BY TOM LAVIS
First Lutheran Church, 415 Vine St. in downtown Johnstown, began with humble beginnings.
From a one-room log cabin called “Old Blackie,” built in 1819, to the present church, built in 1918, First Lutheran has had many forms.
For the first time in its more than 175 history, the congregation will be conducting a regular Sunday worship service off its property as a community outreach.
But church members are not going far.
An outreach ministry service will be held at 10:45 a.m. Sunday in the community room of Town House Towers, 420 Vine St. – just across the street from the church
Traditionally, First Lutheran conducts a less formal service on the Sunday after Christmas, and members of the church’s evangelism committee, who came up with a visionary plan in October, thought Sunday would be the ideal time to offer a more informal worship service.
Mary Jane McCready of Upper Yoder Township, a church member and chairwoman of the worship committee, said First Lutheran is faced with declining membership and said something had to be done to stem the tide.
“Given our downtown setting, we have few children because a lot of younger people are leaving town to get good jobs,” she said.
“We decided to concentrate this effort on the people who live downtown.”
That includes all the residents in the public housing sector of the Vine Street, Lincoln-Lee, Joseph Johns and Town House towers.
The service will be relatively simple and feature Scripture readings, carols and prayers.
The Rev. Eleanor Abarno, pastor of First Lutheran Church, said she is encouraging all church members to join in the effort.
“Our congregation has made evangelization our No. 1 priority,” Abarno said.
“The service will not be the regular Lutheran ministry, but there will be a lot of Christmas carols and the telling of the Christmas story.”
Communion will be offered to those worshippers who have been baptized and are qualified to share in the Lord’s Supper.
Abarno said the church has held services outdoors adjacent to the church since 2009.
“There is a parklet between our church and the Crown building, which we have used for services during the past several summers,” she said.
“It is an informal setting where people often wear shorts and enjoy the service.”
Other congregations have visitation and social activities at Town House Towers, but organizers believe this may be the first time a church has moved its service there.
Chairs will be set up in the community room and, if more are needed, accommodations will be made.
A normal Sunday morning service attracts about 90 people to the
McCready said the service is open to everyone.
“The intent is to get people interested in our church, and we are willing to take it to them,” McCready said.
“We hope there will be a willingness of people to come and share in the service and see what we are all about.”
Church member and Town House resident Blanche Cramer will be on hand to greet people and direct them to a chair.
There also will be a hospitality hour after the service to share light refreshments and fellowship.
Town House Tower residents often attend the church’s Good Neighbor Dinner, noon recitals and basket parties.
What: Outreach ministry: Word and Sacrament.
Where: Town House Towers, 420 Vine St. in downtown Johnstown.
When: 10:45 a.m. Sunday.
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