Grace UCC welcomes new pastor

Shawn Hardy
Pastor Brenda Clark came to Grace United Church of Christ on Jan. 1.

The New Year brought a new pastor to Grace United Church of Christ, which has been without consistent pastoral leadership for four years.

Pastor Brenda Clark began her duties at the East Baltimore Street Church on Jan. 1. Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, she comes to Greencastle after serving in Bellefonte.

"We're happy to be here, this is a very kind congregation," Clark said, noting she was treated well when her mother died after she had been in Greencastle just nine days, then had to be away from her post for nine days.

Clark is contracted with Grace UCC for two years to do specific work, including revitalizing the congregation. After two years, she and the church will "see if we both like each other and are accomplishing things together" and if so, she will become the settled pastor.

The church's challenges have included the sudden death of Pastor Brian Adams at age 35 in January 2015 after just two months in Greencastle.

The church lost members both before and after Adams' brief tenure and the spiritual development and outreach committee will learn about what revitalization entails then educate the rest of the congregation, Clark explained.

Worship is held at 10:30 a.m. Sundays, with Sunday School classes for adults and people with special needs at 9:30 a.m. There are currently no children in the church and that is one area Clark will be working on.

"We would love to have more adults and people with special needs feel welcome here," she said. "And we'd love to grow and welcome families with children."

In addition to leading worship at least 48 Sundays a year, Clark will be calling on shut-ins and getting to know all the people in the congregation, one by one, family by family.

Clark has been ordained to the ministry for nearly 17 years, originally in the Reformed Church in America, which is in full communion with the United Church of Christ. That means pastors can move back and forth between the denominations and members can share the sacrament of Communion. She became a full-fledged pastor with the UCC in 2010.

She earned her undergraduate degree in business administration from Western Michigan University, home of the Broncos, who played in this year's Cotton Bowl.

"They didn't win, but put in a good showing against a Big 10 team," Clark pointed out.

She did her graduate work at RCA's Western Theological Seminary in Michigan, then spent 10 years as a hospice chaplain.

"It was very rewarding work and also very difficult," said Clark, who filled in with pulpit work and sermons on many Sundays.

While she was honored to conduct many funerals during this time, "it is good to baptize a baby and do a wedding once in a while."

Clark married her husband, Mike Evans, at 45 so she does not have children. They do have two dogs, Cinnamon and Nutmeg, who they enjoy walking in Greencastle, as well as two cats, Panda and Pretty.

In addition to walking, they enjoy going to the movies and are looking forward to day trips to Washington, D.C., Antietam, Harpers Ferry and other historic places.

Evans was a community organizer for 30 years, showing people who were underserved how to make their voices heard and become their own advocates. Now retired, he is on the board of directors of the Valley Co-Op, an organic buying club in Hagerstown, and will use his skills to help the co-op grow.

"I consider him a missionary, making the world a better place. That's Jesus' goal, the church's goal and God's goal," Clark said.