Pastor Lee and Debby Ellenberger
My Call to Pastoral Ministry
My awareness of the call to full-time Christian service was informed by my upbringing in a farming community near the village of Grantville, five miles north of Hershey, Pa. My family was active in St. John’s Evangelical United Brethren Church, a branch of the Christian church that merged with the Methodist branch in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church. This is where my spiritual journey began – through farming and a connection with God’s wondrous creation, and through the church and learning about God’s merciful love.
At the age of 12, during St. John’s annual evangelistic services, I asked God to forgive my sins and invited Jesus Christ to come into my life. After seven months of confirmation classes and then baptism, I became a member of that congregation. Through God’s abundant grace expressed in parental guidance, pastoral influence, Christian educational processes, congregational participation, and life experiences, my spiritual awareness of God grew in width and depth.
During my second year at Harrisburg Area Community College, around the age of 19, I began to sense an inner urge to become a pastor. After much prayer, discussions with my pastor, parents, and friends, and after experiencing the many joys of being a church camper and counselor, participating in Bible studies and spiritual discussions, and then facing an academic crossroad, I said “yes” to that inner urge to become a pastor – “yes” to God’s call to this expression of Christian ministry.
Within a few weeks I preached my first sermon, was recommended for pastoral ministry by my home congregation, and was interviewed and recommended for pastoral ministry by the Harrisburg District Board of Ministry. After earning the Associate Degree in Life Sciences at HACC, I continued my education with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion at Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pa., and a Master of Divinity degree at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Delaware, Ohio. I was ordained a Deacon in 1976 and then as an Elder in 1979, becoming a member of the Central Pennsylvania Conference, now the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Over the past 40 years God has blessed my gifts and graces for pastoral ministry. God has given me a heart of compassion and a mind for administration. The “call” has been confirmed throughout these years in both the joys and sorrows of life. I have come to value deeply the vast depth of God’s love and how that love is expressed through the diversity of different spiritual traditions.
Accompanying me on this extensive journey has been my wife, Debby, of Boyertown, PA (near Reading). We met at Lycoming College, started taking walks, and have been walking together for 42 years. This photo was taken four years ago at University Park Airport, State College, after returning from a two-week mission trip to Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Don’t we look happy being back together again?
One of the greatest sources of pleasure for me in pastoral ministry is presiding over the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism symbolizes in a formal way how a person is accepted by God and welcomed into the family of God. This pastoral function, along with all the other duties of the office, affirms what I perceive as my personal mission in life. That mission is to help people experience peace with God and with each other.
Throughout my spiritual journey I considered Saint Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 as my life-verses. He wrote, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given is the ministry of reconciliation” (NRSV).
God’s grace and peace to you and your loved ones,
Pastor Lee Ellenberger