Phoebe Celebrates 120 Years of Serving Seniors

In 1903—a group of 15 clergy and laymen, led by Rev. Dr. A. B. Koplin, decided there was a need for the deaconess role in the life of the church to be revitalized in the Lehigh Valley. A board of trustees drew up a charter defining an organization that would train deaconesses and be a place of shelter for the aged, which would include a hospital.

The charter emphasized that the Phoebe Deaconess and Old Folks Home would provide “…caring for the sick and the spiritually and physically destitute, and needy, and aged, by establishing and maintaining a Deaconess and Old Folks Home, and to engage in such forms of charitable work as may from time to time commend itself to the Institution.” The Lehigh County courts signed the charter, and the Phoebe Deaconess and Old Folks Home received formal approval on January 20, 1903.

In 2023, 120 years later, Phoebe Ministries has grown to include eight senior living affordable housing communities, four Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), Pathstones by Phoebe, and the Phoebe Pharmacy—all services that assist in the care of older adults. While Phoebe continues to evolve, caring for seniors has always been at the heart of the mission.

Not forgetting the history of being founded as a deaconess home in the United Church of Christ, Phoebe also offers faith-based education through the Pastoral Education (CPE) program. This accredited CPE program offers clergy, seminary students, and qualified community members of all faiths to practice ministry to senior adults. The CPE program will celebrate 25 years of education this spring.

Rev. Dr. Scott Brooks-Cope, the Regional Director of Pastoral Care, ensures that ministering to residents and the community remains a vital part of Phoebe. “The legacy of Phoebe is that we started as a training center for those serving Christ by serving others, and we are still doing that today, 120 years later, through our CPE program,” reflects Brooks-Cope. “The early deaconesses were trained in theology and in medical care, and they were consecrated for their work here.  In our CPE program, we are bringing students who have great training in the seminary to meet with “living human documents” who become the primary teachers here.  They learn from their wisdom, challenges, and struggles, and together we form a community in ministry and in circles of learning and growth.”

Education and service have been important during the past 120 years at Phoebe. In addition to the CPE program at Phoebe, staff members are encouraged to further their skillsets and knowledge. Doing so helps Phoebe continue to offer new and innovative programming for residents, offering therapies and lifestyles that consistently enrich the lives of older adults.

As Phoebe continues to celebrate 120 years of service throughout 2023, we thank our residents, staff, community, and the strong foundation that was put in place by a group of pastors many years ago.

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