A Christmas miracle
● By J. Chambless
Minister Chuck Wyeth (left) and Larry Steiner work on the freshly poured concrete access ramp at the Kelton Church of Christ.
By John Chambless
There's a Christmas miracle underway at
the tiny Kelton Church of Christ on Jennersville Road.
On a cold, drizzly day in early December, new minister Chuck Wyeth and Larry Steiner were smoothing out freshly poured concrete for a ramp in front of the building, which has been a Church of Christ house of worship since 1836.
Wyeth, who has just been hired as the minister at the church for the next three years, took a few minutes to talk about the path that has led him here, and how God seems to have been at his side the whole time.
“I'm from Alliance, Ohio, and in 2013 I got the ministry bug,” he said. “The congregation at Alliance Church of Christ started saying that maybe I should become a preacher. I was like, 'What?' But we started talking, and they started teaching me how to write and present sermons.”
Wyeth went to Sunset International Bible Institue in Lubbock, Texas, for two years, then came to Pennsylvania to try out at three churches. “We came here because there was a program called Focus Northeast through the Church of Christ and through Sunset,” he said. “They had a preacher in Camp Hill named Doug Hamilton, who was the head of the program here, and Doug brought me up and I tried out with three churches. In between, I got a phone call that there was a little church that might be willing to let me come and preach for them so I could make some money to go back to school in Texas.
“We got here at the beginning of September 2016,” Wyeth continued. “About midway through the week, I got a call to offer me the position here as their preacher. They said they weren't looking for a preacher, but that me and my family were what they were looking for.”
Packing up his family – his wife Linda and their three teenage children – into an overloaded Tahoe and coming to Jennersville from Texas was a gigantic leap of faith. The Kelton Church of Christ has no parsonage to house its ministers, but the family happened to arrive when a vacancy opened up at the Oxford Village mobile home community. “It's God's plan, so whenever it's his will, we don't get in the way of it,” Wyeth said.
The family arrived on the biggest day of the year in Jennersville – Penn Township Day. “We worked at the church booth the first day we were here,” Wyeth said. “I'm a new minister, but we jumped in with both feet. This is my first full-time position.”
Linda has a job at the Oxford Walmart hardware department, Wyeth said, and with his rent paid by the church, he's ready to get a foothold in his new location.
Another holiday miracle occurred when the family's Tahoe – facing expensive repairs – was fixed, free of charge, thanks to a local person Wyeth declined to name who happened to stop by the church and saw that the Wyeths needed some help. “He told me, 'I never go into a church, but we all believe in the same God,'” Wyeth said, smiling. Someone else donated the towing service to the repair shop. “I am getting the feeling that God wants us to be here. He just proves it, over and over again,” he said.
Building a ramp in front of the church and making the building ADA compliant was a bigger issue, though. Wyeth called several places about getting concrete poured, had a bad experience with one man, but through him found Heritage Concrete in Wilmington, which ended up donating the concrete for the ramp.
West Chester architect Greg Radford supplied a design for a powder room inside the church, as well as the ramp. Church member Larry Steiner designed the door and patio that was added to the side of the church, and he will be putting in a railing for the ramp in the coming weeks.
Along the way, Wyeth – who emphasized “I was not handy in any way” – has been learning to dig ditches, build a concerete form and perform other construction tasks as part of the renovations.
Wyeth has started giving his business card to everyone he meets in hopes of expanding the membership at the church, which was “13 to 20 before I got here, but now about 25 or 30 at the Sunday services,” he said. “We have one new member, and we have returning members. People were just waiting for activities to start up again.”
The church hadn't done any outreach for a very long time, Wyeth said, recalling a comment that someone assumed the church was nothing but a maintenance building of some sort. His immediate goals include “Growing the membership as God allows, and bringing in families with children, because children are the future of the church,” he said. “I see a lot of hope for this area. Because as life gets tougher, people turn more to God.”
As another benefit to his new home, Wyeth is related to the famous family of artists of the same name. “Jamie Wyeth is a distant relative,” he said. “When I was a little kid, my dad used to read me 'The Stray,' that Jamie illustrated, and I knew all about Chadds Ford. I knew everything about the Wyeths. I had never seen any of this area, though. But I came here for the first time, and to live here is so awesome. It's just weird how it all came about.”
Looking back at the string of positive experiences since he came to his new position at the church, Wyeth said, “This has definitely been a Christmas gift. I don't even know how to react. … I told people when I came here that I'm resourceful. I love this congregation, and I will fight for this congregation. I'm ready to do whatever it takes.”
The Kelton Church of Christ is at 335 S. Jennersville Rd., West Grove. For more information, visit www.keltoncofc.org, or find the Kelton Church of Christ on Facebook.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.