Although this story still has many chapters to write, this is the last installment that has led to the installation of the 18th Senior Pastor in the First Presbyterian Church of Hollidaysburg in 231 years. Over the last three years and two months, you have read about the challenges this historic church has courageously posed.
At 3 pm on Sunday, August 11, Rev. Janie McElwee-Smith was appointed by the Huntingdon presbyterate, church elders, and participants as the eighteenth pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. More than 100 parishioners and former interim preachers attended the service to witness and confirm the installation of Pastor Janie. Pastor Janie has been preaching at the First Presbyterian Church since June.
This church has faced a difficult journey of faith since Pastor Chuck Monts left the church in May 2016 after more than a decade. In that September, it was noted that previous winter storms, which had accompanied for decades, severely impaired and thus condemned the integrity of the canopy. Interim pastor Cindy Carlisle arrived in October 2016. Pastor Carlisle did not preach in the pulpit during the Lent of 2018 for almost two years, when the sanctuary's repairs were completed and the sanctuary was safe again for worship. On the departure of Pastor Carlisle, Lay Pastor Ken Lynch of Hollidaysburg led the church, while the First Presbyterian Church Worship Committee was looking for a permanent pastor. In February 2019, the community met for the first time and accepted Janie.
According to her biography, Rev. Janie McElwee-Smith was born and raised in St. Louis. She studied Religious Studies and Political Science at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC. There she met a southerner who went skiing (born in Salt Lake City and lived most of his life in Nashville). She and Brad celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary in June.
After college, Janie moved to Nashville to complete her Master of Divinity at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and was ordained by her home presbytery Giddings Lovejoy to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
Pastor Janie, husband Brad and their twin sons Lucien and Arthur moved from Baton Rouge, La, to Hollidaysburg. They are also furry parents of the dogs Loki (13) and Charlie (13). Janie and Brad have been heading north for quite some time to find relief from the "13 months summer" they live in.
Many years ago, Janie realized that her vocation was to walk with people as they will, to whom God calls them. She believes in preaching love in word and deed.
The service of the installation was about loving courageously. The congregation wore the stickers "Love Everyone". Pastor Melanie A. Smith, Presbyterian Church of the Ladue Chapel in St. Louis, sent a message of love and how "getting into divine trouble" enables us to love boldly. Rev. Smith defined "divine need" as taking risks to help others. She noted that Jesus knew how to get into divine trouble and that God would be glorified by trusting in the love of Christ guiding God's Spirit.
When Pastor Janie delivered the blessing after the installation, he asked the church to love boldly and share God's love with the church. Remember that you are a child of God and love God's children.