REEDSVILLE - Rev. Jean Ward believes that church is a place where laughter can exist and is bringing her enthusiasm to Mifflin County as the new pastor of Reedsville United Methodist Church and Church Hill United Methodist Church in Reedsville.
Before moving to the area with her sister, Lois Atwood, Ward said she attended Fishburn United Methodist Church in Hershey. The encouragement of two pastors and a group of friends there was what convinced her to try the ministry.
"Ten years ago, some friends asked, 'Have you ever considered being a pastor?'" Ward recalled. "I laughed," she said with a smile.
Sentinel photo by JULIANNE CAHILL
Rev. Jean Ward is the new pastor of Reedsville United Methodist Church and Church Hill United Methodist Church in Reedsville.
But their support planted a seed in her mind and Ward became more involved in the church. She started a mentoring team to welcome new guests to the congregation and a drama team to share God's message in new ways. She also served as lay leader and speaker to open services or fill in when the pastor was unable to attend. As Ward continued working in the church, she said it became clear that God was calling her to become a pastor.
Ward then attended two years of lay seminary through The Center for Spiritual Formation and now serves as a licensed local pastor, though she is not yet fully ordained. She starts a new course of study this year, but said it takes four or five years to complete seminary classes.
In the meantime, Ward is focused on encouraging more cooperation between churches and the community. Though she has only been serving in Reedsville since July, her congregations are already opening themselves to new opportunities.
"We all involve ourselves in outreach more... (and) we involve ourselves in the community more than we have in the past," she said.
On Sunday, the United Methodist churches will join East Kishacoquillas Presbyterian Church and Reedsville Evangelical Lutheran Church for a combined worship service. Ward said the goal is to open the churches to the community and strengthen the relationship between congregations.
In the future, Ward also hopes to turn the current Christian Education Building at Reedsville UMC into an emergency shelter. She said the building could be used as temporary housing in emergency situations, a home for missionaries or an apartment for church visitors.
The list of Ward's goals for the church is designed to be more mission and outreach minded, she said.
"I want to be excited about Christ and put my own enthusiasm into the congregation," she said.
Like the pastors in Hershey who encouraged Ward to pursue the ministry, she also hopes to promote leadership and inclusion within the church.
"My role isn't just to go up there (to the altar) and say a few words," she explained.
Instead, Ward welcomes new ideas and suggestions within her church and wishes to help each member of the congregation accomplish their own personal goals.
"My hope is to make church fun, but also make it a place you can truly be yourself," she said.
Church Hill United Methodist Church holds worship services at 9 a.m. weekly on Sunday and the Reedsville United Methodist Church holds services at 10:45 a.m Sundays. Special Christmas Eve services will be held at 7 p.m. at Reedsville UMC and at 11 p.m. at Church Hill UMC.