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Zion’s Stone Church welcomes its new pastor

The new pastor of Zion’s Stone Church of West Penn Township hopes his service to his church family will continue its legacy of declaring God’s message boldly.

The Rev. Arthur Russell Campbell, 71, called “Pastor Russ” by his congregation, is excited about becoming pastor of the church near New Ringgold.

“I’ve been here close to a year supplying off and on for a year, mostly on for the past several months,” Campbell said on Sunday before the 9 a.m. worship service.

“Supply means you’re here on a Sunday, but that’s all you do, and I got to know the folks’ names. We started a twice-a-month Saturday service in May at 5 o’clock. I had a good idea what the situation was here. We both got test drives — I test drove them and they test drove me. We decided it was a match.”

Campbell was called by the membership to be the church’s full-time ordained pastor on Sept. 24. The church has been without a full-time pastor for two years.

The Rev. Kenneth Melber Jr. has been the designated pastor for the past two years after the Rev. Michael Frost left to become pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Palmerton.

A designated pastor takes on the pastoral care in visiting shut-ins, conducting weddings and funerals, and other duties. Campbell celebrated the Sunday worship and preached.

His start in ministry

Campbell was ordained in to the Christian ministry at Zion’s Red Church in Orwigsburg in 1997. He had served churches in the Penn Southeast and Penn Northeast Conferences of the United Church of Christ.

Born in Lancaster, he graduated from Albright College, Reading, with a bachelor of arts degree in economics. Afterward, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.

“After I graduated from college in 1968, and of course the draft was on and the Vietnam War was going, I decided to enlist and served overseas in Okinawa for 2½ years in accounting and finance,” he said. “It was good experience for me.”

After completing the four-year active duty commitment and attaining the rank of staff sergeant, Campbell spent more than 20 years in production management before graduating from Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster with a master of divinity degree.

“I spent over 20 years in production management before I felt the actual call to serve,” Campbell said. “That was about an eight-year process with me saying, ‛No, no,’ and God saying, ‛Yeah, yeah.’ Finally, I said, ‘all right,’ and I started taking part-time classes in the seminary. Then I went half-time and then I went full-time and graduated in 1997. I just celebrated my 20th year of ordination.”

The church membership recognized his 20th anniversary with a dinner for him and his wife, Denise.

“The call here (at Zion’s) was pretty much the same way,” he said. “I came here as a supply person, a preacher on Sundays, and I was enjoying that. I grew to love these people and my sense of serving here became stronger and stronger and stronger. I submitted my profile and had interviews with the board and the congregation.”

Nancy Meiser has been the church board president for about a year, and during that time she heard from many members their interest in having Campbell become the pastor.

“People would keep asking, ‛Can’t we get him for a pastor?’ ” Meiser said.

“That’s sort of the way it worked out,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t a plan. It sort of grew into me and I couldn’t be happier. Couldn’t feel more blessed right now.”

“And the feeling is mutual for myself and the congregation,” Meiser said.

Campbell and Meiser look at it as a mutual adoption.

“It’s an adoption — pastor to the parish and parish to the pastor,” Campbell said.

Out of retirement

His previous pastoral assignments were at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Palmerton; Faith United Church of Christ, Allentown; and Christ’s Church at Lowhill United Church of Christ, New Tripoli.

When he left the Allentown church, he went into retirement, came out of retirement to serve at New Tripoli, and retired for the second time in 2015.

“Now I’m back. I’m not retired anymore,” Campbell said with a smile. “I kept thinking it was time to retire.”

“We’re glad you came out of retirement,” Meiser said.

“I couldn’t be happier. This is what I’ve been called to do,” he said.

“I still have a lot of energy to minister. I feel very energetic. Someday I’ll retire for good, but as long as my health is good, and it is, I’m going to continue.”

Campbell and Denise reside in Allentown. Denise served as a missionary in Guatemala, Haiti and Russia. During his time in the seminary, he spent time in Nicaragua and Honduras. He enjoys reading, especially 19th century history; listening to ’50s, ’60s and ’70s music and contemporary folk music, enjoys clay target (trap) and paper target shooting, hand loading ammunition, and following the Boston Red Sox.

In the church newsletter announcement, he states, “I have borrowed ‘guest theologians’ Kool & The Gang and their song, ‛Celebration,’ to highlight the excitement I sense in our congregation.

“There truly is ‘a celebration to last throughout the year’ as we breathe in the good news of Jesus Christ. I seek to be that quiet presence, that smiling face, that bold proclaimer of the hope and love poured forth by God through Jesus Christ!”

The Rev. Russell Campbell, new pastor of Zion’s Stone Church in West Penn Township, presents his sermon to the congregation during the Sunday worship service on Oct. 8. JOHN E. USALIS/TIMES NEWS