Pastor Lucas Hanna of Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church believes a worshipping congregation, rather than a building, constitutes a church.
Covenant RPC concluded an approximate six-month move from rented space in Northwest Pharmacy on North Main Street, which will be remodeled in the coming months. Now, the church will share space with Emmanuel United Church of Christ on Park Avenue for a monthly payment.
“This arrangement is unique, certainly in this area,” said Timothy Solomon, pastor of Emmanuel UCC. “It ought to happen more often. Everyone’s excited about the prospect.”
While the thought of two Christian denominations with different theological ideals living under one roof may trigger feelings of anxiety, the two congregations are creating an exemplary bond of cooperation, respect and old-fashioned Christian fellowship, Solomon said.
Worshippers on both sides were a bit nervous before their first time sharing space last Sunday, but successfully broke the ice during a social hour after consecutive morning services, one parish worshipping after the other.
“I expected our congregations to shake hands over a few cookies,” Hanna said. “Instead, Emmanuel Church treated us to fruit, biscotti and I think more doughnuts than I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Both pastors recalled the expressions of joy from their respective congregations — the children laughing and exploring the new space while older parish members fawned over them.
“Our church is a typically older congregation,” Solomon said. “Most of our children grew up and went to college. Covenant has more of a younger congregation, and it was fun for our people to see their kids running around enjoying themselves.”
Covenant RPC is happy but hardly settled in its new home, according to Hanna, who pastored his parish for roughly two and a half years. The church itself has relocated to various sites in the past decade, including Meadville’s Days Inn and the former YWCA.
“We outgrew the space not numerically, but practically,” said Hanna, recalling congregation members having to move pews to facilitate a post-worship meal. “We’re thankful for the space we had. This space is just more conducive to normal functions.”
Over the years, Covenant RPC grew accustomed to consolidation and portability, maintaining little equipment and supplies.
The move from Northwest Pharmacy became official when Wesbury United Methodist Retirement Home finalized plans to renovate the building and expand its operations from the basement.
“The building’s going to be redesigned,” said Andy Clawson, director of communications for Wesbury. “What’s going to go in there is basically a drug store.”
While the pharmacy mostly serves the Wesbury community, Clawson said its operations have been open to the public for some time and will broaden its wares to feature convenience store items.
“It’ll be like a privatized Rite-Aid on the north end of town,” Clawson added.
Construction details are currently under wraps but will involve interior and exterior renovations and general landscaping as well as parking lot expansion.
Clawson believes renovations will start soon, now that the weather is warming up, but is unsure as to when the pharmacy will reopen.
Covenant RPC’s move to Emmanuel places it across the street from Wesbury’s main entrance, maintaining a relatively centralized location for congregation members traveling from areas like Cochranton and Cambridge Springs, Hanna said.
Though we live in an age of shrinking resources where people and organizations struggle to retain individual ownership, Solomon said, differences can be put aside to promote charity, peace and love.
“This cooperative relationship goes back to the beginning when Christians shared everything they had,” he said. “I hope our example inspires others.”
“We’re freely admitting our differences but pursuing a relationship of cooperation,” Hanna said. “We’re not joining, we’re lovingly interacting.”
Emmanuel UCC is located at 30 Park Ave., Meadville. Sunday worship begins at 9:30 a.m. Covenant RPC will hold Sabbath school classes for children and adults at 10 a.m., followed by worship at 11:15, lunch and then an afternoon service at around 1:45 p.m.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.