by Doug Rehberg
Sunday, October 28th, was a day to long remember. Not only was it the first time in 28 years that Hebron’s congregation had the opportunity to extend a call to a new pastor; it was a day in which we could experience, in a tangible way, the power and glory of God in our midst.
Interestingly, Henry’s sermon text that day was Exodus 17:1-7. Not only does God take the judgment His people deserve upon Himself, the Rock of Horeb opens and out flows a stream of water that quenches the thirst of God’s people; a perfect portrait of the cross of Christ. The glory of God descends upon the rock, within the midst of the people of God, and the result is unmitigated grace.
Think of it. For more than a year, people inside and outside Hebron prayed that God would provide for a smooth and godly transition of leadership at Hebron. Rather than the typical 2-year break between one Senior Pastor and another, our prayer was that the Lord would send us a man who would serve as a Co-Pastor until assuming the Senior Pastor position in the Fall of 2021.
Now reflect on what the Lord has done to make that happen. More than a year ago He moved upon the heart of Jen Balkey, our Women’s Ministry leader, to ask Kelly Knapp to come and speak at the women’s retreat. Kelly was recommended by several Christian leaders around Pittsburgh as an excellent conference speaker. Prior to the retreat, Kelly was asked to come to the Heart Breakfast to speak, setting the stage for the retreat. When Kelly arrived at Hebron she sat in the parking lot and was moved to pray and ask the Lord, if it was His will, that she and Henry would be called to serve Him at a church like Hebron.
At the same time, Henry was sensing God’s call to leave First Presbyterian Church of Beaver. A good friend of Henry’s and Hebron suggested that this might be a good place for him to serve the Lord in ministry. The problem was that Henry was no longer serving in the PCUSA. First Presbyterian Church of Beaver had left the denomination in 2008, moving to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
After much prayer and consultation, Henry determined that he would be willing to come back to the PCUSA to serve at Hebron. However, to repatriate into the PCUSA required the Pittsburgh Presbytery to vote to receive an EPC minister who had left the denomination. The truth is, in the whole denomination, no one had ever repatriated! The policy stated that someone could, but no one had ever done it.
On September 20, 2018, after much deliberation, Pittsburgh Presbytery voted to approve Henry’s repatriation once a suitable call was issued by a member congregation. This Sunday Hebron voted overwhelmingly to issue that call.
The hours of meetings, negotiations, interviews, and preparation over the past seven months are only dwarfed by the time spent in prayer. Christians all around the city and beyond had been praying that the Lord’s will would be done on Sunday.
For those closest to the process, what happened at Hebron on Sunday was nothing short of a miracle. Though many had labored long and hard to bring it all about, once it arrived the glory of the Lord carried us. The truth is the Holy Spirit orchestrated everything that happened, and the result was joy and celebration.
Though we often pray for the glory of God to be visibly present among us on Sunday, it’s not often easy to discern. October 28th was different. What we asked for, God delivered. To God be the glory!