S. ABINGTON TWP. — 1968 saw big changes for Venard Road. Clarks Summit University (CSU), then Baptist Bible Seminary, had moved to Pennsylvania from New York. In September of that year, Rev. Clayton Howard Gray, the university chaplain, led a group of people to meet regularly for worship and preaching services on the campus.
As the group grew they organized a local church. A constitution, articles of faith and a church covenant were adopted on Jan. 23, 1969. In May of 1969, the new church voted to call itself “Heritage Baptist Church.” The congregation called Rev. Charles Benedict as pastor in 1970. In 1973, ground was broken on eight-and-a-half acres across from CSU’s campus.
Mel Walker was a student in 1972. He remembers when the church was meeting in Jackson Hall on the campus of CSU. He watched as the new church building went up.
“It was an exciting time,” Walker shared.
Over the years Heritage has had several expansion projects, adding an educational wing, a youth room and family room. Walker and his wife Peggy joined the church in 1989.
“The first thing that got us interested in Heritage is that it was close to where we lived,” Walker shared. “We visited when we came back to the area and never went anywhere else. The number-one thing has been how the church has ministered to our children. They embraced and invested in our kids. They were concerned about their walk with God, their development and their well-being.”
Walker was involved as a deacon and also served on the pulpit committee.
“My perspective as a layman is that the pastors of our church have wanted to be a part of the Abington community,” Walker said. “The church has embraced and cared for the community. When 9/11 happened, Heritage joined with other churches and had a 9/11 memorial a year later. The vision of Heritage has always been, ‘What can we do to reach out to Clarks Summit and the Abingtons? What can we do to make a difference?’”
One way the church has sought to make that difference is by offering the community a safe place for children, he said.
“With changing culture, safety is very important to Heritage,” Walker said. “It’s part of Heritage’s commitment to the community – a desire to protect kids and keep kids safe, but also to help them in well-rounded areas of their development. Heritage is concerned with developing the whole person.”
Heritage Baptist Church has had seven pastors, beginning with Rev. Charles Benedict in 1970. Following Benedict, Rev. Wilbur Rooke, Rev. Milo Thompson, Rev. Joe Hayes, Rev. Tony Beckett, and Rev. David Culver each served as lead pastor over the church’s 50 year history. They served along with numerous assistant pastors, ministry directors, youth and music leaders as well as office professionals.
Current lead pastor, Glenn Amos, started on Aug. 21, 2011. He and his wife, Jane, had been members of the church since 1994.
Amos shared that two of the living previous pastors, Rev. Tony Beckett and Rev. David Culver, were able to return for the celebration service held on Sunday, May 26.
“They are an important part of our church’s history. It meant a lot that they were willing to come back as part of the celebration,” Amos said. “Their ministry was appreciated here.”
Appreciation and recognition of their past, and a clear vision for the future was present as Heritage Baptist Church celebrated 50 years with festivities all weekend long.
On Saturday, May 25, the church held a block party for the community with s’mores, games, a visit from Manning’s Ice Cream Truck and a movie in the church youth room. On Sunday, the congregation had a special service followed by a catered luncheon.
Heritage Baptist Church members participated in the Memorial Day Parade in Clarks Summit on May 27, continuing their 50-year anniversary celebration and inviting children in the community to come to their Heritage Kids Sports Camp.
As they look to the future, Amos shared the church’s desire to reach out and make an impact in the Abingtons.
“We are expanding our circle of care for people within our community. Our people have shown a willingness to reach out and do what we can, and we’re just getting started. We’ve challenged ourselves with the question, ‘If Heritage Baptist Church ceased to exist, would people notice?’ We are looking at ways in which we can contribute and make a difference. ”
The church has participated in community events such as the Abington Business and Professional Association’s Clarks Summit Festival of Ice and the Borough of Clarks Summit’s Memorial Day Parade. It has taken part in summer and fall festivals and held Christmas events as well. Amos currently serves as Clarks Summit police chaplain, a way he views as an opportunity to “reach back into (his) community.”
“Church is not another club or sports team,” Amos said. “The church is not the building or a service. The church is us. God knows we need each other.
“Sometimes we regulate church to just attendance or giving money. But that’s not what church is. Church is the interaction of God’s people with one another. Those that know and love the Lord Jesus Christ come together to worship and learn together. The church is those who care for one another, do for one another, serve one another, and who are an active part of the community, sharing the love of God with everyone they can.”
To learn more about Heritage Baptist Church, visit wearehbc.com.