St. Luke’s gaining momentum

New full-time pastor sees uptick in attendance

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Pastor Amanda McCaffery accepted the call as full-time pastor at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Roaring Spring, and has seen youth return to the church.

Now that it has a full-time pastor, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Roaring Spring is being revitalized.

Pastor Amanda McCaffery accepted the call to the church in Roaring Spring about six months ago and has noticed a slight push of growth in the congregation, including a return of youth.

“Our biggest force of energy is that we are gaining momentum in our youth program,” McCaffery said. “We are starting Sunday school back up, and the youth are now part of the church and living out their faith.”

She said several teens attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Youth Gathering that was held last year in Houston, but they are really excited about the one to be held in 2021 in Minneapolis. She said the students are already raising money to attend it.

In addition to supporting its youth, the church is committed to serving families. McCaffery said the church is beginning a family friendly event once a month. Its first activity was a game night, and a movie night is planned for June. She said it gives families an opportunity to enjoy time together and with others.

Having McCaffery as its first full-time pastor enables the church to establish those and other programs and begin new traditions. It gives the church stability, said Rick Focht, president of the church council.

It has been at least 10 to 15 years since the church has had a pastor of its own, said Kathie Gasper, a member of the church council. In the past, St. Luke’s Church shared a pastor with a Lutheran Church in Woodbury before it closed. It then became a two-point parish with Christ Lutheran in Claysburg

Focht said the two churches shared an interim pastor for the last two years. Then, St. Luke’s congregation voted unanimously to stand by itself, Gasper said.

McCaffery said the people of St. Luke’s took a leap of faith by calling their own pastor.

She took a leap of faith herself a few years ago when she gave up her desire to be a veterinarian to pursue her call.

It was not an easy road. Originally from Hagerstown, Maryland, McCaffery said she didn’t start going to church until she was in high school. It was after the 9/11 terrorist attack and her family became part of the Lutheran church, where her parents had been married.

While attending Capital University, a Lutheran college in Columbus, Ohio, she changed her major to religion. She was also active in the campus ministry, where she met Drew, her future husband.

After earning her degree, she wasn’t sure if being a pastor was the right path for her and struggled with finding a job.

“Unless you go into the ministry, a degree in religion is practically useless,” she said, adding that she was looking for work in 2009, the year after America’s Great Recession.

She held two part-time jobs for awhile and then worked in an insurance office in Hagerstown for 1¢ years. She eventually got a job in public housing in Chambersburg, and she and Drew got married in 2012.

They lived in Gettysburg, where Drew was attending classes at the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Her job in public housing led to a transfer and promotion to management development in the Waynesboro office.

A combination of circumstances during that time led her back to the call to ministry.

“Working with the housing authority was very affirming,” she said, adding that she enjoyed making connections with tenants.

She continued to be active in her church in Hagerstown (an hour away) and continued to love the church, she said. And finally, living in the seminary community made her feel like she should follow her desire to be in ministry.

“People would tell me, ‘I see you as a pastor,'” she said.

So McCaffery enrolled in seminary about the time that her husband was ready to graduate. He accepted a call to Bethany Lutheran Church in Altoona, and she traveled back and forth to Gettysburg for two of the next three years to earn her Master of Divinity degree.

“The turnpike and I were friends,” she joked. During her final year of seminary, she served as a vicar at the Duncansville Evangelical Lutheran Church, where she preached every other week.

Now that she is leading her first church, McCaffery said, “It’s wonderful. The last six months have been very affirming. I am doing what I feel I have been called to do. It’s hard to put into words.”

As she continues her first year as a spiritual leader, McCaffery is working with the congregation to decide how they can best serve God in the community.

“We are still discerning,” she said. “We are looking at what we can do, and what does the community need.”

Focht said McCaffery has “a lot of good ideas and helps us work through those ideas. Not just her ideas, but what others come up with. She is delightful to work with.”

“She is very good at helping us see new things we can do as a church,” Gasper said, noting that the church was able to give food and gifts to people in need in the Roaring Spring area at Christmas.

She said McCaffery also visits the shut-ins and is a good preacher.

Her messages are about having love for one another and to share “our bounty with others, whether it be kindness or some other gift,” Gasper said. “She teaches us to look out for everybody in the church, in the community and in the world.”

Overall, Gasper said, “She takes care of her flock.”