MASSENA - A husband and wife are now ministering to the needs of members in four area churches.
The Rev. Gregg Stierheim has taken over as pastor of the Norfolk and Brasher Falls United Methodist churches, while the Rev. Heather Stierheim is now pastor for the First United Methodist and Grace United Methodist churches in Massena.
I just graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. We moved here from Pittsburgh. Were originally from the Buffalo area, so we had heard of Massena, Mrs. Stierheim said.
Mr. Stierheim is also a recent graduate of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Most recently, the couple served with Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park, Pa.
Mrs. Stierheim noted that the United Methodist Church has an appointment system to decide where clergy will be assigned.
The bishop and cabinet decide what would be a good fit for you, she said.
There are unique circumstances with clergy couples. It doesnt always work out. Theres a lot that goes into the bishop deciding where youre appointed to, Mr. Stierheim said.
Being from New York, Mrs. Stierheim said, our family felt called to come back to New York state.
Her husband agreed.
As I was growing up, people in New York taught me a lot. I thought, this is a chance to give back, Mr. Stierheim said.
They began working at their new churches on July 1.
The move was good. We have three young children (Ethan, Noah and Grace) and everyone has been very hospitable. This community is very good. The ecumenical part has been amazing, Mrs. Stierheim said.
Her initial impressions, she said, was that the church was meeting the needs of the community through its free community meals, food pantry and service to nursing homes.
I think Id like to see that pushed even more. Our mission is more global, she said.
Mr. Stierheim said, from the perspective of his churches, the move has also been good. In fact, he said, a parsonage where they would have lived has instead been turned into a thrift shop for the community with donated affordable clothing and household items. It opened for business on Saturday.
Someone mentioned the idea and the church took it and ran with it. To me thats something very community-oriented. I think its just another opportunity for them to be able to reach out into the local community, he said.
Theyre making very good use of the space they had, Mrs. Stierheim said.
Not everything has gone without a hitch though, according to Mr. Stierheim.
My first Sunday I was running around trying to find my shoes. On Saturday night I realized I needed to get directions to these places, he said.
Looking to the future, the Stierheims see more of a cohesiveness between the local churches, with a pulpit exchange among the possibilities.
It would be a very simple thing. Were all connected and reasonably close, but each has its own identity, Mr. Stierheim said.