EXETER — When flood waters damaged the First United Presbyterian Church of West Pittston in 2011, the congregation was forced to leave its home in search of a temporary place to worship.
Other Christian denominations in the area reached out to help, including the Second Presbyterian Church of Pittston and the First United Methodist Church of West Pittston, but it was St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Exeter that ended up being a semi-permanent home for the displaced parishioners and they have worshipped there since October 2011.
Members of the Presbyterian congregation gathered outside St. Cecilia’s on July 26, greeting members of the Catholic congregation as they exited their Sunday service, in a “thank-you” reception.
Mutual appreciation was shared as members of both congregations mingled over light refreshments, which included an abundant array of baked goods.
Sharon Weber, a church elder in the West Pittston Presbyterian congregation, organized the reception.
“St. Cecilia’s gave us a home when we didn’t have anything, so we’re forever grateful for that,” she said.
The Presbyterians of West Pittston will worship at the Wyoming Presbyterian Church in the future, and they hope it will be their permanent home, but they wanted to show their gratitude to those at St. Cecilia’s before moving on.
“We’ve had a great response since the flood,” said Pastor Jim Thyren of the FUPC of West Pittston. “The welcome down here at St. Cecilia’s was wonderful.”
The Wyoming Presbyterian Church is located on Wyoming Avenue and Institute Street in Wyoming. Institute Street gets its name from the Institute building at the end of the street. The Institute, which was built in the 1840s as a school, operated for about 25 years before becoming the property of the Presbyterian Church.
The Presbyterians of West Pittston will hold their masses at 9 a.m. on Sundays, and the Wyoming Presbyterians will keep their regularly scheduled service at 11 a.m.
The congregation of West Pittston will also chip in financially as they will assume some of the cost of another building on the church campus which the Wyoming Presbyterians have not used much in the last few years, keeping it open all year round.
Thyren said that the move has been generally well-received by the congregation. “We had a good reaction for going down there and being able to set some roots again,” he said.
Meanwhile, the church on Exeter Avenue in West Pittston is up for sale. Initially, the congregation cleaned the flood-damaged house of worship and had mold mitigation done in hope of moving back in, but the financial burden of renovating proved to be too much, leading its members to seek other options.
Father Michael E. Finn of St. Barbara’s Parish, which encompasses St. Cecilia’s, St. John the Baptist in Exeter and St. Barbara’s (formerly St. Anthony of Padua Church in Exeter), came to the parish after the St. Cecilia’s congregation lent their space to the Presbyterians of West Pittston, and he said he immediately thought it was a wonderful thing.
He added that some of the issues that St. Barbara’s Parish is facing brought members of both Christian communities closer together through mutual understanding.
In the foreseeable future, the doors of St. Cecilia’s will also close, and the congregation will worship at St. Barbara’s, because the parish can no longer afford to keep all of its churches open throughout the year. For now, slow legal procedures are keeping the church from going up for sale, but it will eventually be put on the market.
Finn said he enjoyed having people in St. Cecilia’s church all the time and that the relationship between his congregation and Thyren’s was good for everyone.
“It’s been a pleasure working with the pastor, the congregation, real nice people. I’m going to miss them,” said Finn.
He said he thinks it is great that the Presbyterian congregation finally found a home.
“Everybody needs a home,” he said.