The Presbyterian Church of Mountain Top will hold two events this month that are open to the community: a National Day of Prayer service at 7 p. m. Thursday, May 4, and a pancake breakfast on May 20.
The church has commemorated the National Day of Prayer for the past eight years. The service includes prayers for the president and government, the military, the church and the family, as well as prayers for revival and the singing of patriotic hymns. A Cub Scout honor guard will present the flag for the pledge of allegiance. Rev. James Shanley will open and close the service, but church members will lead the various prayers. For example, a former military member will lead prayers for the military.
The service is expected to last about 45 minutes and is meant to “keep in prayer the various realities and issues of life” facing the nation today, Shanley said.
The pancake breakfast will be held from 8 a. m. to noon on Saturday, May 20. Cost is $8 for adults, $4 for ages 5 to 11, and free for ages 4 and under. Shanley said the breakfast is a way to reach out to the community, and the church typically holds a spaghetti dinner in the fall, too.
May is also a special month for Pastor Shanley because he is marking his 30th year of service at the Presbyterian Church of Mountain Top. His is the longest tenure for any pastor of the 130-year-old church.
A New Jersey native, Rev. Shanley came to Mountain Top after serving seven years as an associate pastor in Norristown. When he and wife Caren arrived in 1987, they hoped they could stay in Mountain Top long enough to see their young children through high school. It is not typical for pastors to spend their entire careers in one place.
But all three of the Shanley children –Kyle, Ryan and Lynnia –have long since graduated from Crestwood High School.
“They’ve grown up, and we’re still here,” Shanley said.
Kyle Shanley, a former Marine, is now in college in San Diego. He is married to Cristy and has a daughter, Camille. Ryan Shanley is a manager for a company in Philadelphia, and Lynnia Shanley lives with Kyle Shanley’s family in San Diego and manages a band while seeking opportunities to use her theater degree.
“This is a great church family,” Rev. Shanley said, expressing contentment with his unexpectedly long stay in Mountain Top. He said the greatest blessing is being able to share people’s lives –“the same old same old and the very highs and the very lows.”
For example, a woman who was just a little girl when Shanley arrived in Mountain Top recently asked him to perform her wedding. He has been invited to an upcoming 50th anniversary party for two parishioners. He looks at the children at Vacation Bible School each summer, picking out individual faces and thinking, “I baptized your mom or dad” or “I married your parents.”
Even funerals can be a blessing, he said, because it is special to be able to perform that service for people he has known so long and so well.
“I have a Mountain Top experience every day whether I want it or not,” he joked.
His one complaint about Mountain Top is the weather. He used to say that “if God’s going to transfer me somewhere else, I hope he’ll send me south where it’s warm.”
His son Kyle joked back, “You’ll end up in South Hazleton.”
The Shanleys live in the church manse across the parking lot, just “75 steps” from the church building, Rev. Shanley said. So he always joked that it would have to be a really bad day if the weather kept him from getting to work –but this past winter, that day came.
“It was the first time in 30 years I couldn’t get to the church,” he said of the March blizzard.
Rev. Shanley has seen the church through a major addition that created a new wing with expanded office space in 1990. The church also put an addition on the manse, adding a two-car garage, family room and walk-in closet. He also oversaw the church’s 125th anniversary celebration five years ago, when the church’s former pastors were invited back to participate in a special service followed by a banquet.
The pastor credits the church officers, secretary, organist/choir director and other leaders with making everything run smoothly over the years. The church participates annually in “One Great Hour of Sharing” and sets a goal to raise the dollar amount of the year –for example, “$2,017 in 2017 –for the local food bank. For the past several years, they’ve exceeded their goal amount. Members also fill shoeboxes each Christmas season for Operation Christmas Child, providing toiletries, socks, toys and other items for poor children around the world through Samaritan’s Purse. The church also began participating in Mountain Top’s July 4 parade several years ago to promote the annual Vacation Bible School, which draws children from outside the congregation.
The church youth group recently held a “Rock-a-Thon,” spending hours in rocking chairs to raise over $300 for the food bank. The Presbyterian Women hold a Bible study, host funeral dinners and support the church through fund-raising sales of chili, candy and soup. Activities open to the community include Lenten and Advent Bible studies and occasional concerts by touring musical groups.
Perhaps because his own son is a former Marine, Shanley believes one of his church’s contributions to the community is regular prayers for the military. He said the church is currently praying for about 18 military members, some from among their own congregation and some who are friends or relatives of members.
The area of Mountain Top nearthe manse “was all woods and treeswhen we got here,” and now ithas developed, Shanley observed. “Because Mountain Top was startingto explode, we as churches benefited,” seeing numbers grow over the years.
As he reflects on the characterof the church, he notes that “99percent of the people who comehere, whether they decide to join ornot, say that they think this is a veryfriendly church.”