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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 4, 2009
Hilltowns Lutherans consolidate
By Zach Simeone and Anne Hayden
BERNE As Hilltown membership in the Lutheran Church declines, forcing a consolidation next week, membership in Africa is growing.
St. John’s Lutheran Church in East Berne will close on June 7, and the congregation will join with St. Paul’s, located in the hamlet of Berne, The senior pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia, Alfred Chana, will be at Sunday’s celebration.
The Zambian Lutheran Church was founded by indigenous people in 1983, Chana said, and has 33 congregants, a number that is growing. “The Lutheran religion is quite appealing to African people, and we bring our own culture, with African music and dancing, into the way we worship,” said Chana.
The two Berne churches are consolidating because of membership and financial support issues, said Jeri Druxheimer, interim pastor of both churches since October 2008.
“They are parts of the same church and they are four miles apart on the same road, so what is the point of being separate? Coming together and working together makes a lot more sense. This is a better way to do ministry,” said Druxheimer.
The service that will be held on Sunday will not be sorrowful; it will be a celebration of St. John’s, Druxheimer said.
Chana will be attending the service because he was in New York for a church-wide assembly, where he was a special speaker, and he is visiting the United States for several weeks.
Druxheimer explained that the Lutheran church has had a companion relationship with the church in Zimbabwe since the 1990s, and has made four mission trips there. A bishop from Zimbabwe suggested Zambia had an emerging church that could use help getting organized, so Lutheran pastor Edward Sproul made a trip there in 2006.
The Zambian church recently elected Chana as its senior pastor, the first time it has elected an indigenous pastor in recent history. “We invited him over to go the next step in developing a companion relationship,” said Druxheimer.
Chana said he was excited to visit in the United States, and has enjoyed meeting new people and seeing new places.
The celebration will take place on Sunday at 10 a.m., at St. John’s, at the corner of Main Street and Route 443 in East Berne.