LOCK HAVEN - Rev. Bruce Wallace, pastor of East Main Street United Methodist Church, received the Bishop's Award for Exemplary Service in Ecumenism.
The special honor was presented by Bishop Jane Allen Middleton at the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church held recently.
The minister took a few minutes out of a busy day to talk about outreach projects, East Main Street Church, the work of the Southern Clinton County Association of Christian Churches and how everyone can work together to make a difference.
Rev. Bruce Wallace of Lock Haven holds the Bishop’s Award for Exemplary Service in Ecumenism which he received recently.
Q.: Why did you receive this award?
A.: "Linda Howell from my church nominated me... but it recognizes the things we do here in Lock Haven through the Association of Christian Churches, including the One-Gallon Challenge, the "Concerts of Prayer" and different projects that have involved interdenominational cooperation."
Q.: What ecumenical projects do you participate in?
A.: "The aid to needy persons ministry for the association is the biggest project I have taken on. It's time-consuming.
"I get an average of six calls a week, at least for as long as I have kept track of the numbers which is several years. I've been doing this for 10 and a half years and the association has been able to help 1,700 clients, giving a total of $265,000 in aid because of the generosity of the churches that participate in our organization and of First Quality.
"When you add it all up, it's pretty cool.
"Nearly every community has something, some kind of benevolent project going on, but most ministeriums I've been a part of don't have this kind of resources to offer this level of help.
"The One-Gallon Challenge Fund is just about out, so we'll issue the challenge again in the fall. It was very successful, with help from The Express. It really did an awful lot of good.
"This morning, I was able to not only get a mother and child's electricity turned back on but also save them from eviction with money from that fund.
"We have an electronic database that goes back to when Rev. Ken Page was the association's treasurer, 12 years or so, and I can see who we have helped before and what kind of history they have.
"We do have some policies about repeat requests, basically because we don't have the money to help with all the requests that come through and also it's not always the best thing to do... we're trying to help people who need a hand up."
"But, people with chronic need who are in contact with a local professional, such as a pastor or social worker, and are getting financial counseling are not necessarily ruled out."
Q.: How long have you served at East Main Street Church?
A.: "I've been the pastor there for 14 years - and I know will be here for at least another year as I wasn't re-assigned.
Q.: I understand the church offers something a little different from other, more traditional United Methodist congregations.
A.: "We have 'Cafe Worship' in winter (in the meeting room with the kitchen), but we move back into the sanctuary from Easter to October to take advantage of the acoustics, as well as the traditional seating and the beauty of the room. We have a worship band and a blended worship style with contemporary music and traditional hymns. We also have a choir, but the members take the summer off. Dress is always casual, whether we are in the 'Cafe' or the sanctuary."
Q.: What does this recognition from the bishop mean to you?
A.: "This award isn't just about me. It represents cooperation - it's an ecumenical award. It was presented because of the other pastors in the community and First Quality, which has been a tremendous supporter of our ministry for 11 and half years.
"A $250 check came with award and it will go to the association's ministry.
"The chair of the commission that selected the awardees is Rev. Jon West, soon to be the new pastor at Covenant United Methodist Church here.
"I told him the money would probably go out within a week - it comes in, it goes out right away - and he said he liked to hear that."
Q.: What do you believe should be the next big projects in our community?
A.: "The Clinton County Housing Coalition is trying to re-establish a homeless shelter. It's not just church-oriented; it's a good group with social agencies and others involved... I am the treasurer for it. Pastors have a role, but we need to interface with other folks about this issue."
"Gloria Stinson's Concerts of Prayer started five years ago and are continuing. East Main has hosted one at least once a year. My wife and I were two of the first pastors to get on board with it, but now that it is under way, we don't need to have as much involvement as we did.
"The association recently held a family enrichment training event at the middle school this year and had a turn-out of about 50 or so. (Yes, I did help with it. I was the registrar.)
"Also regarding family enrichment, I brought an idea to the association about marriage preparation. I proposed there be a covenant among pastors so that we have some sort of standard about whose marriages we perform and that we require pre-marriage preparation.
"Two other pastors and myself had one when our churches were in a cooperative parish.
"In the association, someone will have an idea and if other pastors get on board with it, it gets done."