Community revitalization, formation of an interfaith organization, and operating a warming station for the homeless have improved the “common life” in Port Jervis, New York, thanks to Zachary Pearce, a Princeton Seminary MDiv candidate. Pearce and two colleagues in the Port Jervis area will be honored by the New York State Council of Churches for their ecumenical grassroots work and receive the council’s excellence in Ecumenism Award at a dinner on May 29th
in Albany, N.Y.
Pearce, an elder/member at Deerpark Reformed Church and student pastor of the Ellenville Reformed Church, will receive the award along with Rev. Ann Akers, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Port Jervis, and Rev. Aaron Baughman, pastor of the St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Port Jervis.
Pearce says “the nomination was centered on our leadership in convincing the three churches (Deerpark Reformed, First Presbyterian, and St. Peter's) to form an ecumenical church revitalization team to participate in the Churches Learning Change (CLC) program, which is a multi-year revitalization program for churches in the RCA.” “This is the first time in the CLC program's history that they have had an ecumenical team form,” he says.
Council of Churches Executive Director Rev. Peter Cook said in a letter to the honorees: "I am very pleased to let you know that the New York State Council of Churches would like to confer on the three of you our Excellence in Ecumenism Award. We are impressed with your grassroots ecumenical work in Port Jervis and wanted to celebrate and profile this work. The cooperative way in which you work together to improve the common life of Port Jervis is impressive to us and we want to celebrate your gifts, talent, and leadership.”
Pearce says the groundwork for this cooperative program came about in 2016 when the Tri State Interfaith Council was formed and the Warming Station mission opened. “The Warming Station mission has been a common cause for the local faith community to engage in together to do God's mission of justice,” Pearce says. “This is year three of operation and we have served over 170 different individuals, feeding, and housing homeless guests every night in the winter,” Pearce added.