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Church Will Install New Minister March 29, 2017


Church Welcomes New Pastor March 28, 2017

First Service Slated For Easter Sunday

Church of the Open Bible (COB) will celebrate Resurrection Sunday with a new pastor. Starting with the Sunday, April 16, worship service, Gary Becker will be the new transitional pastor at the church, located at 101 E. First St., Parkesburg.

Regular Sunday services at COB are held each week at 9 a.m., followed by children's Sunday school. The Easter Sunday service on April 16 will take place at 10 a.m., with no Sunday school scheduled that day.

Over recent years, COB has had several changes in leadership. According to Becker, the presence of a transitional pastor is an opportunity for the members to renew and refresh their vision for the future ministry of the church, reflecting a biblical mission.

Becker is the founder and director of Biblically Balanced Ministries, an organization that assists churches in pastoral transition. He has been a church consultant for more than 30 years.

"Our mission statement for the organization is (to) support and encourage churches through consulting, coaching and training ministries to help churches build a biblical balance," Becker explained. "Biblical balance means you are committed to the Great Commission, which is to go and make disciples of all nations, and, on the other side, it is to love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Both Biblically Balanced Ministries and the Church of the Open Bible are independent, nondenominational organizations. The church's evangelical worship is done in a contemporary style based on a biblical foundation.

"We don't know how long I'm going to be there," Becker said of his role as a transitional pastor with COB. "It would take (congregation members) through a time when they evaluate the entire ministry. They try to figure out how they can make this ministry be more effective and have a greater impact both locally and globally. We want to figure out how can we give this church a new vision."

Becker is impressed with the condition of the church building and the willingness of the congregation to recommit to its mission. "This could become a very effective ministry once we discover how this church can most effectively be used," he said. "I don't think there is one prescription to an effective church. I think you have to discover what the prescription is for this church."

With renewal for the future in mind, Becker noted that Easter Sunday is an appropriate time to start his pastorate with COB. "The theme (of the service) is the resurrection. To a certain degree, as God raised Christ from the dead, He can raise churches up," he said. "We want people to come in and say, 'We want to be a part of something new.'"

Originally from New Jersey, Becker was a toolmaker following high school. Looking for biblical education, he planned to attend night classes at Northeastern Bible College, but he instead ended up as a full-time student.

"I felt called at that point. I was about 19 or 20 years old. I really thought I would be in youth ministry, but it wasn't too long that I began to sense, biblically, that God's plan centers around the local church," he stated. "It was that emphasis that got me saying the pastorate is where I belong."

Becker went on to obtain a doctorate in practical theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity. He and his wife, Dianne, live in Lancaster, with four grown children and their families all living nearby.

For more information about Church of the Open Bible, readers may call 610-857-3887 or visit


Church Appoints Worship Director March 24, 2017

St. Mark's United Methodist Church, 27 E. Main St., Mount Joy, has announced that Bobby Wehner is its new contemporary worship director.

Wehner has been leading worship in various capacities for the past 11 years, from small churches to youth mission camps with 400 or more participants. In 2005, Wehner, who plays multiple instruments, joined the newly created worship bands at St. Mark's.

He leads two bands at the church - Oddity and Unresolved. Music selections can include songs from rock bands such as Skillet, altnernative-folk styles from bands like Rend Collective, and worship songs from bands like Hillsong United.

Wehner also writes and records his own music and performs with the Steven Courtney Band.


Church Installs Senior Pastor March 7, 2017

Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) superintendent the Rev. Howard Burgoyne installed Eric Palmquist as senior pastor at St. Paul's Wolf's ECC, 4501 Wolf's Church Road, York, on Feb. 26.

Born in Boston, Mass., and raised in New England, Palmquist spent a great deal of his youth in the church. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served as Covenant pastors, totaling more than 130 years of service.

In 1987, Palmquist attended North Park University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in fine art. He went on to work at the Evangelical Covenant offices before returning to North Park and earning a Master of Business Administration in 1994. He then worked in downtown Chicago for several years and worked with a youth group on the weekends. While in Chicago, Palmquist enrolled in the Master of Divinity program at North Park Theological Seminary.

While in school, Palmquist accepted the position of director of the annual meeting for the denomination and served in that position for eight years. In 2004, he graduated with honors and began working for the seminary as the director of admission. In 2008, Palmquist left the seminary to pursue vocational ministry and accepted the position of director of ministry operations at Newport Covenant Church in Bellevue, Wash.

Palmquist and his wife, Krista, were married in 1999. In 2005, they welcomed a daughter, Anna, and the Palmquist family is currently anticipating the birth of a second daughter.


Church Installs Senior Pastor March 1, 2017

Mount Zion United Church of Christ (UCC), 1054 Ridgewood Road, York, installed the Rev. Danielle Neff as its senior pastor on Feb. 12 at 10:30 a.m. in the sanctuary. Neff, in a unanimous congregation vote, was elected to become the church's 21st pastor and the second female pastor in Mount Zion's history since its beginning in 1851 as part of the Windsor Charge.

Mike Gibbs, York Association representative for the UCC, led the installation portion of the service. Danika Dallam, church council moderator, and designated pastor Jeff Kardisco also assisted. Various members of the Core Ministry Groups made special statements regarding the ministry of Neff and the congregation.

The Rev. Dr. Monica Dawkins-Smith, president and conference minister for the Penn Central Conference - UCC, and the Rev. Laurene Bowers, conference associate minister for congregational life and vitality, were in attendance. The installation service sermon was given by the Rev. Sarah Rentzel Jones, pastor of Lana'i Union Church on the island of Lana'i in Hawaii, where she also serves as associate conference minister in the Hawaii Conference UCC.

The congregation celebrated the occasion for Neff with the presentation of a weekend away at a bed-and-breakfast of her choice with her husband, Alan. The couple has two sons, Sam and Liam.

Neff was born and raised in Waynesboro. She completed her undergraduate work at American University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. She went on to earn a Master of Social Work from the University of Chicago and a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary. She was ordained in 2009 in the Mercersburg association, as she became the associate pastor for Mount Zion UCC.

Neff is a member of the 2030 Clergy Network and a participant in the Next Generation Leadership Initiative of the UCC. The groups provide tools and support for younger members of the UCC clergy.

Mount Zion's mission and ministry efforts include One Great Hour of Sharing, Ronald McDonald House, Chop and Peel, Bell Socialization, Holy Joe's Cafe, Micro-Lending, Neighbors-in-Need, Northeastern Food Pantry, CROP Walk, Cooks on the Road, Blanket Sunday, Church World Service, York Habitat for Humanity, Lakota mission trips, and Compassion Food Run.


Gateway Oxford Welcomes Full-Time Pastor February 2, 2017

As of Jan. 14, Gordon McIlroy is now the full-time pastor at the Oxford branch of Gateway Church.

McIlroy has been the part-time pastor for the Oxford congregation since September 2015. "I was working part time for the church and part time for the Learning Center in Coatesville," McIlroy explained. Now that he will be working full time for the church, McIlroy noted, "(I'll) now be able to actually meet more people, come up with more plans, spend more time with the pastors and grow the church even more."

The Gateway Church of Oxford is a branch of the much larger Gateway Church in Parkesburg, which has a large building and congregation nearing 800 people. The Oxford branch, which does not yet have a building of its own, meets in the cafeteria of Penn's Grove School every Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. The atmosphere is relaxed and contemporary.

"It's really warm and friendly-family. When you come in, there is coffee and doughnuts," McIlroy pointed out. "The motto of Gateway Church is 'You Belong Here,' and it really does feel that way."

McIlroy explained that at both the Parkesburg and Oxford sites there are three overall goals - to get people to come to Jesus, to experience community and to embrace mission work. "We want people to come in the doors, hear about Jesus and fall in love with Jesus and what He's done for them," he said. "At the same time, don't just keep that to yourself within the four walls. Go out and into the community."

McIlroy has helped the congregation in Oxford grow from 30 members to 80 people. A youth group meets in members' homes, and the church does a number of outreach programs in the community such as an "Eggsplosion" at Easter, a summer block party and Trunk or Treat at Halloween.

"It's the people who grow the church - people connecting with people," McIlroy said.

Originally from Northern Ireland, McIlroy was involved in missions worldwide and was also a youth pastor. His first full-time position with a church was in DeKalb, Ill. "The minute the first kid accepted Jesus with me, there was nothing else that would satisfy my soul. I just wanted to be in ministry," McIlroy recalled.

He returned to Northern Ireland, where he took courses at Belfast Bible College and became youth director at St. James Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney. During his five years there, he met his future wife, Ashley, who was there on a mission trip. He moved to America to work at Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church and became a volunteer at Gateway.

He received his degree from Lancaster Bible College and went to work at Salem Church in Reamstown. "I was really enjoying it - getting to do more preaching and teaching," he said.

When the opportunity to be a part-time pastor for the church in Oxford came along, he was willing to give up his full-time job. "That's how much I believed in it," McIlroy said.

McIlroy has been embraced by the Oxford congregation. "I talk to our people like they're family. That's what they feel like to me - an extended family. I love every one of them," he said.

That atmosphere allows McIlroy to relax with his preaching style. "I feel like I can be myself more," he said. "I can do metaphors and different things to get people to understand the bigger picture of what God's up to."

At this point, McIlroy is working out of the Gateway Parkesburg campus when he is not in Oxford. The hope is for the Oxford branch to have a building of its own. "We also do joint things with Parkesburg with their bigger facility," he said. "It's great having that big resource to help us."

For more information on the Gateway Church - Oxford Campus, readers may call 610-857-0720 or visit More information is also available by searching for "Gateway Church" on Facebook.

For more information about Gateway Church, readers may visit


Manheim Pastor To Retire After 26 Years At Zion Lutheran January 26, 2017

Pastor James Roth will retire on Sunday, Feb. 19, after more than 38 years in ministry, with the last 26 years at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2 S. Hazel St., Manheim.

Many individuals know Zion Lutheran as "The Red Rose Church" for the annual Festival of the Red Rose that is held at the church in honor of Henry William Stiegel. The plot of land where the church building sits was donated by Stiegel in 1772 for five shillings and "in the month of June yearly forever hereafter the rent of One Red Rose of the same shall be lawfully demanded."

Rose Sunday is one of many longstanding traditions that Roth said he will miss upon retirement. Working with the Rose Festival committee, studying and sharing the history and genealogy, and guiding the annual Stiegel Tours for the first-graders from Manheim Central's elementary schools are just a few of the other job perks, so to speak, that come along with serving at Zion Lutheran.

"I will also miss those times when the church building is fully decorated for some of our special services of worship," added Roth. The church's Christmas Eve service, complete with candles lit in all of the windows and stained-glass angel and star ornaments throughout the building, is a highlight for Roth, as well as Holy Week and the Easter Vigil.

Roth was born in Allentown; grew up in Wilmington, Del.; and went on to receive his Master of Divinity at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He served in Baltimore, Somerset County, and Franklin County before taking the position as pastor at Zion Lutheran in July 1990.

Roth noted that it has been a privilege for him to help start various projects and programs at Zion Lutheran - from the annual Thanksgiving Day community dinner to the free summer lunch program and beyond - and then watch the initiatives grow and expand as members of the congregation ran with the ideas.

After Tropical Storm Lee hit in 2011, Roth had the opportunity to serve on a Long-Term Recovery Committee that was formed by Manheim community members. The team personally contacted hundreds of families and was able to help approximately 50 families in their recovery from the storm. Those efforts are just one example of the willingness to pitch in and do what is needed that Roth has seen over and over again in Manheim.

"I will miss the connections that I have made with people in the congregation and those who have worked on Zion's staff," Roth said. "During my 26.5 years at Zion, I have been privileged to share in many important, both joyous and difficult, moments in the lives of Zion's members and friends as well as in my contacts through the wider community."

After Roth's pastoral duties conclude on Feb. 19, he plans to catch up on things he needs to do at home. "I haven't had much time for hobbies, but now that I have the time I look forward to starting to play bridge again and perhaps (visiting) more Civil War battlefields," he said. Roth and his wife live in Manheim and have two adult sons.

"Zion is blessed by a quality staff who will more than ably handle the challenges of the coming transition," he shared. "My ministry could not have lasted as long as it did without their dedicated service."

Traditional worship services begin at 8 and 10:45 a.m. on Sundays at Zion Lutheran, with a praise and worship service instead of the traditional service at 10:45 a.m. on the third Sunday of each month. For more information, readers may call 665-5880 or visit


Church Welcomes Priest-In-Charge January 12, 2017

St. Thomas Episcopal Church welcomed its new priest-in-charge, the Rev. Jennifer E. Mattson, at the church's services on Jan. 8. A resident of Lancaster since 2006, Mattson served as assistant rector at St. John's Episcopal Church until 2015 and the birth of her fourth child.

Mattson is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education, with double minors in early education and music. She is passionate about children's and youth ministries. Her pastoral care is reflected in an extra year of education as a chaplain resident at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Music is an important part of Mattson's life and that of her husband, Bradley. They sing with the St. James choir on First Friday nights in downtown Lancaster.

The church plans to schedule a meet-and-greet event for the community.


Church To Install Pastor January 11, 2017

St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 700 Pleasure Road, Lancaster, will hold an installation service for new pastor Robin Fero on Saturday, Jan. 21, at 5 p.m. The public is invited.

Fero graduated from Liberty University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. He then spent 25 years in retail store management, from customer service to marketing to administration. He graduated from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2016 with a Master of Divinity.

At the installation service, the Rev. Lamar Bailey, a former classmate of Fero, will preach. Bailey attended Manheim Township schools, and his father was a nondenominational minister in Lancaster. He is presently pastor at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Silver Spring, Md.

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Verkouw, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Lancaster, dean of the Lancaster Conference, Lower Susquehanna Synod, will be the presiding minister at the service.

A reception will follow the celebration in the fellowship hall.

St. Matthew is wheelchair accessible. Weekly services are held on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and on Sundays at 10 a.m. All are welcome.


Church Names New Pastor January 4, 2017

West Poplar Street (WPS) Church of God, 919 W. Poplar St., York, rang in the New Year with a new pastor. The Rev. Tracey Utermahlen began serving WPS on Jan. 1.

Utermahlen received her pastoral training through the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God and Winebrenner Theological Seminary. She graduated from the program in 2008, received her annual license in April 2007, and was ordained in April 2008.

Utermahlen serves on the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God Church Planting Commission. She has also been involved with the North Carolina church plants launched in August 2016.

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