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Adding hope highlights ministry of new Trinity Lutheran pastor in Freeport |
Valley News Dispatch

Adding hope highlights ministry of new Trinity Lutheran pastor in Freeport

Chuck Biedka
| Sunday, January 20, 2019 1:30 a.m

New Freeport pastor

A retired pastor is enjoying an interim assignment helping a Freeport church reach out to the community.

Earlier this month, the Rev. Robert Keplinger, 69, started in the pulpit at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Restoring hope is the focus of Keplinger’s ministry.

“God is not done with my story nor yours. He hasn’t put the pen down yet,” he said.

Keplinger is getting to know people and is working to reestablish a children’s program at the church.

And, while most Lutheran churches have a time for prayers during the middle of their worship services, Trinity is making it a point to start each service with prayers — not just a single opening prayer.

During an interview in the sanctuary, he holds a pitcher and a bowl to illustrate the story of prayers. Prayers, he says, are like requests to God that can be written on a slip of paper and placed into a bowl.

“These prayers become the blessings of life when the prayers are answered,” he said.

Keplinger is an Erie native who served in the Marine Corps Reserve and held a number of varied jobs before entering the seminary in St. Paul, Minn. He has held long-term pastorates in Zelienople and, before that, in Connellsville.

He said he likes to blend into the communities he serves.

He was a chaplain to the fire department in Zelienople and was an EMT before fulltime medics were added, he said.

Keplinger and his wife, Lana, are the parents of two sons and proud grandparents. They reside in Fombell, Beaver County.

Keplinger will spend three or so nights a week staying in Freeport. His assignment has grown from part time to 40 hours a week.

About 20 people are attending the 5 p.m. Saturday services at Trinity and about 60 regularly attend the 10:15 Sunday morning service there, Keplinger said.

Another of his goals is to reach across denominational lines to help people who have been emotionally hurt by churches in general.

“Labels can get in the way. I’m looking for a place, not in a church, where these folks can come together and talk,” he said.

Keplinger knows he is taking the reins at a storied church.

Lutheran services started in the Freeport area in the 1800s.

The distinctive current church of Indiana limestone is at the corner of Fifth and Buffalo streets. The church was established in 1919 when three congregations merged.

That was the same year the Judith Hird, a Trinity member, was ordained in a Toms River, N.J., church, becoming the first woman to serve as the sole pastor of a Lutheran congregation in the United States.

A fourth congregation was welcomed into Trinity’s fold in 1933, according to an online church history.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter .

Chuck Biedka | Tribune-Review
The Rev. Robert Keplinger holds a small bowl and pitcher he uses to illustrate prayers received and those answered to become blessings. He is serving the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church at 323 Fifth St. in Freeport.
Chuck Biedka | Tribune-Review
The Rev. Robert Keplinger reads the Bible at the altar of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Freeport, where he is interim pastor. He wants to restore hope and reach out to others.
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