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Full-Time Church Growth October 19, 2017

In January of 2014, Tim Witmer thought he had retired from being a full-time pastor. The New Holland native had left his church in Upper Darby and was serving as a professor at Westminster Seminary in Glenside. A chance meeting with his cousin, Carol Sprecher, in the bakery department of a local grocery store caused his plans to change.

Sprecher asked Tim to help fill the pulpit at St. Stephen Reformed Church, 249 E. Main St., New Holland, and he agreed. In November 2014, the members of St. Stephen voted to call him as part-time pastor and elected to change denominations to become part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). After serving as part-time pastor, Tim officially retired from teaching at Westminster on Sept. 5, having become the full-time lead pastor at St. Stephen on Sept. 1.

Tim's roots in New Holland run deep. He was raised in a local church, and he met his wife, Barbara, when Stan Deen cast the two opposite each other in a play at Garden Spot High School. Gesturing to a photo of a past New Holland Farm Show event on the wall of his office, Tim talked about his family's connection to the town. "This (photo is from) the late 1940s," he said. "My dad was on the farm show committee, and that's him right there. (The farm show) is part of our family history."

When Tim first suggested a denominational change to the members of St. Stephen, he had ideas for adding staff. "My original proposal in May 2014 included a part-time children's ministry director and a part-time youth intern," said Tim, who noted that the church had few, if any, children attending at the time. His plan was to reach out to young families. "Now we have excellent ministries in those categories, and we are seeing that bear fruit," he said.

The growth in the church since 2014 has been significant. St. Stephen is attracting more than 300 attendees to services each week and has added more than 180 new members in the last two years. "One of our keys has been a focus on Scripture in all our ministries," explained Tim. The church Sunday school program includes three adult electives and a children's program. "We'd love to see other dwindling churches consider this model for revitalization," noted Tim.

Tim is quick to acknowledge the support he receives in his role from children's ministry director Faith Titus and pastoral intern Nathaniel Stamper. Tim said that the church is looking forward to Stamper's scheduled ordination and installation as associate pastor in December. Stamper has been active in the church, recently spearheading the introduction of the church's life group ministry. Tim added that Barbara is leading the women's ministry, which currently involves about 60 women in Bible studies. Anita Witmer recently became the church's administrative assistant.

Tim first joined the teaching staff of Westminster in 1997 as a part-time lecturer in practical theology. He received full-time tenure in July 1999. Tim was promoted to associate professor in 2002, and the Philadelphia Presbytery of the PCA installed him as teacher at the seminary in February 2003. In 2006, he was inaugurated as professor of practical theology. In 2010, Tim published "The Shepherd Leader," which is now in use around the world to train church leaders. He later published two more books.

Tim is no longer making plans to retire. "I will continue as long as God gives me strength," he noted. "I am excited to be here in New Holland full time and to see what the Lord is going to do."

St. Stephen currently holds Sunday services at 8:15 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday school for people of all ages is held at 9:30 a.m. More information about the church may be found at


Church Installs Associate Pastor October 18, 2017

Mount Zion United Church of Christ (UCC) in York installed the Rev. Jeffery Kardisco as its associate pastor on Oct. 22. The installation portion of the service was conducted by the York Association president, the Rev. Kelly Shiflett, of the Penn Central Conferenece of the UCC.

In a unanimous congregation vote, Kardisco was elected to become associate pastor of Mount Zion in April. He was ordained at Trinity UCC in Waynesboro, of the Mercersburg Association.

Kardisco graduated from Penn State University and earned a master's degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary. He married his wife, Danielle, in 2012.

Those participating in the service included the Rev. Danielle Neff, senior pastor; the Rev. Cathy Sherry, former senior pastor; Danika Dallam, council moderator; the Rev. Pat Mullen, York Association Committee on Ministry partner; the Rev. Dr. Laurene Bowers, Penn Central conference minister; and members Rick Hogentogler and the Rev. Guy Wenck.


Church Welcomes New Youth Pastor October 13, 2017

The Mount Joy Church of God, 30 E. Main St., has hired a new youth pastor, Johnny Krantz.

Krantz was born and raised in Orange County, Calif., before transplanting to Boston to pursue a philosophy degree at the University of Massachusetts; serve as a youth leader at his church in Cambridge, Mass.; and help plant a church in the Boston suburbs. One evening, Krantz listened to an online sermon by Dr. Ted Ewing, pastor of Mount Joy Church of God and longtime family friend. In the sermon, Ewing quoted Krantz's late missionary grandfather. As a result, Krantz reached out to Ewing to reconnect, discovering Ewing's church's need for someone to minister to youths.

Krantz noted that his first priority is to get to know local youths and community members. He also plans to develop personal, Christ-centered relationships and needs-based care and to remind students and parents that they are loved by God.

The youth group, for students in seventh through 12th grades, meets on Sundays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the fellowship hall. Readers may visit for more information.


Church Welcomes New Pastor October 12, 2017

Gospel Light Baptist Church in Millersville will introduce Andrew Almanza as its new pastor on Sunday, Oct. 22, at 11 a.m.

Almanza was ordained into Christian ministry in 2006. His experience includes serving as a professor of New Testament theology, biblical studies, and biblical languages for eight years; serving on several extended missions trips in Zambia, Africa, and Mexico City, Mexico; directing a senior citizen's ministry; and organizing and directing an ESL program for Spanish-speaking people and numerous children's ministries. He holds a bachelor's degree in missions and a master's degree in Bible, both from Fairhaven Baptist College. He also has business experience; he started his own company and managed Lake View Ventilation for the past several years.

Almanza has been married to his wife, Anna, for 12 years. They have four children, Martha, Allen, Amelia, and Kara.

A special luncheon featuring Italian beef sandwiches will follow the 11 a.m. service. There will also be a caramel apple station and children's activities. The public is invited to attend.


Grace UCC Names New Director Of Music October 12, 2017

Grace United Church of Christ (UCC), 1947 New Holland Pike, Lancaster, welcomed its new director of music, Sam Tarasenko, on Oct. 1. Since his arrival, Tarasenko has brought an eclectic mixture of music to the worship service, including compositions by Philip Glass, Beethoven, and even a piece Tarasenko composed himself in response to the tragedy in Las Vegas.

Tarasenko earned a Bachelor of Music in both theory and history from Temple University. He served as pianist and music director at St. Paul's UCC in Bowmansville and completed an internship with Astral Artists, a nonprofit intensive mentoring program in Philadelphia that specializes in developing the early careers of classical musicians. Tarasenko plays the piano and the organ.

Tarasenko plans to work with the church's choir, worship band, and leadership to create meaningful worship experiences. He hopes to integrate a blend of the arts into worship and events at Grace UCC and envisions a music ministry that will reach beyond the walls of the church building. The community is invited to experience worship at Grace UCC on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

Additional information is available at or by searching for "Grace UCC" on Facebook.


Lampeter UMC Welcomes New Pastor October 12, 2017

Lampeter United Methodist Church (UMC), located at the corner of Book and Village roads, has welcomed John G. Smith as its pastor, replacing Blaine Wenger, who was sent to Ruhl's UMC. Smith is not a stranger to the area, as he had served in Lancaster at what is now New Creation UMC from 2001 to 2010.

Smith is Jamaican by birth, and he earned a Master of Divinity from United Theological College of the West Indies, an ecumenical seminary for Protestant denominations throughout the Caribbean. His first appointment was to Belize, where he and his wife, Claudia, served for nine years. A scholarship from the World Council of Churches took the couple to Indiana, where Smith earned a Master of Sacred Theology from Christian Theological Seminary. Smith was next appointed to Jamaica, where he was a pastor for nine years, and then he and Claudia, as well as their three children, came to Lancaster to serve at New Creation UMC. Most recently, Smith was the pastor at Pocono Lake UMC.

"Each (appointment) has had its unique blessings and challenges," Smith remarked.

He observed that the Lampeter congregation is uniquely positioned, with equal access to urban, suburban, and rural ways of life. One of Smith's goals is to move the church toward a greater realization of its role in shaping society.

"I would like to see the church become more mindful of the needs around here," Smith said. "We can be a strong voice and advocate for the poor and for other needs. Christianity is not just about piety. A good test of effectiveness is to ask, 'If your church would be destroyed, who would miss you?'"

Administrative council chair John Strange has appreciated Smith's approach.

"John has challenged us as individuals and as a church to consider (the question) 'what can you do to bring others to Christ?'" Strange said. "His preaching is conversational but deliberate, and it hits you deep."

Smith has been preaching on the topics of growing in Christ; compassion, care, and social witness; how to live out the faith, especially regarding parenting and suffering; and sharing the faith through evangelism. In November, he has planned a series based on Wayne Muller's book "How Then Shall We Live? Four Simple Questions That Reveal the Beauty and Meaning of Our Lives." During the month of December, each Sunday in Advent will explore the questions asked in the song "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Smith has had cause to ask questions in his ministry, such as the reasons for his appointment to a particular country or congregation. However, he has exhibited faith and good humor through that process.

"The cabinet prayerfully discerns the gifts of its clergy," Smith said. "They don't tell you why you're placed."

Smith pointed out that in many of his appointments, he has had to help churches heal through remediation and restoring relationships, and he has developed a process to make the transition between pastors a positive experience.

"I take a long time to get to know people and to hear their story," he said. "Together, we articulate a vision of where we need to go. I help the church recognize its reason for existence and spend time refreshing (members') memories for why we're here."

People who would like to be part of that process may join the congregation for worship on Sundays. A traditional service is held at 8 a.m., and a contemporary service begins at 10:30 a.m. Children's Church for youngsters through fifth grade is offered during the second service. Sunday school classes for children, youths, and adults meet at 9:15 a.m. A nursery is available.

For more information about Smith or the church, readers may visit, call 717-464-4161, or search for @LampeterChurch on Facebook.


CLPC Welcomes New Pastor October 12, 2017

After a search process that took more than a year, Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church (CLPC) has welcomed a new pastor. The Rev. John Hartman began working at the church on Sept. 10, and he will be installed in a special service on Sunday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m. in the church sanctuary, 1068 Chestnut Level Road, Quarryville.

Hartman's predecessor, the Rev. Michael Wilson, who accepted a position with the Donegal Presbytery, will issue the charge. Executive presbyter Erin Cox-Holmes will also participate in the installation, which Hartman compared to a wedding ceremony. A reception will be held in the Family Life Center (FLC) following the service.

Hartman came to CLPC from the South. A native of New Jersey and a graduate of Princeton Seminary, Hartman previously served churches in Virginia and North Carolina. His three adult children live in North Carolina.

Hartman is not bereft of family in the region, however. His father, who is 85, still lives in New Jersey, and his sister lives in West Lampeter.

"It's a call from God. This is where He feels I can use my skills," Hartman said. He listed preaching and building relationships as two of his strongest gifts. "I do enjoy preaching, proclaiming God's Word to the people in ways that connect them to God's love," Hartman remarked. "(And) I enjoy the fellowship of being with folks."

Denise McCardell, who served on the pastoral nominating committee, affirmed Hartman's assessment of himself. "When you are talking with John, you can be in a room with a hundred people, but he focuses on you," she said. "He's a very genuine, caring person, and that came across when we met him."

Hartman also expressed a desire to help folks in need. "I want to provide genuine Christian care for people who are hurting with various issues," he said. "(We will explore) how the church and I can bring hope and healing." Hartman will offer pastoral counseling when people are in crisis, but he will refer them to other professionals in the area as appropriate. He also hopes to challenge the congregation to actively engage in their communities and to meet needs regarding poverty, substance abuse, and broken families.

One of the current ways the church engages with the community is by offering a low-cost meal midweek as part of the Wednesday Night Alive program. Held in the FLC, the meal is served at 5 p.m., and at 6:30 p.m., classes for people of all ages meet. Hartman is currently leading "The Mayberry Bible Study" with a group of adults, and more participants are welcome.

Hartman enjoys a variety of athletic pursuits, and he plans to launch some sports-related community activities at the church. Pickup basketball will begin in February, and a pickleball league may also be created.

He is also planning ahead for Christmas. Advent will begin on Sunday, Dec. 3, and a cantata will be performed during the worship service on Sunday, Dec. 24. Services with carols and candles will be held at 5 and 7:30 p.m. that day, and a third service, this time with Communion, will be held at 11 p.m.

"I like ringing in Christmas with my church family," Hartman remarked.

Guests are welcome to attend the installation service and to join the congregation at other events. Worship services are typically held on Sundays at 8 and 10:30 a.m., with Sunday school classes for people of all ages at 9:30 a.m. On the fifth Sunday of the month, only one worship service is held at 10 a.m. Nursery care is available, and children's church is offered during the second service.

For more information about CLPC, readers may visit, call 717-548-2763, or email


Temple Names Director September 20, 2017

Benjamin Wachstein has been named the inaugural executive director at Congregation Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster. In this role, Wachstein will work with Rabbi Jack Paskoff and the temple board of trustees to handle many of the business-related aspects of congregational life.

Wachstein previously served as the executive director of Beth El Temple in Harrisburg, where he was responsible for crafting a budget, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the facility, and leading fundraising efforts. Prior to his time at Beth El, he was the regional director of BBYO in Cherry Hill, N.J. Wachstein is a graduate of Rutgers University.


Church Offers Awana Program For Youths September 13, 2017

Activities Led By New Children's Ministry Director

Youngsters age 3 through sixth grade are invited to enjoy Bible stories, games, snacks and other fun activities during the Wednesday night Awana program offered at Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) of Chester County, located in West Bradford Township.

Awana, which runs from September through May, meets from 6:45 to 8 p.m. in the church's downstairs fellowship hall. Leading Awana this year for the first time is Caleb Landis, who is FCBC's new children's ministry director and music director. "It has been less than a year since I have started here at FCBC, and I am focusing on growing our Awana program for kids in our community," he stated.

Awana is divided into three age groups. Cubbies is for youngsters ages 3 and 4, Sparks is for students in kindergarten through second grade and Truth and Training (T&T) is for third- through sixth-graders. While children are in Awana, parents are invited to attend the Wednesday evening prayer meeting that gathers upstairs in the church at the same time.

Each session of Awana begins with an opening assembly. "We have some pledges and songs that we sing to open up," said Landis. "The 3- and 4-year-olds then break off and have their own programs with games, snacks and Bible verses. The two older groups have Bible story time, and from there, they work through these little sections in their Awana booklets. They have a lot of Bible memory (exercises) that they do."

A nominal fee is charged for the Awana workbook and T-shirt. "If that is prohibitive for someone, scholarships are available," Landis noted.

Landis is assisted in the program by church volunteers, as well as his wife, Abby, and the pastor's wife, Cindy Venable, who is also the church secretary. "We tell the volunteers to be very affirming with the kids and make sure they are enjoying it. It's a big part of what brings the kids back," Landis noted. "We have a great time. We probably spend about a quarter of the night playing in the gym."

Landis, who was appointed by FCBC pastor Roland Venable, has a history of working with children's ministries. His father, Jack, is director of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Chester County, a ministry supported by FCBC. "We always did our child evangelism work as a family, so when we came to the church to do presentations, I would always come along," Landis said.

Landis, 26, was homeschooled in elementary school and high school while growing up in the Coatesville area. He graduated from Liberty University with a Bachelor of Science in religion. He is currently enrolled in Liberty's seminary program, working toward his Master of Divinity in biblical studies.

Together he and the pastor have made plans to grow the children's ministry at FCBC. "We wedded my experience and my passion, which is working with kids, and his vision of trying to reach younger people," Landis said.

Landis emphasized that Awana is open to youths of all backgrounds, whether they belong to a church or not. "The whole point is to spread the love and good news about Jesus to people who may not have heard it before," he stated. "It's not just about training people who already believe in the principles of the faith. The big focus is introducing people to Jesus. That was His main mission for us. He told us to reach out to everyone."

FCBC, an independent Baptist church, is located at 1585 Glenside Road, Downingtown, directly across the street from Shadyside Park. Sunday school is held at 9:30 a.m., followed by Sunday morning worship at 10:45 a.m. There is also a Sunday service at 6 p.m.

For more information, readers may call 610-384-4053 or visit or


Local Church To Install Pastor September 5, 2017

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 442 Hummel Ave., Lemoyne, has announced that the ordination and installation service for Delores Marie Tribble will take place on Sunday, Sept. 17, at 5 p.m. The community is invited to attend.

Tribble has served the Lemoyne congregation for almost two years and will be the first African-American installed as pastor in the church's 123-year history.

Tribble's resume includes more than 10 years in corporate finance working on diverse teams across five countries. She has matriculated through seminary and possesses more than 13 years of previous ecumenical ministry experience. She also works with a variety of community organizations and associations attempting to carry out the mission of Christ in the world.

The Rev. Thaddeus Allen, regional minister and pastor of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Pennsylvania, will preside over the ordination and installation ceremony, and the Rev. Dr. Arthur Brown, senior pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, Harrisburg, will be the guest preacher.

Dinner will be served at 3 p.m., and there will be a reception immediately following the service.

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was founded in 1894 and aims to be a place for Christians to grow in their faith. Weekly worship services are held on Sundays at 10:15 a.m. For more information, readers may call 717-763-4537 or visit


Church Installs New Pastor September 1, 2017

The Rev. John Fritts recently was installed as the new pastor of Covenant Moravian Church, located at 901 Cape Horn Road. Fritts had been serving as chaplain at Marquardt Village in Watertown, Wis., for the past three years.

He completed his Master of Divinity degree at the Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem in 2014 while serving as pastor of Redeemer Moravian Church in Philadelphia. Before attending seminary, he worked in the printing industry for 35 years.

Fritts and his wife, Anne, are originally from Bethlehem and have two married daughters and two grandchildren who live in the Lancaster and York area.

The Frittses recently returned from a trip to the Czech Republic and Germany, where they visited many of the historical sites of early church reformers who in 1457 founded the Unity of the Brethren in Bohemia. In 1727, this Protestant group became known as the Moravian Church when they settled in Herrnhut, Germany.


New Pastor Joins Church August 28, 2017

The Carlisle Presbytery and Derry Presbyterian Church, 248 E. Derry Road, Hershey, invite the public to the installation of the Rev. Dr. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker as pastor. The service will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12, in the sanctuary and will also be live streamed at A reception will follow in fellowship hall.

The Rev. Rebecca Weltmann will preach. She was the pastor of Washington Presbyterian Church in Washington, Ill., and a friend of McKinney-Whitaker's from his former Presbytery who now resides in New Jersey.

McKinney-Whitaker began his ministry at Derry Church in July. He comes from United Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Ill., where he has served as pastor head of staff since 2009. He received his Doctor of Ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary, his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from the University of South Carolina. In addition, he has been active in local mission initiatives in Peoria and in the national Next Church movement within the Presbyterian Church (USA).

For more information, readers may call the church office at 717-533-9667 or visit


Stillmeadow To Celebrate Pastor's Ministry July 26, 2017

Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene, 400 Stillmeadow Lane, York, will hold a Celebration of Ministry Service for pastor Bayse "Bud" Reedy Jr., who has accepted a call to the Charlottesville First Church of the Nazarene, Charlottesville, Va. The service will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27, in the church's Family Life Center. The community is invited.

Reedy has served Stillmeadow as lead pastor for the last 27 years. He started his ministry in August of 1990 and moved to York along with his wife, Sally, and children, Greg and Heather.

During Reedy's tenure, the church has undergone many changes. Stillmeadow changed its name from York First Church of the Nazarene to Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene when it relocated from 850 S. Pine St. to the current location at 400 Stillmeadow Lane. During this relocation, a promise was made to "go back to the city of York." In 2011, Stillmeadow dedicated the York City Campus at 350 Chestnut St. The church has grown from about 400 regular attendees to about 1,200. Additionally, during Reedy's tenure, Stillmeadow entered into a partnership with the East Jamaica District Church of the Nazarene, allowing international relationships to be built that will last beyond his tenure.

Stillmeadow plans to continue Jesus' mission and look to the future with the foundation that has been laid by Reedy's ministry.


Olivet UMC Welcomes New Pastor July 20, 2017

Olivet United Methodist Church (UMC) in Coatesville welcomed Johnson Dodla as its new pastor during the 10 a.m. worship service on July 2.

Dodla is from Exton UMC, where he served as lead pastor since July 1, 2011, when Exton UMC was formed from the merger of Crossroads UMC and the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Dodla had been serving as lead pastor at Crossroads UMC at the time of the merger.

As in the UMC tradition, Dodla was assigned to lead the congregation at Olivet UMC. "I love the appointment system. The church belongs to the people and not necessarily the pastor," he said. "The ministries that are carried on need to be driven by the body (of the church). It is not solely based on one leader."

Dodla grew up in India and received Bachelor of Arts degrees in theology from both Trinity Christian College and Hindustan Bible College. He began his ministerial work as a youth and outreach coordinator at Centenary Methodist Church in India.

In 2000, Dodla moved to England, where he served as a youth and community worker at St. John's Anglican Church. After one year in that position, he moved to Pennsylvania to work with The Pittsburgh Project, a Christian organization for inner-city at-risk youths.

While in Pittsburgh, Dodla met his future wife, Christyn, who lived in Downingtown. He eventually made the move to the area, where the couple married and had four children: Samara 9; Elijah, 7; Annika, 4; and Josiah, 3.

Dodla said he is excited to lead Olivet UMC, which is celebrating 200 years of Methodism in the Coatesville area. The church was founded in 1817 and, in 1885, it moved to its current location at Third and Chestnut streets.

"My immediate goal is to get to know the people and the community," Dodla stated, noting that visitors are especially welcome to meet him and view the sanctuary, which features magnificent stained glass windows and ornate woodwork. "We are intentional in knowing that not everyone is coming to the worship service with the same experiences. (You will feel comfortable) if you were part of the church for the past 80 years or it's your first time at the church," he said.

Dodla said that pastoring a church in an inner-city environment has both differences and similarities to leading a church in the suburbs. "What is similar is that we are all broken and in need of God's grace," he said. "What is different is that each and every community has its own set of challenges and needs. The work of the church is to determine what those needs are and address them."

Dodla said he would like Olivet UMC to be a place where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to worship God. "(I envision a church) where the economically advantaged and the disadvantaged, the white, the brown and the black would all come to worship together," he stated. "That is my vision for the city - (that) we would do ministry in a way where all (people) can sing and praise God together."

Olivet UMC is located at 310 E. Chestnut St., Coatesville. The Sunday worship service is held at 10 a.m. and is preceded by Sunday school for adults from 9 to 9:45 a.m. Sunday school for children takes place during the worship service, and nursery care for infants and toddlers is offered from 9:45 to 11:15 a.m.

For more information, readers may call 610-384-5828 or visit or


Olivet UMC Names New Youth Minister July 12, 2017

As part of its ongoing revitalization and to better serve the congregation, Olivet United Methodist Church (UMC) in Coatesville recently appointed Andrew Tait as its new family and youth minister.

Tait joined the staff along with pastor Johnson Dodla, with both starting their new positons at the church on July 1.

"This position is newly created," Tait stated. "The congregation and the leaders of the church wanted a revitalization of the children's and youth department. They raised the money and created the position."

Tait, a graduate of Eastern University, hails from Radnor. He said his upbringing - his mom was a Sunday school teacher and his dad was a deacon - prepared him for working in the church. "I was in the church a lot as a kid helping out with projects," he said. "It took me a while to realize, but being a part of that youth group helped me through a lot more than just mastering the basics of the Bible. The leaders and teachers I had while in the youth group - from sixth grade all the way through high school and even now - have been pillars in my faith journey."

Tait said his initial goal at Olivet UMC is to communicate with the youths who attend church and to get to know them. "There are a few youths active within the church. As far as a formal youth group, my job is to rebuild," Tait stated.

After his interview at the church several months ago, Tait began attending Sunday services at Olivet UMC along with his fiancee, Christa. The couple married in June.

"There are a lot of older generation congregants and grandkids, but we are missing (parents in their) mid-20s to 30s who have older elementary school kids (and beyond)," he observed. "There is room to grow in the future."

Tait said that he and Dodla hope to help firmly establish Olivet UMC as a community church. Right now, the church offers a free community luncheon every Wednesday at noon.

"(Pastor Dodla) is more of a contemporary worship type of guy," Tait said. "There is nothing wrong with tradition, but we like to liven things up. We are both excited about what we see and what we want to do as well. He has a youth ministry background as well, and he has a vision for the church as a whole."

Tait's eventual goal is to form a structured youth group with regular scheduled meetings and activities. "We will meet after the Sunday service or on a weeknight where (youths can) bring friends," he said. "We're working toward that.

"I want to see the church as a whole grow as well," Tait added. "With a church that is in such a unique area with so many children, it is a great opportunity and there is room for growth."

Olivet UMC is located at 310 E. Chestnut St., Coatesville. The Sunday worship service is held at 10 a.m. and is preceded by Sunday school for adults from 9 to 9:45 a.m. Sunday school for children takes place during the worship service, and nursery care for infants and toddlers is offered from 9:45 to 11:15 a.m.

For more information, readers may call 610-384-5828 or visit or


EPMC Announces New Lead Pastor, Sermon Series June 30, 2017

East Petersburg Mennonite Church (EPMC), 6279 Main St., strives to be a community of people who are learning to live and love like Jesus Christ. The church was formed nearly 300 years ago in 1720, when some neighbors first found themselves gathering together to worship God, celebrate community, and follow God's mission to share His love.

It is from this place that newly appointed lead pastor Jeff McLain has developed a sermon series titled "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" During the 10 a.m. main worship gatherings on Sundays from July 9 to 23, McLain will explore how followers of Jesus can be good neighbors and make a positive impact wherever they live.

"We love being part of this town," McLain said. "We've been here a long time, and I choose to believe that God put us in this neighborhood to announce, embody, and demonstrate the reigning good news and goodness of the Kingdom of God."

McLain believes churches should be deeply invested in their local neighborhoods, and he practices what he preaches. In addition to serving as a local pastor, McLain is actively involved with the East Petersburg Events Committee and with facilitating the East Petersburg Minister's Meetup. He also lives in the borough with his wife, Katie, and their three children.

In April, McLain stepped into the role of lead pastor after serving as associate pastor at EPMC for three years. It is a second career for McLain, who was a concert promoter for more than 16 years and also worked numerous side jobs. A native of Lancaster County, McLain worked with animal training at a local theater after graduating from Penn Manor High School in 2000. He then traveled with friends' bands, doing artist management. Later roles included retail clerk, greenhouse worker, limousine driver, and youth care worker at a substance abuse rehabilitation center.

"If you knew me in those years, you wouldn't have expected I would have wanted to be pastor, because I knew I didn't want to be a pastor," McLain said. "Churches and church leaders didn't leave the best impression on me growing up, so I enjoyed living and breathing adventure (instead)."

It was through a mentoring pastor, Jerry Shannon at the Lancaster Vineyard Church, that McLain began to change his mind about churches and pastors. Thanks to Shannon's influence, McLain discovered a love for neighborhood community and the joy in a shared mission. Following one more adventure out of the area, which included planting a church, McLain returned to Lancaster County and began his tenure with EPMC. As associate pastor, McLain helped the church to form neighborhood connections, and he worked with young adults and families with young children within the church. Now as lead pastor, he will continue to focus on neighborhood connections and find ways to lead the congregation and overall faith community into deeper discipleship and spiritual health. McLain graduated this year from Eastern Mennonite University's Study and Training for Effective Pastoral Ministry program.

Guests are always welcome at EPMC. Sunday school for people of all ages is offered from 9 to 10 a.m. The main worship gathering is held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. For more information, readers may visit, call the office at 717-569-9931, or email


Local Man Will Promote Disability Inclusion In Diocese June 21, 2017

A member of Saint Leo the Great Parish in Rohrerstown has been hired to serve the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg as the coordinator of the Diocesan Office of Ministry With People With Disabilities. Larry Kiley succeeds Ginny Duncan, who recently retired after serving in that role since the office was instituted a decade ago.

Kiley noted that he wants to build upon the momentum established by his predecessor and those who serve in the Parish Advocacy Program, an initiative designed to enable parishes to better respond to the gifts and needs of parishioners with disabilities.

"I have an image of my work being about pushing down while also lifting up," Kiley said. "We want to push down and eliminate the barriers that prevent the full participation of persons with disabilities, whether those barriers are physical or other. The lifting up is the elevation of the person with disabilities and celebrating their gifts and talents."

Kiley will promote the full integration of people with disabilities in church life. He would like to see congregations make it possible for disabled individuals to serve at Mass, participate on committees, receive the sacraments, and be active in parish life in general. Classes and social functions must be planned with accessibility in mind, he said.

"I think our bishops have summed this up perfectly, stating, 'There can be no separate church for people with disabilities. We are one flock that serves a single Shepherd,'" Kiley remarked.

Kiley has a personal connection to individuals with disabilities, as his older sister, Lisa, sustained a brain injury after birth that rendered her completely disabled. Their mother was the primary caregiver for Lisa, who depended on round-the-clock care until she died at age 27. Additionally, Kiley and his wife, Katie, are the parents of a daughter with Down syndrome.

The diocese's Parish Advocacy Program was created in response to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' 1978 Pastoral Statement on Persons With Disabilities, which challenges the church to create an environment that fully recognizes the dignity, rights, and potential of all people. Readers may find resources on disabilities ministry, learn more about the Parish Advocacy Program, and read the U.S. Bishop's 1978 pastoral statement at

Established in 2007, the Diocesan Office of Ministry With People With Disabilities serves and supports people with disabilities and their families and parishes in working toward individuals' full participation in all aspects of the life of the church. The office is a source for reference material, guidelines, and training programs, and it hosts annual events such as the diocesan Mass celebrating the gifts of people with disabilities and offers a summer camping experience at Camp Kirchenwald in Lebanon for adults with intellectual disabilities.

This year's summer camp will take place from Sunday, Aug. 13, to Friday, Aug. 18. Volunteers are needed to provide a positive experience for the approximately 40 adults who will attend. Anyone age 16 or older is welcome to serve full or part time. There is a particular need for male volunteers age 18 and older who are able to spend the night. All volunteers must complete the diocesan clearance process and attend a training session before the week of camp. Interested individuals are asked to apply by Friday, June 30. Additionally, sponsors are being sought to defray the cost of camp attendance.

For more information on volunteering or sponsoring a camper or to learn more about disability accessibility, readers may contact Kiley at 717-657-4804, ext. 322, or


Churches To Greet New Pastor June 20, 2017

The Gatchellville Charge of the United Methodist Church (UMC), which consists of the Prospect and Cross Roads churches, will welcome the Rev. Rob Anderson to the pulpit on Sunday, July 2. Anderson is replacing the Rev. Michael Trimmer, the previous pastor, who has retired after serving for 13 years.

Anderson most recently served as pastor at Pine Creek Valley UMC in Galeton in Potter County. He and his wife, Melanie, have three grown children and four grandchildren.

Following the 11 a.m. worship service on July 2 at Prospect UMC, 8 Orchard Road, New Park, there will be a covered dish luncheon to welcome Anderson. Dessert and beverages will be provided. All are welcome.


First Baptist Welcomes Pastor Of Discipleship June 16, 2017

It has been a long road home for First Baptist Church of Pequea's pastor of discipleship, Clint Shondelmyer, and his wife, Tammy, who grew up at First Baptist where her father, Pastor Venmen, served as lead pastor for a number of years. Clint officially began his tenure with the church on March 27.

First Baptist, which is located at 6062 Old Philadelphia Pike, Gap, is unique in that the congregation is not affiliated with a larger Baptist denomination.

Clint was raised in Avonmore in Westmoreland County in western Pennsylvania. He attended Philadelphia College of Bible, now Cairn University, where he met Tammy. He graduated in 1987 with a degree in music, and he accepted his first position as a youth and music pastor with a church in Indiana, Pa. He and Tammy were married in 1989. After six years at the Indiana church, Clint and Tammy moved to Venice, Fla., where Clint served as worship leader and music director for more than three years. Their next move, to a church in Springfield, Va., just outside Washington, D.C., kept the family, which eventually included three children, in one place for 20 years, while Clint served as assistant music pastor and later as the music pastor.

Clint learned of the open position at First Baptist through Tammy's nephew, Tukker Zimmerman, who serves as director of student ministries at the church, and his parents. "They had not had a pastor of discipleship, and that is what I am," said Clint, who noted that his 30 years of experience in full-time minstry prepared him for the position. "I help the church as a whole to grow in spiritual maturity," added Clint, who preaches approximately once a month and oversees the Christian education mission of the church, including children's and youth ministries. "My main (mission) is developing a plan to help people grow in their faith," said Clint, who added that the church had utilized a variety of programs in this area but not had a comprehensive plan. Clint's strategy is to start with small accountability groups of three or four men who meet with other men and women who meet with other women for accountability, prayer, and outreach. "We are using that as the building block for (larger) groups down the road," said Clint. "The plan is for these groups to multiply within a year," he added.

Returning to the county represents a homecoming for Tammy and a return to Pennsylvania for Clint, but he noted that the biggest change for him is moving from a suburban area to a rural spot on the eastern side of the county. "The difference is that (in the suburbs) things are moving all the time, and there is a busyness," said Clint, who admitted that he is used to the background noise of cars, traffic, and people on the move. "Here, when I look out over the farm, there is a calm, relaxing feeling." He added that both he and Tammy are happy to be living in Lancaster County."We are really thrilled to be here," said Clint. "It's just great. Coming back was wonderful."

Worship at First Baptist is at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday. Readers who would like to learn more about the church may visit


New Pastor Welcomed At Jerusalem Church June 15, 2017

"God has given me a lot of gifts, and I believe He wants me to use them. That's why I am here," said the Rev. Bonnie M. Oplinger. Oplinger was accepted into candidacy in the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 2016, and in December of that year, she was called by Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC), 36 Church St., Rothsville. At the end of January 2017, Oplinger was welcomed as Jersalem's new pastor.

Oplinger's journey to Jerusalem ELC began when she retired from teaching elementary school in Berks County in 2008. "I wasn't retired two weeks when my friend Dennis Trout from Swamp Lutheran in Reinholds called me," said Oplinger. "His organist and choir director had resigned, so I went to help him out." Oplinger said she would stay through the holidays, and when the church hired a replacement, she sought to move on. "The congregation wanted me to stay, and I started helping with Communion, home Communion, being a lector. It just felt so right."

In addition to her involvement with Swamp, some ministers in her life were encouraging her to look further into ministerial work. Oplinger had worked in ministry before she was married, as a director of Christian Education at a Lutheran church in West Oak Lane, Philadelphia. She attained her Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary, and she did her internship at Trinity Lutheran Church in Robesonia.

When Oplinger arrived at Jerusalem ELC, she found a group of people already having an impact in Rothsville and beyond. "This is a very warm and welcoming congregation that reaches beyond its doors to the community," she said. Oplinger described outreaches including free community meals, which will be served at the church on Mondays, July 17 and Aug. 21, beginning at 5:30 p.m. She also mentioned women of the church who make quilts for Lutheran World Relief, along with projects such as knitting hats for International Seafarers House in New York City, creating health and school kits for Lutheran World Action, and the observance of God's Work Our Hands on the second Sunday of September. Under the coordination of church member Beth Trachte, the church collects food for the Lititz-Warwick Community Chest. The church also partners with Millport Mennonite Church to provide a place for the Rock Connection after-school program that is held on Tuesday afternoons. "They have crafts, a Bible story, and singing," shared Oplinger. "They serve a meal, and then there is an adult Bible study after the meal."

Oplinger said that she has found that her congregation is eager to learn about the Bible and grow in their faith. She has responded with new programs, including a healing service on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. that is open to the community and a grief support group that utilizes the GriefShare curriculum called GIFT (Grieving Into Faithful Trust) on the fourth Thursday of the month at noon.

Attracting young families to the church is an area where Oplinger sees the opportunity for growth, and she has drawn on her teaching experience to reach out to children on Tuesdays and Thursdays over the summer, when the Warwick Ministerium is distributing lunches in the Warwick Township Lions Park on Church Street near Jerusalem ELC. "Jerusalem is sponsoring a reading program for the summer," explained Oplinger, who noted that children will be able to self-select books at the church beginning at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. "They keep a log of the time that they read, and when they have read 10 hours, we will give them a free book to keep," said Oplinger.

Readers who would like more information about the church may visit or call 717-626-8972.

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