WILKES-BARRE TWP. —- In an effort to make it to church on time, a young mother scooped her two young children into her arms and jogged through the parking lot of the Quality Inn on Sunday.
As the family rushed through the doors, they were greeted with smiles and embraces from various members of the congregation.
The lights dimmed as members of the Wyoming Valley Church, who packed into the main banquet room, clapped and swayed to contemporary Gospel music. The scene was casual and relaxed, as people were free to get up for a doughnut or coffee during the service.
Pastor Michael Warner addressed the attendees by name as he spoke about the plans and hopes for the new church, which offered its first service in January. Warner introduced a family in the audience who became the inspiration for a link on the church’s website.
When the children couldn’t attend Sunday School because of illness, the church put up a link where parents can download missed lessons on their home computer.
In the next room, Nicole Saunders, the wife of Pastor Jamie Saunders, one of the founding members of the church, engaged nearly two dozen children in an interactive Bible lesson. The children earn incentives for bringing in their Bibles and for memorizing verses, said the mother of five.
“They learn that the Bible is really where you get the answers. We really want them to have God’s word in their hearts, because that’s what impacts them and changes them.”
The church began with a chance encounter last November between the sister-in-law of Jamie Saunders, who was an unemployed pastor at the time, and Fred Massey, pastor of the High Pointe Church in Thompson, Conn. After learning about Saunders and his passion for ministry, Massey turned to his own congregation for help.
More than $1,000 was collected by Massey’s Youth Group to help get the Wyoming Valley Church started. The ministry team includes Saunders and Warner, the church’s two full-time pastors, David Simpson, who oversees the Sunday School and educational program, and a core of more than 100 members who lend their talents in the construction, marketing, finance, web development and educational fields.
Warner is a former member of the rock band Synch, which charted a national top 10 hit in the late ’80s with its song “Where Are You Now.” He is the founder of the A.W.E. Band — a local contemporary Christian recording/performing band.
Warner said the church is in the process of looking for a permanent facility that also will double as a worship and youth center.
“We are seeking visionary contributors who are willing to help plan and fund this exciting community vision,” he said.
“WVC’s vision is to be a regional church with small-community presence. If we can’t be active in truly serving the entire Valley where it is hurting most, we might as well not exist.”