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STAFF PHOTO/BROOKE WILLIAMS Pastor Lee Kliewer has helped Mehoopany Baptist Church celebrate its 200th anniversary this month.

After Sunday’s service at Mehoopany Baptist Church, Pastor Lee Kliewer caught each member of the congregation on their way out, leaving them with handshakes and well wishes.

Sending members of the church off with positive thoughts for the week directly aligns with the mission of the church to make, mature and mobilize authentic Christ followers.

“We do that based on Jesus’ two great commands, where he said love God with all your heart and soul and love your neighbor as yourself,” said Kliewer. “So to make authentic Christ followers, we believe it’s important to love God and to love people.”

The church has carried this mission for exactly 200 years this month.

The Mehoopany Baptist Church began in 1819 as an extension of Braintrim Baptist Church.

“What normally happens in Baptist churches like that is if they see a community that doesn’t have a church, yet some of their people are from that community, they go and try to plant a new church in that area,” Kliewer explained.

A group of 20-30 people introduced the church, which had different names and locations throughout the years. The current building on Route 87 was built in 1990.

Kliewer has served the Mehoopany Baptist Church for the past year and a half. Prior to this role, he was the seminary dean at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit for 20 years.

“It’s been a great month of celebration,” he said. “We used all four Sundays in November to do different events.”

This included bringing in a gospel quartet for a concert, as well as welcoming former assistant pastors and former senior pastors back to the church.

The church also held a banquet and received congratulatory citations from various elected officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Pat Toomey, Sen. Bob Casey, Congressman Fred Keller, Sen. Lisa Baker, Rep. Karen Boback and the Wyoming County Commissioners.

For Kliewer, this month of celebration has been “a great encouragement” to the congregation.

“Our theme has been to celebrate how God has been faithful to us for over a 200-year period of history and how we can use that as a springboard to faithfully minister in this community in the days ahead,” he said. “It’s rejuvenated us and excited us about being involved in our community and helping them understand the gospel and how God loves them and can change their lives.”

The pastor believes it’s the church’s commitment to hard work of the people and staying on mission to share the gospel, as well as its value of loving people and not turning them away that has helped it withstand the test of time.

Unique programs for young people such as RISE Teens and AWANA (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed) for children also help the church stand out, he said. Along with the youth ministries, families could also come for a free meal during Family Table on Wednesday nights.

The church has also reached individuals recovering from substance use disorder through Celebrating Recovery and involves itself in different community events such as the Wyoming County Community Fair in addition to hosting its own happenings, such as an annual sportsman’s dinner for hunters.

Looking to the future, Kliewer hopes the church could focus on evangelism and discipleship training to ensure that its people feel confident in sharing the gospel.

The church plans to make sure its programs are consistent with its mission and carried out with “integrity and excellence” while helping others.

Kliewer also said the church plans to strengthen an area that it has somewhat gotten away from, but finds important for the future.

“That is to really develop male leadership in the church, young men who really understand what the mission of the church is so that the next generation will carry the baton for future generations,” he said.

Overall, Pastor Kliewer said the Mehoopany Baptist Church finds it to be a “great privilege” to serve Mehoopany and surrounding areas.

“We just want to be known as a church that loves God and loves people and wants to help people with their greatest needs,” he said.