Celebration slated for Anniversary of Ordination
Anniversaries are a time to take pause and revisit past accomplishments. For the Rev. Robert Berger of Hughesville, this pause will occur on Sunday, September 14 during the regular morning worship service at the Hughesville Baptist Church where the now retired pastor served the congregation for 33 years.
The commitment to become a minister occurred when he was attending a summer camp for Baptist youth at Canton. The speaker invited campers to commit themselves to God and His service and so he responded. That speaker just happened to be Rev. Taylor of the Hughesville Baptist Church. “Little did I know that eventually I would be posted there,” Berger remarked.
And so, the young man whose family home was destroyed during the early 1940’s when the federal government confiscated land to build a munitions complex near Alvira, was one of the first upheavals in his life. Having been born in 1929, he was about age 11 at the time.
After attending elementary school in Watsontown, and graduating from Montgomery High School in 1944, Berger went on to earn a Bachelor Degree in Secondary Education from Temple University in 1951. The student’s studies were financed through a senatorial scholarship via the office of then State Senator Snowden. “To sustain myself while in Philadelphia, I worked part time at Strawbridge and Clothier, a large and well known department store in the city,” he said.
Berger continued his education by earning a Master of Science Degree from the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary graduating in 1954. While in school, he was a student pastor at White Deer Valley and Watsontown Baptist Churches. “I commuted back and forth on weekends by way of the Pennsylvania Railroad,” Berger said.
The retired minister considers himself a life-long student and enumerated the following accomplishments: “Masters Work in American History and History of South East Asia at Bucknell University, Lewisburg; Doctorate Work at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School on the History of the Baptists; and at Regents Park College, Oxford and Baptist Seminary in London, England.”
Berger became pastor of the Hughesville Baptist Church in 1951 prior to his ordination at that church on Sept 24, 1954. The sermon was presented by Dr. Norman W. Paulin, Professor of Homiletics of Eastern Baptist Seminary. Traveling with Paulin from Philadelphia was Eileen Berger, a fellow student at Temple University, also a native of the White Deer Valley. “This was in the beginning of our relationship,” Berger said of his future wife.
“We were fortunate to spend 33 years at the Baptist Church here. I was also asked to fill in temporarily at the Picture Rocks Baptist Church while they looked for a pastor. Their search took 22 years,” Berger said.
He also served twice as interim pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, Williamsport for a year as an interim area minister for churches in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.
A pastor’s duties include weddings, baptisms and funerals. Of them he shared a list of firsts he performed which include a first wedding at Hughesville where he united Georgine Hill with Dalbys Kriesher. In Picture Rocks, a divorce ended a first marriage so Berger named the second, that of Connie Price to Thomas Eddy.
The initial baptism at Hughesville occurred on April, 6, 1952 for candidate Lois Whitebread; and in Picture Rocks, the immersion of John Artley occurred on April 14, 1957.
His first funeral was held in February 1952 for Mrs. Ida Hill at Hughesville, and on May 12, 1956 in Picture Rocks, Donald A. Sprout was the deceased.
The community has benefited from Berger’s volunteerism such as being a former member of the Lions and Rotary Clubs, editor of Canusarago Yesteryears, a publication highlighting the East Lycoming area during the country’s bicentennial year. He is also a charter member of the East Lycoming Historical Society and has served as an officer in some capacity in all the former organizations.
A tidbit from a 1955 issue of The Luminary noted that Berger, then president of the Hughesville area Magisterium, was accompanied by a group of fellow pastors who distributed Bibles to every classroom at the newly opened high school.
Attending in the upcoming celebration will be the former Miss Sally Dorman, Picture Rocks native and organist who is the sole surviving participant in the ordination 60 years ago.
The public is invited to the 10:15 morning worship service and to remain for a time for food and fellowship at the Baptist Church, Third and Water Streets, Hughesville.