Years later, Germantown native continues to return each year for holiday spirit, community

 Bertha Aiken at her home in Paoli. She has been a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown since 1951. (Neema Roshania/WHYY)

Bertha Aiken at her home in Paoli. She has been a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown since 1951. (Neema Roshania/WHYY)

Bertha Aiken started singing in the choir at First Presbyterian Church of Germantown in 1951 and hasn’t looked back since, maintaining her tie to the church and the choir through various moves — to the suburbs and to New Jersey — always returning, at a minimum, for the annual holiday concert. 

At 91 years-old, Aiken, who now lives in Paoli, says that coming to the church in Germantown is “coming home” for her and her family. 

Aiken was born in Germantown, as was her late husband and her own children. She atteneded Emlen, Roosevelt and now-shuttered Germantown High School.  

“I was always drawn back there,” she said, of the years after she moved away from Germantown. “I like it because of the mixture of people.”

In many ways the church and choir have been the center of her social life for all these years. When her husband, who also sang in the choir, died, her family chose to buy new robes for the choir in his memory. Her great-grandaughter was baptized there, and her daughter still attends the church with her there on a weekly basis. 

“Sunday was a day to go to church and to go to Sunday school,” she said of her younger years, adding that she has seen the congregation at her church and many others in the area shrink in recent years. 

As a witness to changing times in Germantown, she said what has struck her most recently was the closing of Germantown High School in June, from where she graduated in 1941.

“I just felt terrible,” she said. “It was built so many years ago and what are they going to do with it now? It was a great place.”

“I hope to see Germantown comes back to all its old glory,” she added.

All in all, she believes Germantown is back on the rise, and for now, she is focused on getting ready for this year’s holiday concert, “Messiah.” Originally scheduled for Dec. 8, the concert is being rescheduled for a to-be-determined later date due to bad weather, but Aiken insists this year’s holiday celebration will be the best yet. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.