Conoy Brethren In Christ Church has a new pastor for the first time in about 14 years.
Nick Ressler, who was an associate pastor at the Elizabethtown Brethren In Christ Church from 2009 to 2015, took over at Conoy in February. He takes over from Al Frank, who retired and moved to Iowa to be near family.
“My family is from Elizabethtown, so I heard about it through the grapevine,” Ressler said in an interview.
Unlike some denominations, the Brethren In Christ does not assign clergy to congregations. Instead, the congregation set up a committee to search for a new pastor.
In addition to working at the Elizabethtown Brethren In Christ Church, Ressler worked for four years as the executive director of Kenbrook Bible Camp and Retreat Center, a camp north of Lebanon that the denomination owns. After getting his bachelor’s degree from Messiah College, he got a master’s degree in ministry, leadership and culture from Fresno Pacific University in California.
Ressler said he has long been interested in ministry.
“I felt a call into ministry when I was 17,” Ressler said, and he had worked as a summer counselor at Kenbrook in his youth.
“I’ve been involved in the denomination as long as I can remember,” he said.
Frank, on the other hand, had been in the ministry for 46 years, but 30 of those years were outside the Brethren In Christ denomination. He previously worked in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida; his most recent stop before Elizabethtown was Roanoke, Va., where he worked for five years.
One of the things Frank said he enjoyed most was the “restaurant ministry,” in which he meets with the staff of the Country Meadows Restaurant on Hershey Road before it opens every Sunday.
The Elizabethtown Fair is another big part of the ministry; Conoy BIC congregants pick up trash during the fair, gathering hundreds of barrels of litter each day. Frank noted that the litter cleanup began before he arrived at the church.
Frank said he is proud that the church has grown under his stewardship, not just in Sunday attendance, but also in its impact on the community.
“I enjoy ministering to people and being a friend in town,” Frank said.
Frank said one of the most touching things he does is to comfort the bereaved. That is something he and other local clergy frequently do for strangers in addition to their congregants because of a partnership with local police. Clergy are called to the scene after police respond to a tragedy, providing a listening ear and comfort, as well as making it easier for police to leave and return to other duties.
“People are glad you’re helping,” Frank said of that service.
Frank said he and his wife, Trish, are moving to Iowa because they have family there; he said he plans to remain active.
“I don’t believe in retirement. … I am moving to Iowa to minister to my grandchildren, to be near them,” Frank said.
Ressler said he likes the worship style that Conoy BIC developed under Frank said he didn’t plan to make big changes early on in his leadership there. “The beginning is observe, learn, ask lots of questions,” Ressler said.