S. ABINGTON TWP. — During the 1960s, a time of rapid growth for Lackawanna County, a church was born in the hills of the Abingtons.
Summit Baptist Bible Church, which has been in the Abington community for 51 years, first operated at 113 N. State St. in Clarks Summit and moved to its present location at 232 Noble Road next to the Abington Heights High School in 1980.
The church now has a new name. After members submitted name ideas, the congregation voted on Oct. 22 in favor of the name Hillside Haven Community Church.
“We have a great heritage, but we want to establish an identity for our community that communicates we care about them and are here to serve them,” shared Pastor Don Roe. “We are so grateful to Grace Bible Church in Dunmore for starting this ministry over 50 years ago. As we look to the future we hope to better accomplish our mission of helping others. We want our community to see that there’s a home here, a haven. And they are welcome.”
Roe has been lead pastor of the church since 2010. He and his wife Cyndi live in Clarks Summit and have seven grown children and one granddaughter between them.
“I came here three months after my first wife died,” Roe shared. “This church took me in, widowed and broken. They ministered to me. I later remarried a single mom in this community, and the church embraced her. I love these people. I love being their pastor. They live their faith and they love each other. When anyone has a need, they rise to the occasion.”
Hillside Haven Community Church is a name the church members believe reflects who they are and what the church is – a safe place for people to find help, hope and healthy relationships.
Associate Pastor Stephen Merkh has been on staff since 2015. He and his wife Hannah have two young children and are in the process of adopting a third. His family recently faced a housing need. The community at Hillside Haven was there.
“Our church community group leaders invited my wife and I to live at their house for two months while we were finishing work on our home,” Merkh shared. “But that happened because we had been in community and built those relationships.”
The Alfred family of Dalton recently needed help as well.
“In April 2017 we faced an emergency move from our home, having only three weeks in which to relocate. The church was such a supportive family, showering help and love on us,” said Sylinda Alfred, sharing her love for a church that her family has been a part of since 1995. “The preaching has not only been biblical, but practical, helping us deal with the issues we were facing at the time … We have developed friendships, discussed issues that we face, and prayed for each other.”
Hillside Haven Community Church provides small group opportunities throughout the week in members’ homes. These community groups gather to have Bible-based discussions, share a meal, pray together and build relationships.
“Our church has a focus of worship, community and family,” Merkh shared. “Our goal for the worship service is to consistently take us back to the truth of the Bible. We also believe that a walk with God is done with others, in community.”
He went on to share Hillside Haven’s commitment to support families:
“Having a family is hard. To have a place where you have other people who are going through similar things can be a blessing.”
Nestled in the hillside on Noble Road, the church has been a haven for many.
“We do life together. Our church is a place where community takes place and true, healthy and safe connections happen,” Roe shared. “Our goal is that people leave differently than the way they came because of the truth of the (Bible) and our sincere love for each other.”
Billy Mulligan and his wife, Julie live in Clarks Summit and have two children.
“We moved from Ohio to NEPA and it was a transition,” he said. “But we really felt at home and welcomed at this church.”
Mulligan is a deacon at the church. He said the process of choosing a new name for the church wasn’t random.
“We asked the congregation to submit suggestions and it was a great process. As the deacons discussed name options, one word we kept landing on was ‘haven.’ One of the things we discovered afterwards is that the neighborhood the church is in, was referred to in the past as ‘Haven Heights’ … The name itself conveys this idea; if you imagine a hiker who is on a mountain and encounters a storm. We want to be that haven on the hillside for people when they encounter the storms of life. Somewhere that they can go, and feel safe and accepted, and loved.”
Hillside Haven Community Church introduced its new name at its trunk-or-treat event on Oct. 31. A Christmas party, open to the community, will be held on Dec. 9.
Weekly services are held at 10:30 a.m. Sundays, with youth group, children’s SLAMM ministry, community groups and Bible studies meeting throughout the week. For more information, visit summitbaptist.org.