Let me tell you right up front: Hessel Valley is a remarkable place. The church has a wonderfully rich and historically significant history. (Verne Ekdahl would be delighted to show you around and tell you more.) The King of Sweden visited here in 1976 because of the important place Hessel Valley holds in Swedish/American immigration. One of the first things the Swedes did as they settled in Chandlers Valley in the 1800’s is build a church where they could worship in Swedish and have a place to keep the community together. The folks of Hessel Valley are proud of their background but that’s not the really remarkable part. They told me in no uncertain terms when I arrived that they don’t want the king’s visit in 1976 to be the most important thing that happened here. The original mission of this church has ended but they sure haven’t. They know that their story is still unfolding and they are excited about how God keeps stirring up new opportunities for mission and outreach. They do an astounding amount of mission in this little country church.
Now, lots of little rural churches have charming buildings and proud histories. They began with a proud mission but times changed and the population changed and people who moved in watched their children move out and move on. The pews kept getting emptier and they didn’t know what to do next. Everyone began to feel confused and afraid and couldn’t understand why this was happening. And they hung on with just a few and prayed they wouldn’t close. Unfortunately, that’s a familiar story. There was a time when it looked like it might be Hessel Valley’s too. And then something happened …. they stopped being afraid and stopped thinking they were the building. They started having benefit dinners where they donated all the food and picked a needy person and gave all the money away. Lots of times they didn’t even know the person. One thing led to another and things started happening. People (and pastors!) began finding their way to Hessel Valley.
I often tell people that Hessel Valley has a lot in common with the fictional “Island of Misfit Toys”. We are all a little broken in some way. Some of us hide it better than others but we are all in need of being made whole again and somehow, we all fit in here. If you like to be busy, we have plenty to do and we’ll gladly put you to work. If you just want to come and worship and rest, that’s ok too. We’ll just be glad you’re here. No one is too wound up about anything other than trying to follow Jesus. I lead the worship service at the InterFaith Chapel at the Warren State Hospital before I get here on Sunday mornings and I get here about 11. So we start a little after 11. No one is too wound up about time.
As I said, people found their way here to Chandlers Valley from all over. We have a wonderful adult Sunday School class that meets before church and has a dynamic leader who found his way here with his fabulous wife Glenna - John Peterson. They met in Africa where they were missionaries. The group always has a book they are working their way through but mostly they are just sharing and praying and being church. When our organist decided to go to seminary, the Lord found Connie Hoffman in Seattle and she continually lifts our spirits through her gorgeous music. The only reason you are reading this is because the Lord just sent us a wonderful woman moving back to the area from Duncannon after being away many years. Sally Fiscus volunteered to create and maintain a website. We are always glad to see new faces but love the “experienced” ones too! We like to get together over coffee downstairs after church to visit and if at all possible, we find a reason to celebrate something so we can have a cake. We would love to welcome you any Sunday!
Peace and Blessings,