Where Are They Now?

St. John’s Members & Friends Called to Serve as Pastors

Over the years a number of members of the St. John’s family have answered to a ‘higher calling’ and have become pastors in the United Church of Christ. We are proud so many of our members have answered that call – while we are sorry to see them leave our local family, we are happy and supportive of their moves from our pews to another pulpit!

Here are a few of our recent members who have become pastors, and where they are currently serving.

Rev. Mark Stryjak came to St. John’s in marriage to his wife, Rev. Kimberly Ruth Stryak, who grew up as a St. John’s member, while both were in seminary. Upon graduation Kim worked as a Hospice Pastoral Counselor and Mark an an Interim Pastor in Pa. Mark was called to be the pastor at St. John UCC in Trenton, Illinois and was installed March 23, 2014, with Kimberly raising their two sons and involved at St. John UCC. On March 5, 2017, the family returned to this area as Mark became pastor of Brownback’s UCC in Spring Cityhttp://www.brownbackschurch.org/

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 Photo from Facebook October 19, 2014 at the baptism of son Logan, St. John UCC

 Rev. Timothy C. Ahrens grew up at St. John’s and was ordained here on June 23, 1985. He has served for many years as Senior Pastor of First Congregational Church UCC Columbus, Ohio after serving other churches in Columbus, Cleveland, and other cities. He is very active dealing in social and justice issues in Columbus and beyond. Rev. Ahrens is received his doctor of ministry degree at Chicago Theological Seminary in May, 2015.  On August 23, 2015, Tim visited St. John’s for the debut of a hymn he wrote in honor of his parents, Herman & Lorene Ahrens, members of St. John’s since 1950, for their recent 65th anniversary. The lyrics are printed below with permission of Rev. Tim Ahrens and permission given by the publisher, GIA Publications, Inc., for this to be sung at St. John’s. The photo below is Tim with his parents and our pastors August 23, 2015.

2015-08-23 As We Walk Through Life With Jesus

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First Congregational Church UCC website: http://www.first-church.org/

Here is the link to an article he wrote in 2015 published on the UCC national website. 

Click here for article by Rev. Tim Ahrens from UCC

       St. John’s Members & Friends Called to Serve as Pastors, Now Retired

Rev. Patti Thomas was an active member of St. John’s along with her husband and son. She was instrumental in helping start our Wednesday Enrichment program combining our children’s choir rehearsals with times for crafts, activities and dinner. Patti T. held the staff title of “St. John’s Minister of Creative Arts” and headed our 125th anniversary celebration in 2000-2001. Shortly after that Patti answered the call to ministry, graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary, and was called to St. Paul’s UCC in nearby Sellersville, Pa., where she was pastor from 2007 until her retirement in 2016. We are happy to welcome her back as a member of our congregation in 2016! Patti  helped lead worship at St. John’s during Rev. Sue’s sabbatical in 2017.

               above: Rev. Patti Thomas preaches at St. John’s – Summer, 2017

Rev. Jay Meier was an active member of St. John’s who made the decision as an adult to attend seminary and become a pastor and graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary in May, 1998 along with fellow St. John’s member John Binde. Jay served as pastor of St. Luke’s United Church of Christ in nearby North Wales, Pa. for several years.  Jay is now retired and we are happy to have her back as part of our St. John’s family!  Below: Pastor Jay Meier participating at an event at St. John’s UCC, March, 2017

Some of our other members from the St. John’s family who heard the call to ministry in the past: Jerry Smith, Susan Hanson, Kurt Wieser and John Binde.  

                    Our Former Student Pastors Who Served at St. John’s

Celestine Brooks served as Student Pastor at St. John’s from the Fall of 2012 until the Spring of 2013 while in her final year at Lancaster Theological Seminary. Pastor Celeste was only here a short time, but became a St. John’s favorite with her leadership and preaching skills, humor, and warm personality – a youthful grandmother of two who enjoyed her motorcycle trips! After graduation, Celeste received a call from David’s United Church of Christ in Canal Winchester, Ohio where she served as Associate Pastor.  In 2016 we welcomed Celestine back as a member of St. John’s! On February 26, 2017, she was called by Hope United Church of Christ in Rockledge, Florida as their settled pastor.  Click ‘home’ link below to access their website:  

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Above: Pastor Celestine Brooks; Preaching at St. John’s UCC, April, 2013 & at her current church Hope UCC in Rockledge, Florida March, 2017.

                 Our Former Associate Pastors Who Served at St. John’s

Whether with us in person or serving God in a new capacity, our former pastors remain a part of our family as they helped lead St. John’s into the present & future.  

Rev. Ryan Henderson served for 10 years as St. John’s Associate Pastor from 2004 to 2013. Ryan introduced St. John’s to new technologies, fairly-traded coffee, our Prayer Shawl Ministry, Mission Trips, his special style of prayers, and helped lead our congregation with his humor and youthful spirit.

In late 2013 Ryan was called to a new position, as Associate Conference Minister for Youth, Young Adults and Emerging Ministries for the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ. Ryan’s involvement with planning for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Youth Event and National Youth Event still keeps him involved with the youth of our PSEC. He and wife Kristina and daughter Julia live near Rochester, NY.  uccny.org

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Rev. Ryan Henderson (top row second from right) leading the youth delegation and the adults from the New York Conference at the UCC Mid-Atlantic Regional Youth Event, July, 2014, Selinsgrove, Pa.

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Ryan, Kristina & Julia, October, 2016; Ryan leads NY Conference State Youth Event in 2015

Rev. Russell Clark served as St. John’s Associate Pastor from December 2000 to October, 2002, after serving as Pastor at St. Luke’s UCC in North Wales, Pa.  Pastor Russ served at St. John’s in a time of great ups and downs. Russ was involved in our year-long celebration of St. John’s 125th anniversary with special events for a full year anchored by two anniversary dinners.  Our celebration was tempered by the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and Pastors Sue and Russ helped the congregation through that difficult time. In the summer of 2002 Pastor Russ served as pastor as Pastor Sue took a well-deserved sabbatical. While Russ enjoyed his work as Associate Pastor, he came to realize his calling was as a single pastor in a smaller church, and he resigned to become pastor of St. Paul’s UCC in Dallastown, Pa. He served there until 2012, when he became pastor of Newport UCC in Newport, Washington. He is now pastor of Emmanuel UCC in Hanover, Pa. http://www.emmanuelucc.org/

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Pastor Russ and sons Shane & Andrew in 2014; final service at St. John’s October 27, 2002

If you have any additional or updated items concerning our former pastors, student pastors or members who have become pastors, please send this information to our webmaster by the email address on the Contact Us page – thank you!  See ‘Our History’ page for more about former pastors, associate pastors & student pastors.