After final service, congregation looks for next steps

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Art Girasole, the preacher this morning at Next Steps of Orleans Ministries, urges the congregation to continue its ministry even though the church held its final service this morning. “The Lord will open up new doors,” said Girasole, a pulpit supply minister for Next Steps.

ALBION – In May 2012, members of the Barre Center Presbyterian Church held a vote whether to break away from the Presbyterian Church USA. Many of the members were concerned the denomination was becoming increasingly liberal.

In 2010, the denomination’s General Assembly decided to allow non-celibate homosexuals to serve in church positions and receive ordination.

That was the last straw for some of the members of the Barre Center church. About 90 people voted whether to leave the PC (USA), and the vote narrowly called for staying in the denomination. (That year 110 churches were granted dismissal from Presbyterian Church USA and 86 other churches were dissolved.)

Some of the Barre Center members were so distressed with the denomination’s direction that they made the decision to leave a church many had been attending for decades and start a new church, Next Steps of Orleans Ministries.

The new church met for the first time at the home of Mark and Lois Chamberlain. By June 2012, it was meeting in a room at the Arnold Gregory Memorial Complex, the former hospital at 243 South Main St. The new church also aligned with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

About 30 members left the Barre Center church. About a dozen have been dedicated participants of the Next Steps ministry, attending Sunday services at 10 a.m.

The church has had five different pulpit supply preachers in 3 ½ years.

“We’re not large enough to have our own full-time pastor,” said Lynn Goetz, one of the Next Steps members.

Next Steps also didn’t want to pull from other congregations. The Next Steps membership didn’t grow, and the church held its final service this morning.

The Next Steps members say they will get together for regular Bible studies and want to have a reunion at least annually. Some of the members say they will visit other local churches and look to join a congregation.

Art Girasole, a seminary student from Orchard Park, has been a pulpit supply preacher for Next Steps the past six months. He gave the sermon today. He told the Next Steps members they will be a blessing to the churches they attend.

Lynn Goetz leads the Next Steps congregation in singing, “God Be With You.”

Next Steps was a mission group of the Lancaster Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Ed Carlson attended the final service. He is a member of the church in Lancaster.

“It’s exciting to think what the Lord will do as you disperse,” Carlson told the group.

Dick Tucker has been one of the Next Steps leaders. He said the Next Steps members are seeking God’s grace as the church closes and the members pursue the next steps of their lives, trying to find new church families.

Next Steps also has chairs, tables, and an electric piano it would like to give to organizations in the community. The lectern at Next Steps was donated after today’s service to The Villages of Orleans, the former county nursing home, for its Sunday church services.

Don Joslyn, one of the Next Steps members, shares during the final service of the church this morning. Joslyn said he and other Next Steps members will be visiting other local congregations, looking to connect and contribute to other local churches.