Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 7, 2013

New paths

Combined worship service meets needs for residents of Mercer County

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

ATHENS —   A new inter-denominational ministry in Athens — Pathways — could be the first of its kind in the state of West Virginia, according to Rev. Jon White, 46 of St. Stephen’s Episcopal church in Beckley.

“Our goal is to form a mission-focused worship community here in Athens drawing on the riches of both the Lutheran and Anglican traditions,” White said.

Wanda Childs, pastor of St. Luke, also in Beckley, said Pathways was developed because many Mercer County residents have been traveling to Beckley for worship services at both St. Luke and St. Stephen’s.

“It is our desire to form a Christian community that is thoughtful, inclusive, creative and worshipful,” Childs said.

Services will take place every Sunday at 6 p.m., at the Wilkes Family Chapel at Concord University.

The two congregations in Beckley have always worked together, Childs said. But this will be the first time they have worshiped together on regular basis. Organizational meetings helped spur the idea into action, along with support of each church.

White said the union is unusual, but not unheard of in other places across the U.S. He said the two churches are very similar. White and Childs, a resident of Princeton, plan to alternate leading the services. Worship will change seasonally, switching from Episcopal to Liturgies of the ELCA.

Childs is excited about the new community and hopes to reach out to Concord students when they return for the fall.

“We are bringing a little bit different spin on things,” she said. “It is Christians joining together in community and that is really what it is all about.”

Michell Berkey, 42, of Athens, along with her husband and two small children have been driving to St. Luke in Beckley for more than six years.

“We joined shortly after we moved here,” Berkey said. “It is a good 45-minute drive but its worth it. It is a wonderful congregation. It is a spirit-filled church and there is a lot of good work done in the community and for each other.”

The family plans to continue to attend Sunday morning services at St. Luke but is looking forward to attending Pathways on Sunday evening.”

“It is nice to gather locally,” she said.

She believes University Point is a good place for all thinkers and those searching for faith.

“I think the Pathways services will fill a lot of needs in Athens and will provide an opportunity for people in the Concord community ... students who are searching can walk from their dorms and they don’t need a car,” Berkey added.

She would like to see more churches work together.

“There is much need in the world and despite any cosmetic differences and worship styles, the work of Jesus is still the work of Jesus,” Berkey said.

Childs plans to create a Facebook page for Pathways and begin planning events. She said she is in it for the long haul.

“We want to be a part of the community,” she added.  

Members of Pathways will come from the Athens and Princeton area, but will be in contact with both Beckley churches and an extension of those congregations. The first meeting was held on June 30.