Following the 1953 death of renowned athlete and Olympic medal winner Jim Thorpe, the boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk merged and adopted the name of Jim Thorpe in hopes of attracting attention and tourism to bolster the local post-industrial economy. The township bought the athlete's remains from his third wife and erected a monument to the Oklahoma native, who began his sports career as a student in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (2 hours southwest, near Harrisburg).
On the corner of Race and Susquehanna Streets in Jim Thorpe is St. Mark's Episcopal Church, built in 1887. This beautiful gem is set in the side of a hill. Commissioned by the philanthopist, Asa Packer, one of America's richest men of the time, the church is beautifully appointed and maintained in this picturesque Pennsylvania village on the Lehigh River. It is listed as a National Historical Landmark.
Last week Elders Ulrich and Jensen, on their P-day (eg day off), visited Jim Thorpe and toured this old church. Enjoy reading Elder Ulrich's report:
"When we walked in, there were 2 ladies sitting in the foyer. We explained who we were and then one of the lady's offered to take us on a tour of the whole place.
We went up 3 floors and walked out and into the main worship hall. It was gorgeous. There were stained glass windows all over and lots of gold and white marble statues of different bible characters. There was a huge pipe organ at the front and the floor tiles created lavish designs that reflected the colors of the stained glass windows in the sun. I loved it! We asked lots of questions and got lots of pictures. We ended up talking for about 15 minutes about this awesome structure and then she began asking us about the Mormon church. This lady was super curious and we ended up teaching her a 45 minute lesson.....in this awesome place. It was really neat.
As we were speaking with her, I got this great desire to ask if I could sing a song. You know how much I love music and I didn't dare ask to play the organ so I picked up their hymn book and started flipping through it to see if there were any familiar songs. I finally mustered up the courage to ask the tour guide if I could share a song and she said, "As long as you can sing well!" I chuckled and explained how I had professional voice lessons for years and that music was "my thing." She gladly obliged and then I asked her what her favorite hymn was and she answered "Amazing Grace." I flipped to the song and then asked if I could go up front and sing. She said of course and promised me that I was going to love the acoustics. YES!
I went to the front, climbed over the rope barrier and stood, looking out at this beautiful venue. I found my note and began singing. She was right, the acoustics were to die for! I just soaked in the moment and was amazed to hear how well my voice carried through the rafters and echoed off of the thick stone pillars. My goal was to bring the Spirit into that church and it came with great force. The woman began to get teary as I bore my testimony through song. When I finished the final verse, the last note seemed to hover in the air for decades before escaping through the roof and leaving us in utter silence. She thanked me and we talked for a few more minutes about the beauty of the spirit that we felt. We gave her a pass-along-card and she escorted us out of the building.
This was such a neat experience! I know that we were able to touch her life and that the spirit was definitely present at St. Mark's Episcopal Church that afternoon."
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For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. (Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, July 1830 -- found in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12)