Jeannette's First United Methodist has open doors, open hearts
When the Rev. Amy Chesla was called to the ministry, there was “no saying no.”
She's been the pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Jeannette for almost three years and has been in ministry for nine.
Her calling came after what she describes as a dramatic healing she received at home when she was 40 years old.
She survived a pulmonary embolism, a blockage of the main artery of the lung. Oftentimes, this condition is, at best, life-shortening and, at worst, fatal. At the time of the incident, her doctors had only given her a couple of years to live.
She said she could only speak in strings of three to four words at a time and wore oxygen. One night, while she was home alone, she received what she described as a healing. She called her doctor the next day and visited his office, not wearing her oxygen and able to talk with normal rhythm and tone, and even sing.
According to Chesla, her doctor said there was no explanation and attributed it to a miracle.
From that point on, Chesla responded to her calling to minister for Christ. She said her desire is to “use her life to help others,” and that “church is a hospital for lost souls.”
She said that once she began to obey God and follow his purpose for her life, door after door opened. She has been in the ministry for a total of nine years, with six being served in Deep Creek in Maryland, until she came to Jeannette.
She is mother to a son, Nicholas, who is 18 and attends classes at Westmoreland Community College for radiological techology, and she also has a stepdaughter, Anita, 33, who is a stay-at-home mother of twin boys with her husband, Eric.
Chesla received her ministerial training at United Theological Seminary in Dayton and is carrying a 22-credit load to earn her master's degree at the Methodist Seminary.
Despite her educational level, she insists she doesn't “go by Reverend. I go by Pastor, because I'm not revered or set apart. I'm one of the congregation.”
Not only is Chesla the pastor of the Jeannette First United Methodist Church, she splits her time with Trinity United Methodist in Greensburg. She's a busy lady.
Her ministry is one of grass-roots.
She said she doesn't “have church clothes. It isn't about pretentiousness. Church has gotten a bad rap. It's seen by some as judgmental and cold, and not interested in what a person can do or bring. Church is about a relationship with God and fellowship with those who are seeking the same thing. We don't come because we have all the answers, we come here in search of God, Who knows all truth. Jesus called the common man.”
She fears that this bad rap has contributed to low attendance in church, regardless of denomination.
“Our lives, our words, our actions are the only Bible that people read,” she said.
As for her inspiration for sermons, which are sometimes as unconventional as poignant, she said she reads her Bible, asks for guidance, and listens to God.
The theme for her sermons in October, as seen on the marquee outside of the church, is “Fall Leaves, Jesus Never Does.”
Interpreted by Chesla, she quotes Rudy Rathsmus: “I love you and there's nothing you can do about it.”
Chesla said she shares the same concern as other pastors in Jeannette, that people are not attending church because of outside demands of a quicker lifestyle and voices a common theme again shared by her peers.
“I've found peace, healing and I've been given a second chance at life, and I will use every breath to his glory,” she said.
The First United Methodist Church in Jeannette is celebrating its 125th Anniversary during the month of October. It will celebrate this event with special worship scheduled for the Oct. 27.
The church will continue with community-supporting projects, as well as some new ones. Chesla supports My Father's House, a ministry for women who have lost their way, and are referred either by court-appointment or self-referral.
The familiar chicken and biscuits lunch will be available at the church on Election Day, and, in 2014, the church is planning a joint venture Bible school. Services are held every Sunday at 11 a.m., with communion shared on the first Sunday of every month.
Chesla is eager to share her story and faith and invites anyone interested to visit her church, where she said they have “Open hearts, open minds and open doors.”
Maria Tyger is a contributing writer.