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Around Town: Bridgeville ministerial group organizes outreach programs

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Bridgeville Minister's Association exists to offer support to the community with several events throughout the year, such as the Easter Sunday Morning Sunrise Service, Worship and Fellowship in the Park, and the Community Christmas Service.

Local churches are invited to participate, with St. Barbara's Roman Catholic, Vineyard, First Baptist, Bethany Presbyterian, Country Meadows Chaplains, Bridgeville United Methodist, South Hills Interfaith Ministries, and Grace Community being very active.

Bryan Thiessen, pastor of Grace Community, is the current president of the association. His church operates the Community Outreach Center in Bridgeville that provides free coats, health screenings, job training, personal hygiene items, food boxes and diapers. Among other programs and fellowship, the churches and their parishioners contribute to the Bridgeville Area Food Bank, which is based at Bethany Presbyterian.

The Carnegie Area Ministerial Association (CAMA) is active all year, but particularly is more noticeable when it hosts its annual Lenten Series. Various preachers take one of the six Wednesday noontimes during Lent to hold an ecumenical prayer service with members of the designated preacher's church providing a light lunch.

The events are meant for the community to obtain a spiritual message each week during Lent, along with a meal, and some fellowship-building, all within the confines of a typical lunch hour. All six services are held being held this year at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, 601 Washington Ave., Carnegie. A free will offering is collected each week to help the needy in the Carnegie area.

All the churches in and around Carnegie are invited to belong. Currently active members include St. John Evangelical Lutheran, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic, Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic, The Salvation Army, Carnegie Primitive Methodist, All Saints Polish National Catholic, Carnegie Presbyterian, Chartiers Valley United Presbyterian, Adventist Community Services, St. Stephen Lutheran, and Covenant Community Presbyterian.

Through the years the group has sporadically taken part in local festivals, and has responded to communal spiritual needs as they have arisen. Three years ago, the CAMA began sponsoring an annual CropWalk, a three-mile walk around Carnegie with sponsored walkers from various churches raising money to help feed the hungry. Another well-established event is the Thanksgiving Ecumenical Service, held on the Sunday evening prior to Thanksgiving Day. The host church changes yearly. All the ministers available from the different churches take part. A free will offering is collected, along with food donations which are distributed between the local food pantries. The service is followed by cookies and punch which allows for more fellowship among the parishioners of the different churches.

“The purpose of the ministerium is to be a spiritual support for the community at large, as well as a sign of the unity between the various churches, and, indirectly but quite importantly, to also serve as a source of support for the ministers as we gather weekly to discuss community needs,” said Tess Keddie, CAMA vice president and the pastoral associate at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.

The Crafton-Ingram Ministerial Association also sponsors Lenten worship and lunch every Wednesday during Lent at the First Baptist Church, 1 Oregon Ave., Crafton. Upcoming talks will be given on March 26, April 2, 9 and 16. All the churches will be participating in a Good Friday Service at noon at the Church of the Nativity Episcopal Church, 33 Alice Street, Crafton.

Member churches include United Presbyterian, Church of the Nativity Episcopal, Crafton United Presbyterian, Frist Baptist Church of Crafton, Hawthorne Avenue Presbyterian, St. Matthew's Evangelical, and St. Philip Roman Catholic. Crafton United Presbyterian hosts the local food bank, helping 115 eligible families on a monthly basis. The participating churches provide financial contributions, food drive collections, prayer support, and volunteers. The group also sponsors an annual Thanksgiving service.

The ministerium meets on the third Thursday of the month with each church taking turns as host. “We read scripture, share insights about God's word, and plan community events,” said Rev. Sharon M. Stewart, pastor of the Crafton United Presbyterian Church.

Charlotte Smith is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at 724-693-9441 or charlotte59@comcast.net.

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