Archived Story

W. Va. pastor answers call at First Presbyterian

Published 8:58am Tuesday, March 16, 2010

By SARAH CRABTREE
Niles Daily Star

Following an extensive period of self-study and reflection, First Presbyterian Church of Niles has called the Rev. Beverly Frances Lane-Lawrence to be the 17th pastor in the church’s 175-year history. Lane-Lawrence comes to Niles from Wheeling, W. Va., where her charge has been in the dual role as pastor to Shadyside Presbyterian and executive director of Laughlin Memorial Chapel. She also serves as chairwoman of the Presbyterian General Assembly Committee on Theological Education, a national office.

“Pastor Fran,” as she prefers to be called, has a record of active involvement in church and community affairs in the Ohio Valley and Eastern Pennsylvania. The Rev. William Carl Jr., president of Pittsburgh Seminary told the Niles church, “If I were looking for a new church home, I would want it to be where Pastor Fran is the minister.”  First Presbyterian will be Lane-Lawrence’s third calling since ordination in 2001. Work at Laughlin Chapel provides the best picture her ministry. The chapel is a partnership between local churches, interdenominational faith-based organizations and community programs serving Wheeling for more than 135 years. The chapel mission is “to care for and empower families and others by working cooperatively with existing community groups so that the standard and quality of life in the greater Wheeling area are enhanced and reflect God’s love.”

Partnership is first in Lane-Lawrence’s work, and she looks forward to leading First Presbyterian of Niles in forging new community collaborative efforts.

She and her husband, the Rev. David Lawrence, have five children. Four of them – Phillip, Jonathan, Donna and Sallie – are university students in Kentucky with fields ranging from geography to the performing arts. Their youngest, Ross, will be joining his parents in Niles.

One of Lane-Lawrence’s personal passions is herb gardening, and gardening plays a major part in her ministry. The chapel operates a third-fourth-acre community garden planted by young people and harvested for the East Wheeling community with produce provided free of charge at Saturday farmers’ markets. David Lawrence serves on the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance team and personally specializes in cooking Indian, Asian and Mexican cuisine.

While new to this area, the Lawrences have family nearby, including dentist Dr. Jeffrey Mader of Granger and his wife, Amy, of the Mader law firm. His parents, Dr. Ross and Sue Lawrence, live in nearby La Porte. Now retired, Sue served as director of development at La Porte Hospital for many years and is a well-known area resident.

First Presbyterian began the process of self-study in 2007 seeking to understand the long history of one of the oldest-established churches in Niles, what the church is today and where it views its future.

In 2008, as First Presbyterian looked forward to celebrating its 175th anniversary, the church, in cooperation with the Presbytery of Lake Michigan, began a nationwide search for a new pastor. More than 60 applicants were studied, vetted and interviewed.

Lane-Lawrence emerged early in the process and the church found itself comparing subsequent candidates with the many strengths found in Pastor Fran.  As the church enters its 176th year, it does so with renewed strength, having called a minister who will help them fulfill their vision of the next century.

Albert Mazumder, search committee member, says, “Pastor Fran is a person of high energy, energy to nurture the church and the community. Family-oriented, she is a person who can work with people of all ages.”

When Lane-Lawrence, as part of the Presbyterian process, led worship services at a neutral church site, a church member met the search committee immediate following worship with these words: “If you don’t want her, can we have her?”

Lane-Lawrence begins her service to First Presbyterian on April 15 with her first worship services April 18 at 9 and 10:30 a.m., with receptions to follow each Sunday service.

A formal service of installation by the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, May 23.

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