloved novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," a labyrinth of wild grasses has taken root next to the Grace Montessori School in the shadow of a seven-deck concrete parking garage in one of the busiest sections of downtown Allentown.

But the grasses and accompanying herb garden were no accident. They are the product of planning and hard work by a partnership of the school and business groups intent on giving the Montessori students a green space for play, storytelling and meditation on the grounds at 814 W. Linden St.

On Friday morning, the school dedicated the labyrinth with short remarks from local officials, songs by small children and a ribbon-cutting next to the fenced-in little park.

"This area is transforming," said Allentown Mayor Pawlowski, whose children had attended the school, which is owned by Grace Episcopal Church in the city.

[snip, snip, snip]

Part of the Grace Montessori mission is to provide quality education for children of all incomes. A third of its students, from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, are on scholarship and many live in the downtown, GMS executive director Libby House said.
Uma Rajendran of Breinigsville and Shruti Saraf of Whitehall Township, who attended the dedication, said they weren't put off by the proximity of the parking garage and all the concrete when they chose to send their children to Grace Montessori for pre-school. Saraf said her son is in his second year and loves it. "The school was so good, no matter where it was I would have sent him," Saraf said.

[snip, snip]

Full story, with brief video narrated by GMS program director and elementary school teacher Radhika Hoshing.

Six photos.

The news release by Elizabeth House
In its 20th year in Allentown
Grace Montessori School celebrates the Earth and dedicates new Labyrinth

Grace Montessori School, located at 814 West Linden Street in Allentown on the edge of the city’s redevelopment area, is pleased to announce the dedication of a beautiful, new labyrinth, constructed in the school’s outdoor green space, which is scheduled to take place on Friday, May 24, 2013, at 10:30 a.m.  As the school has been celebrating its 20th anniversary this academic year, the exciting new project, built over many weeks during the spring, has just been completed. The dedication and ribbon cutting will be an important part of the school’s annual Celebration of the Earth. Honored guests will be PPL Community Relations Director Don Bernhard, State Senator Pat Browne, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, State Representative Mike Schlossberg, Allentown City Council Member Peter Schweyer, and representatives of CREW LV, which sponsored the labyrinth. The Reverend Beth Reed, priest-in-charge of Grace Episcopal Church (located at 5th and Linden Streets in Allentown), which owns the school, will offer a blessing, and the children of Grace Montessori School will perform a concert of songs honoring the Earth and the environment that sustains all life. Parents, church vestry, board of directors, and members will attend.

The labyrinth, which has been generously donated to the school by the members and friends of CREW LV (Commercial Real Estate Women, Lehigh Valley Chapter) plus Spillman Farmer Architects along with Joanne Kostecky Garden Designs, will be featured at Greenbuild, the largest sustainability conference and expo in the U.S. presented by the U.S. Green Build Council in Philadelphia in the fall of this year.

More than 30,000 professionals of the green building industry, including environmentally conscious engineers, realtors, architects, and manufacturers will come from across the nation to take part in the conference. The local chapter of the USGBC, the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, asked all organizations and companies within the region to make a pledge in preparation for the conference. The Grace Montessori labyrinth is CREW LV’s contribution to the conference. Material and time to build the project was donated by the members and friends of CREW LV. Volunteers from PPL assisted members of CREW in performing the back-breaking work of digging up sod, laying Belgian block, shoveling mulch and planting wild grasses and herbs. It is a particularly appropriate project for a school such as Grace Montessori, in light of the Montessori philosophy’s emphasis of reverence for the Earth and the environment.

A labyrinth is generally synonymous with a maze, but there is an important difference between the two: a maze refers to a complex branching puzzle with choices in paths and direction; but a labyrinth has usually only a single, non-branching path, and its route is not difficult to navigate. Labyrinths have historically been used for both group and private meditation. The Grace Montessori labyrinth will feature a pathway surrounded by raised boxes containing wild grasses chosen for hardiness and bordered by benches and areas for plantings. According to CREW founding member Rosalin Petrucci, “the labyrinth is composed of sustainable materials. Youngsters will connect with nature through the plantings and grasses, which will change over the seasons.”

The labyrinth will become an integral part of the school, its curriculum and mission. Children will enjoy the benefits of the herbs and vegetables planted in the garden and learn about social interaction through activities within. Their teachers have made presentations to the children about the proper uses of labyrinths. They will appreciate spending quiet time there, walking, imagining, gathering in small groups for storytelling, and tending to the grasses and herbs contained in the space. Children who participate in the primary school’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will walk the labyrinth in mediation and prayer, and it will also be used by the elementary students as part of their inter-faith chapel class.

Grace Montessori School, located in the heart of the downtown HUD focus and Historic areas, began with the purpose of providing high quality education and child care to children of Allentown’s economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. At the heart of the school’s mission is the goal to maintain a first-rate preschool, kindergarten, and elementary grades (1-5) for children ages 3 to 11 who live in the downtown of the city. While the school attracts children of families of a large variety of cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, and of all economic levels from all over the Lehigh Valley, GMS reserves 30 percent of the enrollment each year for children who are able to attend only because of the financial assistance offered by its scholarship program. The school also offers child care and summer camp programs.

Grace Episcopal Church is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem. It has been known for decades for its many social justice programs, primarily Grace Community Foundation Food Pantry, Grace House, a permanent group residence for previously homeless individuals, and Grace Montessori School. Its outreach efforts also include providing space to the GED Program of the Adult Literacy Center of the Lehigh Valley, IMPACT Project, Inc., which helps first-time juvenile offenders to re-establish good criminal justice records, and North Penn Legal Services, all of whose staff and volunteers provide essential services to the people of the surrounding neighborhoods.

CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women), Lehigh Valley Pa chapter, is the premier real estate organization in the Lehigh Valley and the local chapter of a national organization that is 8,000 members strong. Its members, men and women both, represent every aspect of the commercial real estate industry, including law, leasing, brokerage, property management, finance, construction and more. The organization’s mission is to advance the success of women in commercial real estate.

For more information, contact: Elizabeth H. House, Executive Director, Grace Montessori School, 610-435-4060, or [email protected]

Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998)
newSpin blog, Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]

Gwendolyn-Jane Romeril celebrates 30 and 80 to benefit Kajo Keji

In July, Canon Gwendolyn-Jane Romeril will celebrate her 80th birthday, and the 30th anniversary of her Ordination to the priesthood. (Her 30 years have been spent as an associate at the Cathedral, Trinity Easton, and Trinity Bethlehem, and as the rector at St. Andrew's Allentown.) Her family is asking friends to honor these occasions in one or both of two ways:

Continue reading "Gwendolyn-Jane Romeril celebrates 30 and 80 to benefit Kajo Keji" »

Sixteen years with Bishop Paul

By Bill Lewellis
June 25, 2012

[Bishop Paul Marshall will mark his 16th anniversary as Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem this Friday, June 29.]

"One thing is clear to me," Bishop Paul Marshall wrote a few years ago to parishioners of the Diocese of Bethlehem. "I have no perception other than that I am called to be here."

On June 29, 1996, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, bishops of the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America laid hands on Paul V. Marshall, at age 48, ordaining him the 919th Episcopal bishop in the American succession. Friday will mark the 16thth anniversary of his consecration.

"Each phase of life has its challenges," he has said. "The last phase of life, beyond age 60, is said to be marked by the struggle between integrity and despair. Can a person whose body (along with gravity) is increasingly betraying him believe he still has anything important to offer the species? Can someone who cannot compete physically, and to some extent mentally, with younger members of the species dare to lead? I currently believe that God wishes the answer to be yes, but think the “yes” to that question has to be a conditional one. We will need to match continuity with innovation. The final condition is that when it is time to quit somebody will tell me."

“When we put ourselves in God’s hands to be bread,” Bishop Catherine Roskam preached during the 1996 consecration sermon, “God keeps messing around in our lives, elbows deep in flour, never quite finished, making us ever more delicious and nourishing. The process is dynamic, creative, intimate and sometimes painful. It’s not easy being bread ... May the bakerwoman God bake, break and remake you. May Christ the bread of life, feed and sustain you. And may this House of Bread flourish under your care.”

Bishop Paul’s ministry among us has been broad and deep: teacher, pastor, preacher, administrator, author, advocate and participant in ministry with people in the developing world, children and youth, the poor and the marginalized, advocate and reconciler with those within the church who consider themselves progressive as well as those who consider themselves traditionalists, interpreter of family systems theory, communicator within and beyond the diocesan community, a leader who consults with colleagues, and a person whose ministry as bishop proceeds from prayer and a contemplative vision of God’s kingdom.

Over the past few years, especially with our expanded ministry with the Diocese of Kajo Keji in southern Sudan and with the inauguration of the New Hope Campaign for that diocese and the needy among us which has surpassed its goal, his ministry among us has grown even broader and deeper.

Continue reading "Sixteen years with Bishop Paul" »

Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle

Diocese of Bethlehem Connection ... On Saturday, the Episcopal Church commemorates Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle. "Ministry to the deaf in the Episcopal Church begins with Thomas Gallaudet," according to Holy Women Holy Men. "Without his genius and zeal for the spiritual well-being of deaf persons, it is improbable that a history of ministry to the deaf in the Episcopal Church could be written. He has been called “The Apostle to the Deaf.” He died in 1902. ... One fruit of Gallaudet’s ministry was Henry Winter Syle, who had lost his hearing as the result of scarlet fever. Educated at Trinity; St. John’s, Cambridge; and Yale (B.A. and M.A.); Syle was a brilliant student, who persisted in his determination to obtain an education, despite his handicap and fragile health. He was encouraged by Gallaudet to seek Holy Orders, and, having moved to Philadelphia, was supported by Bishop Stevens, against the opposition of many who believed that the impairment of one of the senses was an impediment to ordination. Syle was ordained in 1876, the first deaf person to receive Holy Orders in this Church. In 1888, he built the first Episcopal church constructed especially for deaf persons. He died in 1890.    Henry Winter Syle is the great-grandfather of Herbert D. (Hap) Syle, III. Hap and his wife, Mary Jane Syle, have served the diocese and their home parish (St. Paul's Church, Montrose) in many ways over the years. The Gallaudet connection is through Mt. Pocono where the late Dorothy Jordan and Betty Speicher were parishioners at Trinity Church. I. King Jordan, Ph.D., Dorothy's son and Betty's brother, became the first deaf president of Gallaudet University in 1988.

Calendar of Events updated June 2, 2011

Here is the latest calendar of events for all events we have been made aware of in the Diocese of Bethlehem. If you have an event you want added, please contact Kat Lehman and she will be happy to include your event. Even better! Be your own reporter! Take photos and write a story to go with it and you might find it published here, on the Facebook site, tweeted, on the web or even in Diocesan Life! If you have questions, just let her know.

The latest calendar is in Microsoft Word for easy cut and paste into most newsletters. The one posted here is updated monthly and we post weekly updates to the Facebook page. Check it out!

Download 110602calendarofevents

Three Pastors Gaeta join in celebration of 25th

Gaeta Three Three Pastors Gaeta, all ELCA Lutheran Pastors, led worship recently at St. Mary's Wind Gap and St. Joseph's Pen Argyl to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ordination of the Rev. Jane Gaeta (center). The Rev. Gerard Gaeta preached. The Rev. Sue Gaeta served as Eucharistic Minister. Jane presided at the Eucharist.

Jane serves as priest-in-charge at Wind Gap and Pen Argyl. Gerard serves as interim at Christ Church Stroudsburg. Sue serves as development director at the Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Washington, DC.

Deacon Lorraine Cusick (Long Island NY Episcopal Diocese), a former student of Jane, served as deacon at both worship services.

A covered dish luncheon prepared by both churches followed at St. Mary's.

Gaeta.Chinese Two former confimation students from near Gettysburg, families from New Jersey and Sinking Spring and seven people from the Chinese Church in Brooklyn participated. (Jane served a brief interim there. She said she would preach a few lines that were then translated into Chinese.) The Liturgy was simultaneously bi-lingual.) One of the pictures shows three of the guests playing their Chinese instruments.

A deacon from Long Island NY (ELCA) was a very special guest. Both Jane and Gerard taught him. He had to leave his home and family in Iran when he felt the call to be baptized.

The Rev. Canon Ginny Rex Day, the Rev. Charles Day, the Rev. Nicholas Albanese and the Rev. Canon Cliff Carr joined in the celebration.