Lutheran church parishioners get a lift

June 27th, 2015 1:44 am

First Posted: 3/1/2013

At St. John’s Lutheran Church on Wood Street in Pittston, parishioners are being lifted up to the Lord in more ways than one.

The 156-year-old parish installed a front entrance enclosure and chairlift on its 96-year-old church.

Pastor John Castellani said the much-needed improvement was made possible by a campaign among parishioners who raised $3,000.

“It’s one of the best things we’ve done,” Rev. Castellani said. “We have a lot of older people.”

Rev. Castellani’s wife, Helen, said the enclosure is good for weddings and other events because it keeps the entrance and steps out of the weather.

Helen is one of the benefactors of the lift. “Little did I know when we started the campaign that I would be one of the ones using it,” she said.

Helen is scheduled for total knee replacement surgery in the near future. In the meantime, she uses the lift to get up the dozen steps to the church entrance.

Two years ago, Rev. Castellani was retired in Cleveland where he served as a pastor for 35 years. He was contacted by members of the St. John’s Parish Council who coaxed him into coming to Pittston to replace an interim pastor who had served one year after the Rev. Russell Ray Kerns Sr. died in 2008 at age 95. Rev. Kerns had served St. John’s for 23 years.

As was Rev. Kearns, Rev. Castellani is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Coming to the area was a something of a homecoming for Pastor Castellani, who grew up in Taylor and whose father was one of 10 miners killed in the Schooley Shaft Mine Disaster in Exeter in 1947.

The church was founded on Nov. 22, 1847, in Hughestown when it was known as the German Lutheran Church. In 1863, the parishioners split over a plan to build a new church in Pittston. One faction went ahead with that plan and that church became St. John’s. The other faction formed St. Peter’s Lutheran in Hughestown.

The current St. John’s Church was built in 1917.

Tucked away at the end of Wood Street in the city’s Fourth Ward section, tiny St. John’s has a bit of an identity crisis. “Nobody knows we’re here,” Rev. Castellani said. “When I mention St. John’s in Pittston, they say ‘o yeah, that big church on William Street,’ thinking I mean St. John the Evangelist.”

Though the church has only 120 members, Rev Castellani and his wife said the members are loyal and close like an extended family. Services are at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.