Heritage Baptist's Rev. Ross believes humility is important
For the Rev. Robert Ross of Heritage Baptist Church, leading a congregation of 225 members, a school that educates students from kindergarten through 12th grade and a church that continues to grow makes him no better than anyone else.
Over the course of 15 years in the ministry, Ross said although he has the title of pastor, he has learned as much from his flock at the church on Lowry Avenue in Jeannette as they have from him.
Education level, socioeconomic status and type of residence have no place or hierarchy in relationship to God, all that is needed, he said, is “simplicity in the truth” and letting scripture speak.
A graduate of Hempfield Area High School, Ross said that, while he became a believer when he was 13, the ministry what not his first calling.
He recalls a time in which he spent as a prodigal, while enrolled at Penn State University, and after graduating, he utilized his business logistics degree as a distribution center manager.
While he enjoyed the position initially, it became miserable after his heart had been consumed with his work in the church he and his wife, Tammi, were attending in Baltimore.
He attributes this unhappiness to his hesitancy to follow the Lord's call into ministry. Ross also said, though, his experience at Penn State helps him convey his belief that faith builds character in those that think they are not good enough for Christ.
During his time in Baltimore, he ministered to the poorest residents in hard-hit communities. He's also participated in missions that took him to seedy neighborhoods in Chicago where he was warned by local police not to enter.
Still, all in all, he said everyone is the same in Christ, regardless of income or position.
Tammi Ross acts as bookkeeper and secretary to the church and they have three children.
Emily, 18, graduated early from Heritage Baptist School and is attending classes at WCCC; Rebekah, 16, was able to earn college credits before graduating this year, and Robert III, 13, is still attending school at the church.
In his off-time, Ross enjoys riding his Harley Sportster. He said he customized it himself and recently participated in Thunder in the Valley with his dad, Robert Ross Sr.
Ross attributes much of the success of his children's education to the self-paced curriculum the school offers. Some of the students are from Jeannette, while others are from surrounding communities and churches.
This week, the church is holding vacation Bible school through Thursday and in August, the church holds a Teen Rally attended by nearly 300 kids from around the area.
Ross is especially proud of his prison work, which is mostly local at the Westmoreland County Prison. He has collaborated with Roger Napper, who, while a member of Heritage Baptist, is also a member of a separate ministry, Rock of Ages.
As head of the group, Napper has been invited repeatedly to prisons in a wider region because of his success in bringing inmates to Christ through the Gospel and often resulting in less frequent negative behaviors for more than a month.
Ross said while he is occasionally invited to minister with them, their success is due to Napper's and his associates' efforts, not his own.
In addition to all these, he is also a chaplain at Westmoreland Manor. Several church members minister in multiple nursing homes weekly around the City of Jeannette and surrounding areas.
Even with all this activity, Heritage Baptist is expanding. It just purchased the adjacent building previously owned by Bill Dickey/Restorex with plans to add to the grounds. No definitive plans are complete. Ross is focused on preparing the school for future events and the impending school year.
When asked where he receives his inspiration for sermons on Sundays, Ross said he “gets it from all over the place,” whether it is the news, experiences or struggles in his own life, or triggers from scripture.
His favorite verse in the Bible is Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not,” and his favorite disciple is John, because he had an especially close relationship to Christ.
He also said his favorite hymn is “Come Thou Fount,” because lyrics that emphasize one's “heart prone to wandering” and finding its way back to Christ.
Services at Heritage Baptist Church are held Sundays at 11 a.m. with Sunday school beginning an hour earlier, and then again at 6 p.m. Bible studies are also held Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. All are welcome.
Maria Tyger is a freelance writer.