Cranberry's oldest church looks to new era
Derek Marotta, wearing a black robe and purple sash, stood at the pulpit of Cranberry's oldest church on a Sunday morning, referencing notes for his sermon from an iPad balanced on a large Bible.
As the church's newly appointed pastor, Marotta said his goal is to embrace the history and traditions of Plains Presbyterian Church, founded in 1806. But the church's future, as Marotta sees it, is in expanding youth connections, increasing mission work and focusing on teaching through the pulpit.
“We're the oldest church in Cranberry,” Marotta, 38, said in his office after the service. “That should be celebrated, as it is also celebrated that we continue to evolve and grow.”
The small, white-frame church, tucked off Franklin Road, has evolved from a grassy meeting place under a tree, a log cabin and a brick house. It sits on a spot that has been a place of worship for more than 200 years.
Now part of that history, Marotta is the 27th recorded pastor and is the youngest person in 43 years to lead the church of about 80 members, according to long-standing member Beverly Magill.
Magill, who has been attending the church all of her life and currently lives next door, said she is enthused by Marotta's attitude since he arrived six weeks ago.
Magill said she appreciates Marotta's already strong connections with the children at the Cranberry Nursery School, which is attached to the church, as well as his efforts to meet the elderly shut-ins.
“I just think his enthusiasm, his motivation, his personality and just his friendliness and openness, it is just really nice,” Magill said.
Born and raised in Ashland, Ohio, he graduated from Ashland University with a degree in religion and sociology, then enrolled in Ashland Theological Seminary where he completed his Master of Arts in Christian Education in 2008.
He began full-time ministry in a United Methodist Church as a combined youth leader and director of Christian education, then accepted a student pastor position in the village of Savannah, Ohio, a few miles from where he grew up. He received his Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Marotta is married with two children, both of whom now attend Seneca Valley schools.
Marotta said he believes heavily in bolstering youth attendance to encourage parents to come to church.
He hopes to build on a recent partnership with Cranberry Community United Presbyterian and Fountain Park churches to bolster youth attendance.
Although incorporating technology into services is something Marotta would like to do, he said the church is still discussing its needs. The church service remains traditional. On Sundays, parishioners sing songs from weathered red hymnals to the accompaniment of an organ player and read from benedictions typed in a weekly bulletin.
Innovation does not mean the death of tradition and any changes will further spread the spiritual message and strengthen the Plains community, Marotta explained.
“It's not A or B; it's A and B,” Marotta said. “We're going to have traditional worship the way it has always been, but we're going to augment.”
Akasha Chamberlain is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- OSHA fines Mars excavating company for March trench collapse
- State closing Zelienople treatment facility after allegations of child sexual abuse
- South Butler teachers’ union rejects recommendations for new contract
- Despite Cranberry’s rapid growth, 28 percent of land still undeveloped
- Charges pending in Butler County Rottweiler attack