At St. Gabriel’s, we embrace the Episcopal traditions, but we are a flexible community, understanding people’s imperfections and welcoming changes. We like to say: “Come as you are” and this is true for inward spirit and outward appearance. This is a community with a strong sense of family with each of its multiple congregations. We have very strong lay ministers – all who are very dedicated to our ministries. We look for new ways to bring the love of God to those who may not come within our doors and bravely adapt current ministries and create new ministries to meet these needs.
Our ministries include:
- A strong youth program
- A day school for infants through Pre-k, with before and after school through 6th grade
- A recovery ministry including a weekly worship service
- Strong pastoral connection to the continuing care facility adjacent to our property
- A new ministry of Laundry Love
St. Gabriel’s is in a period of transition – where we will need guidance to decide how best we should next serve our community effectively. We will look to our next priest to help us define our vision, giving patient guidance, and encouraging our lay ministers to set new paths. Preaching and teaching will play a big role in this as well to keep our congregation engaged and inspired.
St. Gabriel’s Church was founded in 1720 by a group of Swedish Lutherans who had earlier moved to Berks County from the area in and around Philadelphia. We are the oldest congregation in Berks County with services first being held in 1708 by the Reverend Andrew Sandel.
Our parish began as a Swedish Lutheran congregation; however, they were not able to secure regular sustained ministry from their own clergy. In 1760, St. Gabriel’s formally joined the Church of England, ending our relationship with the Swedish Lutheran Church organization and was provided with Anglican ministers. The relations between the Church of England and the Swedish Lutheran Churches in this country had been most cordial and intimate. The ministers preached interchangeably in many of the churches and the same liturgy eventually came to be used in both.
St. Gabriel’s Church was one of eight parishes that formed the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania after the Revolutionary War. Deputies from St. Gabriel’s were at the General Convention, which elected the Rt. Rev. William White to be the first Bishop of Pennsylvania. We also helped to form the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
The 1801 stone building, affectionately known as the “1801 Chapel”, served as our church until 1884, when the current church building was completed. The cornerstone of this new building was laid on October 19, 1881. It was first occupied for worship in January 1884, and on December 8, 1887, was consecrated to the service of God by the First Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. M.A. DeWolfe, D.D.
The 1801 Chapel was “remodeled” around 1890. The Chapel was restored to its original state between 1960 and 1975, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1978.
The “1801 Chapel” still plays a large part in our worship life as we hold our Saturday service in the Chapel as well as Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving Eve and Memorial Day services. The Chapel has been home to non-denominational congregations – New Horizons Church and Heart’s Ablaze Fellowship.
In 2000 the Good Shepherd Learning Center opened, a Christian-based daycare center providing a much-needed outreach to the community in the region. This vital ministry has maintained a four star rating under the Keystone Stars program.
Land next to the 1884 Church was purchased in 1990. In 2005 the Villa at Morlatton, renamed to the Keystone Villa, opened its doors as an independent living center. Since 2005, The Villa has expanded its facility and added additional services for the elderly to include assisted living and memory care.
St. Gabriel’s interacts with Villa residents in several ways. There a two services held weekly at the Villa and children from both the Sunday School and the Good Shepherd Learning Center frequently visit residents.
Over the years St. Gabriel’s has been the home of Boy Scout Troops, Girl Scout Troops, AA groups, other Community groups, Hope Methodist Church, New Horizons Church, Heart’s Ablaze Fellowship Church, and Hopewell Love in the Name of Christ to name a few. St. Gabriel’s has also served as a “way” station for people in the discernment process on their way to ordained ministry.
In preparation for the 300th Anniversary celebration, the Property Committee has worked to address the condition of the various buildings and planning for several events to celebrate the anniversary are underway.