Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is the home of Little League Baseball. It is also home to a beautiful new daughter, Omega OPC. The adoring mother is New Life OPC. Mom and daughter worship just fifteen minutes apart in this town of 29,000 people.
When New Life completed its building in 1999, Pastor Paul Browne and the elders decided that when God filled the space, they would plant a daughter congregation rather than enlarge the building.
So in 2006 New Life sent off about twenty-five of its people to plant Redeemer OPC in Danville, Pennsylvania (thirty-five miles to the southeast), with Roth Reason as the organizing pastor. As the Lord filled the building with worshipers once again, plans began to be laid for another church plant.
Drew Adcock was brought in as a yearlong intern in the summer of 2010 with the hope that he would become the organizing pastor of the daughter church.
Throughout that year, Pastor Browne nurtured the process. Their plans were regularly brought to the Lord in public prayer. Intern Adcock was given access to the men training to be elders and deacons, to see if there were some who would join him in a church plant. Pastor Browne encouraged various families to think about being involved.
The intention was to go forward in unity, with Omega Church becoming an extension of New Life, not an alternative. The leadership did not want to foster any undercurrents of discontent.
It was emphasized that those starting the new church would be expected to be faithful in all of its ministries and manifest an enthusiastic spirit that would be attractive to visitors. As the time drew near for Omega Church to begin worshiping separately, some families were asked to stay at New Life. Too many people wanted to be part of the daughter church!
Omega OPC began to worship in July 2011. She worships in the Pajama Factory, which was formerly a manufacturing plant. It now houses artists’ studios, retail space, and a church. People pitched in and refinished the floor and did other decorating. They have created an inviting worship space that has impressed even some of the artists.
Pastor Adcock says that the space is very conducive to worship. Since it is a public venue, the congregation feels like it is worshiping God in the presence of the world. People passing by in the hall can hear and see the congregation. One neighbor has commented that he now knows the Bible very well since he hears it every Sunday.
But the congregation hears its neighbors as well. During evening worship, music from various businesses drifts in, reminding God’s people that they are a light of God’s grace to the world. Four of New Life Church’s deacons and their families were among the core group of thirty-five that went out to form Omega Church. This was no accident. God was at work shaping the body. The Pajama Factory is located in a poor area of town. As the congregation has taken the gospel to its neighbors, many diaconal needs have presented themselves. The Lord has wonderfully provided deacons to lead in ministering to these needs. Omega is enthusiastic about worshiping the Lord. She has no professional musicians, but she has focused on the musical part of worship, seeking to be the best she can be to honor the Lord. To this end, the hymns to be used in worship are announced a week in advance. People use them in their family worship and devotions. Pastor Adcock encourages the people to pray through the hymns and use them as devotional material. This has helped the praise that the congregation brings to God in public worship to be truly heartfelt.
Gospel outreach, hospitality, seeking to be mature in Christ, and holding fast to Reformed doctrine are also important to the people of Omega Church. Initially, she tried to do too much, seeking to duplicate the ministries of New Life Church. But she has learned that she needs to walk well before she can run. Pray that Omega Church’s impact on the community will grow. Pray that visitors will return and join the body. Pray especially that God would protect his people. Signs of spiritual warfare are evident. The church sign was run over and destroyed. Loud music from neighbors sometimes seems deliberate. Almost every family is feeling increased tension. Pray that Omega OPC will continue to develop well and take her place in the ministry of her presbytery and the OPC as a whole.
God’s Wonderful Providences
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9). OP pastor Jonathan Peters knows that truth very well. Over the decades, the Lord has taken his steps in directions he never anticipated, let alone planned. The latest episode of his life began with meeting and marrying Debbie Kinkaid. Debbie is the music coordinator at Covenant OPC in Reading, Pennsylvania. So with their marriage, Jonathan moved to Reading and became part of Covenant Church. So began the latest saga. Covenant Church hosts the Greater Reading Chinese Christian Church in its building. GRCCC is a mission work of the presbytery. After the first organizing pastor of GRCCC departed, Wendell Stoltzfus, the pastor of Covenant Church, began leading worship and preaching on Sunday afternoons for GRCCC. Before he entered pastoral ministry, Wendell and his wife, Priscilla, had spent time in China teaching ESL classes. One Sunday in February 2011, Wendell was unable to lead worship at GRCCC and asked Jonathan to fill in for him. Throughout the service, he was interpreted into Mandarin. Knowing that Pastor Stoltzfus was very busy and loving Jonathan’s preaching, the people of GRCCC asked him to become their pastor. He asked why, since he didn’t speak Chinese. “You speak very good English,” was the tongue-in-cheek reply. So began an association that has continued.
Jonathan and Debbie have thrown themselves into developing a relationship with the people. Some are English speakers; others are not. The language barrier is even a hurdle in some homes, where one spouse speaks Mandarin and the other speaks English.
The Peters attend Chinese cultural events, host Bible studies and meals, and visit in people’s homes. The congregation numbers in the twenties and includes many professional people. On Easter Sunday, twenty-seven were in attendance, even with several families away.
For Jonathan and Debbie, the Lord’s Day begins at 8:15 a.m. Debbie works with Covenant Church’s musicians in preparation for the 9:30 worship. Sunday school follows worship. Debbie and Jonathan spend the first twenty minutes with the children aged four through fourth grade. They lead the singing, Bible and catechism memory work, and prayer. Then the Greater Reading Chinese Christian Church meets at 1:30 for worship. This is followed by tea and conversation. Twice a month, there is a fellowship meal.
They often don’t get home until 5 p.m. Please pray that outreach to Chinese speakers throughout the Reading area will result in new converts and an ingathering of Christians. Pray for the families that face communication challenges due to differing languages. Pray that the people of GRCCC will grow in their understanding of the Bible, their love for the Lord, and an increased commitment to biblical stewardship.