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Connellsville Area Ministerial Association promotes unity of Gospel

| Friday, March 29, 2013, 6:24 p.m.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier
The Connellsville Ministerial Association hosted lunches with members of the clergy addressing ways to improve and enhance their worship of God during Lent.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier
The Connellsville Ministerial Association is a gathering of the city's clergy whose purpose is to support the spiritual life of Connellsville and its surrounding churches. Members of the Association include (front) Matt Goldsberry, Calvary Assembly of God; (second row, from left) Raymond Hill, Otterbein United Methodist Church; Herb Dubler, Trinity and St. John's Lutheran churches; the Rev. Bob Lubic, Immaculate Conception, St. Rita and St. John Roman Catholic churches; Suzanne Zampella, Greater Connellsville Presbyterian Church; David Ealy, Wesley and Franklin United Methodist churches; (back) Brian Higbee, City Church; Don Smith, World Christian Outreach; Nelson Confer, Connellsville Church of God; and Jim Turnbull, Connellsville Alliance Church.

A long-established, much-respected group is the Connellsville Area Ministerial Association, a group of area ministers who take an active role in the community.

The group meets monthly and is responsible for planning many events in Connellsville.

Each spring, CAMA organizes the Palm Sunday march to Lions Square. Members of various churches walk from their respective locations — from the north, south, east and west — waving palms in honor of the celebration of which Jesus was a part just days before his Crucifixion.

Ash Wednesday services were held on Feb. 13 in the Christian Church. The Rev. Chris Stillwell is the pastor there. He is treasurer of CAMA.

“The role of CAMA is to promote the unity of the Gospel through the unity of God's church. We do this through planning common worship, fellowship and service activities for Christians throughout Connellsville to attend, regardless of denomination or congregation. Through this, we hope to be a witness to our belief that there is one Body and one Spirit and one Church even as it is housed in many people and many buildings,” Stillwell said.

Lenten lunches, sponsored by CAMA, were held in the Presbyterian Church. These lunches were provided by various churches in the community with various pastors speaking. The lunch was held from noon to 1 p.m. each Tuesday during Lent.

National Day of Prayer is held on the first Thursday of May. This is a national event that CAMA sponsors locally at Lions Square. The event begins at 11:45 a.m. with those who have gathered joining in as the nation prays at noon. Everyone is welcome.

The president of CAMA is the Rev. Don Smith of World Christian Outreach Ministries. His church is in charge of the Block Party held on the third Saturday of July.

“The city has given us the pavilions at Yough Park for this special day each summer. Rev. Robert Strader of WCOM heads up this ministry,” Smith said.

“We invite everyone, citywide of all ages to come to this free event sponsored by the Connellsville Area Ministerial Association and supported by local individuals, businesses and organizations,” Strader said.

Strader coordinates the Block Party.

CAMA holds services for Connellsville Area High School graduating seniors and their families. This program is called vespers or baccalaureate. This year these services will be held in Connellsville Church of God.

“I see CAMA as not just a religious organization in name only. The power of CAMA is the strength of all our different churches coming together to make a difference in this community. I've been involved in other ministerial associations, and some have been just in name only. This group of ministers, I believe, is not just worried about ourselves but what God wants to do in this city,” said the Rev. Matt Goldsberry of Calvary Assembly of God Church and CAMA vice president. “We are bringing different flavors to the big pot to make it wonderful and to make everyone want to do more.

“As a group we are cohesive and agree on many levels,” he said. “The fact is that we can celebrate our diversity, respect it and still come together to show the community that we care about their needs and we want to point them to Jesus.”

“We've been pleased that Mayor (Charles) Matthews has asked us to send a pastor from our group to each Connellsville City Council meeting to open each one with prayer. We are very happy to do that,” Smith said.

“Pastor Brian Higbee of City Church organizes the Thanksgiving meal held at the Senior Citizens Center every Thanksgiving Day,” Smith added. “He has help from many of his members and various other churches' members. It is a big undertaking. This past Thanksgiving there were 514 meals served at no charge. On this day there is a group from City Church that does a Meals on Wheels-type of service and takes the meals to various people who are shut-ins.”

“I have enjoyed being part of the spiritual heads of our community in CAMA,” Higbee said. “I believe everything starts with our walk with God, that with prayer things change, and that the relationship we have with each other is significant. I believe that the kingdom of God only works through relationship. When the people of God are in relationship, we have a greater effect on our community, and we become a greater force for the kingdom of God.”

CAMA presents a live Nativity outdoors on the Presbyterian Church lawn during “It's A Connellsville Christmas” each December, organized by church pastor the Rev. Suzanne Zampella.

“As a new minister, it was wonderful to have a call in a town where the pastors from many different denominations regularly get together to support one another with friendship and prayer and who work together to bring the good news of Christ to the community,” Zampella said.

She is CAMA secretary.

“I am happy to be a part of CAMA. It is wonderful to see the local Christian community work together and focus on all we hold in common rather than allow ourselves to further division through highlighting differences,” said the Rev. Bob Lubic of the Catholic Parishes of Connellsville.

Pastors of all churches are encouraged and welcomed to CAMA.

“There are 28 churches in the alliance. I came to Connellsville in 1979, and there was a ministerium then, so I know CAMA has been in existence for over 30 years,” Smith said.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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