The Rev. Evelyn Madison, pastor at Wehnwood United Methodist Church will consider ways churches in Blair County can work together when she speaks at the annual dinner of the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona.
The event will be held at 6 p.m. May 29 at First United Methodist Church of Hollidaysburg. At the event, the Rev. Jack Hoffer, deacon-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tyrone, will receive the Ecumenism Award.
Madison said while churches in Blair County communities are working together, she believes more cooperative efforts can be achieved.
"We need to claim that message where Paul (an apostle) says, 'We are the body,'" she said referring to I Corinthians 12:12.
Continuing with the Scriptures found in I Corinthians 12, she said just because an ear is not an eye does not mean it is not part of the body.
"The ear has another function but they need to work together," she said, referring to the need for people of faith to use their abilities to support needs in the city and county.
If you go
What: Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona dinner
When: 6 p.m. May 29
Where: First United Methodist Church, Hollidaysburg
Reservations: Due Tuesday. To make a reservation, call Eileen Becker at 695-3610 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
She said there are signs that the churches are coming together. She cited 30 ministers prayed for Altoona for seven weeks during Lent and The Restoration fast and prayer event held at Blair County Convention Center. She said efforts by the Altoona Area Christian Coalition and the Faith-based Roundtable for Operation Our Town also reflect churches and clergy focusing on common goals.
Madison said she will talk about "what things keep us working together and what things keep us from doing that."
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the faith community worked together on such projects as Improved Dwellings of Altoona. She said it was the cooperative efforts that made things happen.
Before taking steps to become a minister about seven years ago, Madison was a social worker for Altoona Regional Health System, Center for Behavioral Health for 11 years. She was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church in 2010.
In addition to her talk, the dinner will feature the presentation of the Ecumenism Award to Hoffer, who previously served four years as a deacon at St. Luke Episcopal Church in Altoona. He has served at Trinity Episcopal since January 2011.
"I am very honored and humbled to receive the award," said Hoffer, who added that he does not serve to receive recognition.
Indeed, it has been others who have noticed his involvement with prisoners, students and low-income residents.
"As I became more involved in the ecumenical work of Blair County, I saw Jack Hoffer participating in more areas than any other individual," said the Rev. Marlys Hershberger, president of the ecumenical conference and pastor of Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren.
"His quiet strength and spiritual insights have been invaluable in making cooperative Christian and interfaith efforts a reality."
Among the ways Hoffer helps others is by being an advocate for prisoners through the Blair County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. His work there resulted in parishioners from St. Luke's contributing about 4,000 books to the Blair County Prison's book cart.
"Jack has been an inspiring and faithful member of the PPS for several years," said Tom and Lenora Irwin in an email. Both are active members of the society.
"He is an integral part of our mission," they wrote. "We can count on him for anything that needs done."
Hoffer also provides spiritual lessons for Life Skills students through the Ecumenical Conference and serves as assistant director of the Tyrone Food Bank and treasurer of the Seeds of Hope Community Garden in Tyrone.
He said he also serves on the boards for AIDS Intervention, the Improved Dwellings for Altoona and three of its housing developments.
He is part of the Operation Our Town Faith Based Roundtable and the Northern Blair County Business Roundtable.
Before becoming a deacon, Hoffer had a 43-year career in medical laboratory management, serving most of those years in New York City. In New York, he worked with homeless men and AIDS patients as part of the outreach at Trinity Church, Wall Street.
Having grown up in Duncansville, Hoffer returned home after retirement in 2000 to be near family and ended up managing the blood bank at Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown for seven years.
He continues to teach a class at Mount Aloysius College.
It was after he returned to the area that the archdeacon for deacons for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania visited St. Luke's and wanted to know if anyone there seemed to have the qualities needed for a deacon.
"A lot of people pointed to me," Hoffer said