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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, December 24, 2009
Pastor Davis provides a Safe Harbor for those wounded or in need
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
EAST BERNE Pastor Clarence Davis is back in the place where he started, ready to lead the Safe Harbor Christian Fellowship based on a lifetime of varied experiences.
Davis, who is from East Berne, attended St. John’s Lutheran Church as a boy; he was an acolyte.
“I got my call to the ministry in that building 40 years ago,” he said. “My trip took a few circles.”
In June, the Lutheran congregation from St. John’s Church, in East Berne, joined with St. Paul’s, in the hamlet of Berne. The two churches consolidated because of membership and money issues, said Jeri Druxheimer, interim pastor of both churches since 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?” asked Druxheimer in June. “Coming together and working together makes a lot more sense. This is a better way to do ministry.”
The grand old church in East Berne, which houses the Families Together social services program, is now a place of worship again. In September, a half-dozen people began worshipping there as part of the Safe Harbor Christian Fellowship, and the congregation now numbers about 20, Davis said.
It is also a place that offers aid to the community at large, with a food pantry and a thrift store.
“We take donations,” said Davis. “Recently, we were totally blessed with three pickup loads of almost new clothing.”
Davis was inspired by the Free Store set up in Manhattan in the 1960s, he said. “It was started by a couple of hippies,” he said. “If you needed anything, you just took it. That kind of inspired me. I’m a child of the sixties. A lot of good came from that era.”
He went on about his mission: “We’re a nondenominational church, open to anyone,” said Davis. “The Christian church at large until twenty, thirty years ago did a huge amount of community outreach. It was a pillar of the community….
“Then we became more and more caught up in our own worlds. We’re attempting to go back to the old ways.” Referring to the clothes and food the church offers to those in need, Davis went on, “If we’ve got it, you can have it.”
Davis said he was first called to the ministry in 1969, when he was a 16-year-old student at Berne-Knox-Westerlo. In his senior year, he moved with his parents to South Carolina. He entered theological school but said, “I got distracted.”
He went on, “I got involved in alcohol abuse. So I went back to my roots and searched for what mattered. I gave up the alcohol.”
Davis said he “got caught up in the Pentacostal movement.” He works as a plumber and said, “I took lessons from life’s experiences….I wanted to have a church based on the charity of the early church.”
Davis goes on to quote from The Book of Acts. “The church was founded 50 days after the crucifixion…The Lord promised power from on high,” he said.
Davis describes the fellowship he is leading as “contemporary, not rigid,” although it is based on an ancient precept of charity.
“To everything, there is a season,” he says. “This is my season, right now.”
Davis and his wife, Martha, after their children graduated from Guilderland schools, moved to the Hilltowns in 2005.
After 20 years of “pushing towards the finish,” Davis said, he was ordained through Rhema Ministries.
He was most recently a pastor in Rensselaer, he said, through January of last year.
Davis holds regular church services at St. John’s every Sunday at 10 a.m., and stressed again, “It’s open to everybody. If you want to come in jeans, that’s fine. I rarely wear a shirt and tie. We’re much more laid back.”
He says, “How people spend their lives is more important than their appearance.”
The church also holds a coffee house for teens on the first and third Fridays of every moth. “There’s no religious content,” said Davis. “We have pizza and soda and play music. It gives kids something to do.”
He also holds an informal Bible study on Wednesday nights, where coffee and “some type of treat” is served. “We look at the historical context…It’s a bit of an eye opening experience,” said Davis.
Davis also said, “A lot of people have had bad experiences with mainstream Christianity. They’ve been wounded. We want to show the teachings of Christ are real…Ours is basically a message of love.”
Anyone who wants to contribute food to the pantry, or gently used clothing to the thrift shop may call Clarence Davis at 872-9706.