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Charles Meredith: End of an era in Quakertown


Good morning.

The closing of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Quakertown was sad. It was founded as a union church in 1860, and the bell hanging in the church belfry has both the names of St. John’s Lutheran and the Reformed Church (Quakertown) inscribed.

Way back when St. John’s began, 159 years ago, the church was vibrant. And it still was when I was a kid. Our Scout troop (Quakertown Troop 4) met there. And I remember singing in choruses and playing in brass choirs in its sanctuary. It was a wonderful place to make music.

The Herald’s story (Jan. 24) outlined the history of St. John’s Lutheran. “The church was the result of two separate congregations, one Lutheran and one Reformed, jointly seeking contributions for a church building. From 1870 to 1895, St. John’s along with St. Matthew’s Perkasie, and St. Paul’s Applebachsville, formed Keller’s Church Parish.

“In 1893, the Lutherans and the Reformed dissolved their joint ownership of their building and the Lutherans purchased the Reformed share. In 1899 stained glass windows were installed and many building improvements were made.” The Reformed Church moved to 4th and West Broad streets, eight blocks distant.

Unfortunately, the decline in St. John’s membership mirrors a trend nationally. During the last 10 years the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) has lost more than one million members. The good news is that St. John’s union partner, the Reformed Church, is still going strong. In the 1960s, it moved to its present location at 4th and Park Avenue in Quakertown. It also changed its name to United Church of Christ (UCC) in the 1950s.

But the Quakertown UCC does not have the original bell with its dual engravings. Nor does it have the old bell, which hangs in the belfry at its former church (when St. John’s Lutheran abandoned the union church).

Wouldn’t it be a nice historical touch if the St. John’s bell and the former First Reformed Church bell could be moved to the First UCC’s current location? Maybe the new owner of the old Reformed Church could give one of the bells to the UCC (I believe that there are three bells).

We’ll have to see if the Lutherans would be willing to give up their bell too. Stay tuned.

And now to a different subject.

Ardith Talbott is a lively member of the Bucks County League of Women’s Voters. She’s been helping to lead the charge to end gerrymandering and other good causes. One of them is on the subject of the Electoral College.

Here’s part of an email that she sent: “Besides changing the U.S. Constitution, there is another way to address the issue of the Electoral College before the next presidential election and readers should know about it. It’s more achievable than a constitutional amendment. It’s known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Ardith gave several excerpts from a Washington Post article about it (Nov. 15, 2016, I believe). “For reformers,” Ardith wrote, “the best hope may lie in the so-called National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement among states to award all of their respective electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in a given election.

So far, 11 states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) plus the District of Columbia have joined the agreement. But it will only go into effect when enough states have signed on to guarantee that the winner of the popular vote would win a presidential election.”

States with electoral votes totaling 270 of the 538 electoral votes would have to pass National Popular Vote bills before the compact kicks in and any state’s bill could take effect. Currently, 172 electoral votes are pledged to the compact (through those 11 states and the District of Columbia).

I’m not certain that Ardith’s suggestion has possibilities or not. She has more faith than I do. Maybe using the present system has a better chance of success.

The U.S. Constitution says that to amend the constitution, it takes two steps: (1) two-thirds of both houses of Congress must pass a proposed constitutional amendment. This sends the proposed amendment to the 50 states for ratification and (2) three-fourths of the states (38 states) ratify the proposed amendment either by their legislates or through special ratifying conventions.

The framers of the Constitution wanted to make the amendment process difficult. They succeeded.

Next week, I’ll send along another email that former state Rep. Paul Clymer (Upper Bucks, 145th District) sent. I’m not certain whether Paul likes Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi less or President Trump more. I’ll let you do the judging.

Also, my friend Terry Madonna wrote an interesting piece about the likelihood that President Trump may face opposition in the 2020 Republican Primary. Stay tuned.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith