Westmoreland, Mid-Mon Valley Lutheran Churches' Form Cooperative Ministry

Article excerpt

Lutheran parishioners in West Newton and Belle Vernon will join a cooperative ministry with four churches in the mid-Mon Valley.

Forty-three people in West Newton voted by secret ballot on two resolutions, one expressing interest in joining the cooperative ministry and the other to authorize members of church leadership to negotiate the structure of the joint effort with other interested congregations. The first vote passed 39-4 and the second passed 40- 3.

The Rev. Allen Riethmiller, pastor at Christ Lutheran Church in West Newton, said the agreement accommodates churches that do not have a full-time minister, such as Hope Memorial Lutheran Church in Smithton.

All of the churches will remain open.

"Our primary focus is to serve people where they are so it will be the pastors that are rotating more so than the people," he said.

In addition to the Smithton and West Newton churches, St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Monessen, Christ Lutheran Church in Charleroi, Lynnwood Lutheran Church in Belle Vernon and St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Brownsville voted to participate in discussions.

If agreed upon with another vote in February, three full-time ministers and one part-time minister will alternate leading services at each of the churches.

"In the long run, I believe it will strengthen all the congregations participating," he said.

Some finances from the churches will also be pooled in order to collectively pay the ministers' salaries, Riethmiller said.

Contributions from each congregation will be determined by a committee including clergy and one layperson from each congregation.

Other shared services could include youth programming, Bible studies and hospital visitation, also determined by the committee.

The ministry encompasses about 320 members, ranging from the smallest congregation in Brownsville, with an average attendance of 27, to the largest, Monessen, averaging 97 attendees. …