Within days after the 1972 Agnes flood waters in the Wyoming Valley receded, administrative leaders of both The First United Methodist Church of Kingston and The Kingston Presbyterian Church realized the enormous damage that both buildings had suffered and the incredible costs for reconstruction at both sites. Leaders from both churches talked with each other and concluded that the best way for both congregations to reconstruct was to do it together!
Flood victims were meeting in the church buildings to worship, cry, pray, offer support to one another. It hardly mattered who was Methodist or who was Presbyterian – they supported each other. They prayed to the same God; God offered each and all the same gifts. Why not build a new church together, too. Why Not?
New formal petitions were being written and looked even better in print. They were inspiring. After the documents were refined they were presented to the Lackawanna Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Wyoming Conference of the United Methodist Church for their review and consideration. Yet even while surprising both denominations about the desire to become a united church, First Methodist and Kingston Presbyterian were moving farther: not a United church, but a Church UNITING. The process begun would be a process that, hopefully, could continue, seeking union into the indefinite future.
At a special meeting of the Wyoming Conference to consider the impact of the flood on Methodist churches, the union petition was presented, considered, and adopted. The date was October 28, 1972. The very next day both congregations met for worship together as they had been doing for several months. At the conclusion of the service, the Methodists remained in the sanctuary, while the Presbyterians moved to the Fellowship Hall. Discussion and votes were taken in both meetings. Both congregations voted UNANIMOUSLY to become a new church! The Lackawanna Presbytery approved the union too. The first Sunday of January, 1973, was set for the beginning of the new Church of Christ Uniting in Kingston, Pennsylvania.
2012 marked 40 years since the merger of First United Methodist Church and Kingston Presbyterian Church. During those years, this congregation has been served by many caring and competent persons, both lay and clergy, paid and volunteer. There have been four senior pastors: Chuck Gommer, Chuck Johns, Greg Myers and, currently, Carol Ann Fleming. Full-time clergy associate pastors include: Allen Campbell, Chuck Naugle, Bob Upton, Lucy Stafford-Lewis, Mark Harper and Deborah Sisson.
Staff members, full or part-time for visitation, social work or Christian education have included Mary Gere, Carol Hewitt Harding, Doug Posegate, Cris Crane Mitchell, Bonnie Clemow, Rev. Bill Frazier, Lolly Kersey, Louise Auchenbach, John Zimmerman, Rev. Harold Wheeler, Mary Rolston, Evelyn O’Hara, Rev. Jim Harring, Rev. Ken Brown, Jill and Rob Kazinski, Karen Whipple, Norm Price, Mary Baker and currently Lesley O’Boyle.
The music department has had only four organists: Arline Rood, Mary Sampson and Bill Johnson and Jeff Shuman. Choir directors include Dorothy Turner, Beth Wyatt, Bill Johnson, Bill Summerhill, John Vaida, Harry Mechell, Mike Williams, Frank Edwards, Gene Kelleher, Carl Shinko and Cassie Palfey.
The office staff has included Betty Cheskey, Dorothy Hess, Bert Daniels, Sally Wheat, Linda Meyers, Sheila Bonawits, Florence Price, Louise Roberts, Barbara Tanner, David Lear and currently June Gavenonis and Holly Daubert. There have been only five full-time sextons: Paul Smith, Irv Rinehimer, Ron Oliver, Rich Rondash and currently Bill Ellsworth.
Parish Council Moderators have included Bill Price, Herm Shiplett, Wilbur Scott, George Worden, Jr, Dr. Russ James, Helene Flower Reed, Joyce Shiplett, John Johnson, Bob Emery, Barbara Neary, Dennis Morris, Cathy Bauman-Hecht, Dave Oriel, Donna Dickinson, Charlie Danchek, Leslie Bullock and currently Jack Wise.
Secretaries of Parish Council have included Libby Hirner, Amy Ellsworth and Karen Whipple and treasurers have included Loretta Evans, Marquerite Bromfield and Kay Evans.
We are thankful for these caring and committed leaders and facilitators who have helped make the “merged for mission,” “servant church” concept a reality.
Since the creation of the Church of Christ Uniting in 1972, four “sons” of the merged church have entered the ministry. Rev. Craig Gommer, is pastor of the Tunkhannock United Methodist Church; Rev. Rob Kazinski serves as pastor of the Nimmonsburg United Methodist Church near Binghamton, NY, the late Rev. Robert MacIntyre was the pastor of the Elivet Presbyterian Church in Easton, PA, and Rev. Stephen Sours, United Methodist church, is completing doctoral studies at Duke University in Durham, NC
Our new congregation had two buildings, and far-ranging decisions had to be made immediately for their use. Funds needed to be borrowed to reconstruct each building for its special purpose.
The Worship and Education Resource Center
This building was built in 1957-58 by the First United Methodist Church of Kingston for their worship, education and administration. It was the natural site for this continued function of the new congregation. We are fortunate to have such a spacious building which in addition to the sanctuary, offices, classrooms, nursery and conference rooms also houses the Wyoming Valley Meals On Wheels kitchen. The Fellowship Hall serves the congregation constantly and is rented often by community organizations for their activities. Large meeting rooms in the basement are used by the Girl Scouts and other groups and we even house a Luzerne County Head Start preschool program.
The Community-Oriented Resource Center
This building was the former sanctuary and education center for the Kingston Presbyterian Church. In 1984 the congregation entered into an 18 year land contract with The Montessori School to purchase the property; anticipating this sale we removed and sold the magnificent Tiffany windows which were in the sanctuary, saving for ourselves the most beautiful one, which is proudly displayed in our newly renovated sanctuary today.