The Kutztown Community Library offered the community a variation on an annual vacation tradition. This year’s holiday tour featured the churches of Kutztown.
“Last year’s visit to the library’s vacation homes has been suspended. Not wanting to miss a second year, it took some creativity and it was decided to feature local churches, ”said Jacqueline Sharayko, Deputy Director of the Kutztown Community Library. “Their public spaces allow for social distancing that single-family homes could not provide.”
The Friends of the Library, a non-profit organization that raises funds for the library to cover un-budgeted expenses, spend months planning fundraising. The most popular tour themes in the past were Town, Gown & Country, Pathways through History, and Kutztown Bicentennial. Begun in 1992, the tour featured 161 sites, including 123 homes and 38 local businesses and churches.
Last year’s tour was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This year the Holiday Church Tour featured seven churches in Kutztown.
“(The Holiday Church Tour) was a great community event because it allowed locals to see the beauty of the city they live in,” Sharayko said.
Library Director Janet Yost said that while the turnout was not what they expected, “Everyone who came out enjoyed the visit.”
“One participant said she walked past churches every day, but it was an opportunity to take a peek inside,” Sharayko said. “It was a common theme.”
During the tour, participants saw the evangelically modern stained glass windows of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran, the St. Paul’s UCC oil painting of Jesus welcoming children by his side, the original painting by Keith Haring of St. John’s UCC, the stained glass rose of Trinity Lutheran and St. Mary’s Catholic Church artwork created by parishioners, as well as the combination of historic and modern elements of Grace Church and the Gothic architecture of the chapel of the Kutztown Bible Fellowship.
“Many people have commented on the magnificent stained glass window. One of the favorites on the tour was Kutztown Bible Fellowship Church, which has a Gothic touch with its decorative stonework and darker stained-glass windows, ”Sharayko said.
Two have special associations with Kutztown Community Library benefactor Louisa Gonser, who in 1941 bequeathed her home at 337 West Main Street as Kutztown’s first library.
The churches were decorated for Christmas.
“Many churches had fresh greenery and candles that wowed visitors,” she said. “There were refreshments including homemade cookies and hot chocolate at some stops.”
St. John’s Lutheran on Main Street had a bell choir playing Christmas carols and later the church hosted a concert.
“Several attendees said that (the church visit) was more fun than a home visit because home visitation can seem intrusive and is often very busy,” Sharayko said. “Several people have asked if we would consider touring the church again next year.”