Beit Simcha (meaning “House of Joy”) Messianic Fellowship was founded in 1992 and incorporated in 1996. Our vision statement is: “We are a community, welcoming Jews and Gentiles, rejoicing, worshiping the God of Israel, learning and loving one another.” Our vision is the core motivation for our building project, creating both a Synagogue and a Community House that welcomes Jews and Gentiles to rejoice and worship the God of Israel with us. We want to remove barriers between people and to extend a bridge between people and God.
Let me start on a personal note. I (Messianic Rabbi Glenn David Blank) met my wife Pamela in a community house called “The Mansion” while I was completing a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 1980’s. The Mansion required both spiritual commitments—common agreement about biblical values and standards, an annual camping trip and daily prayer before dinner (if you didn’t pray first, you didn’t eat!)—as well as practical responsibilities—maintaining the building and preparing evening meals and cleanup. We all understood and accepted these commitments up front and could be held accountable to them. We all experienced tremendous spiritual growth, as “iron sharpened iron” and we became open and vulnerable to one other in sharing our lives, fellowship, prayer and service. It’s small wonder that we made lifelong friends and even a few marriages.
Over the years, I have also visited or contacted other covenant communities in Michigan (Word of God), Minnesota (People of Praise), Pennsylvania (House of God’s Light), Ontario (Return Ministries), a Benedictine monastery in Western Pennsylvania, as well as kibbutz and moshav communities in Israel (including a Messianic Jewish moshav Yad HaShmona near Jerusalem). While these communities represent a range of expressions and commitments, they all involve some members living in proximity and sharing common space, time and responsibilities, and they all seek to make a difference in their wider communities. They also give a glimpse of the idealism that transforms individuals into something greater, as we see in Acts 2:46, “Day by day they continued with one mind, spending time at the Temple and breaking bread from house to house. They were sharing meals with gladness and sincerity of heart.”
Beit Simcha to some extent already fulfills our vision for community by welcoming the public to our Shabbat morning and festival services as well as occasional coffeehouses, in the space we rent from Wellspring Community Church (since 2004), and prior to that in Boulevard E.C. Church (now Christ E.C.) in Allentown (1997-2004) and First Baptist Church in Bethlehem (1993-1997). We also encourage members to participate in havurah (fellowship) meetings, strategic prayer centers and Bible studies, all held in homes of members. Constructing our own Synagogue will enable us to create a space where other Jews can join us comfortably, and expand what the services and fellowship times that we offer on Shabbat mornings, from Erev Shabbat (Friday evening) through oneg luncheons and afternoon classes and on to the end of Shabbat (Saturday evening), as well as other activities of general community interest such as Scouts for children, youth activities, a food pantry for the poor, and more frequent coffeehouses for adults.
Constructing the Community House will enable us to be more intentional about our vision for a community, welcoming others to experience Erev Shabbat dinners, havurah, prayer and Bible study meetings, and Shacharit (morning) prayer services, all to be held in a common room attached to the Community House and open to the public. Residents of the Community House will be required to be members of Beit Simcha in good standing and will further covenant to participate regularly in House activities and welcome others, as well as help maintain the House and surrounding premises.
I am happy to announce that the Lower Macungie Township Planning Commission and Zoning Board both voted unanimously to recommend our variance requests! Truly our G-d is the “master of breakthroughs” (2 Samuel 5:17-20)!
In future posts I will provides updates about our progress as well as details about what our building will look like. To the left is a rough sketch showing the main components of the building.
Here is a 3D color rendering:
Thanks be to God the many gifted people He has already brought together for this project.
Exodus 35:5, “Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD’S contribution:”
Exodus 36:6, “The skilled men said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the work of this construction that ADONAI has commanded to be done!”
Give here to support our building project.Blessings on your generosity!