Hunterdale Christian’s persistence pays off

Published 11:14 am Saturday, April 17, 2010

FRANKLIN—Hunterdale Christian Church was without a pastor for more than two years before the Rev. Randall Wright arrived a few months ago.

Wright noted that churches going without a pastor for an extended period of time aren’t uncommon.

“I’ve seen a lot of churches go through a pastoral change, and these days—with the Internet and all—it’s taking even longer for most churches to find a pastor because there are so many choices out there,” he said. “In years gone by, it didn’t take that long to find a pastor.”

Prior to coming to Hunterdale Christian, Wright pastored at a church in the Orlando area. Moving to Virginia, was “a shock to the weather system,” but he is enjoying living in a “traditionally American” area.

Wright said the transition at the church was “very easy.”

“It’s a very traditional church here…families are very welcoming and friendly,” he said. “And they make great pies and cakes.”

Wright and his wife, Pamela, a registered nurse, are the parents of Brittney, 19, and Tim, 23.

“The people feel like this church is a part of their family and they just get in and do what has to be done,” Wright said.

Wright believes Hunterdale Christian is one of the oldest churches in the area, dating back to the 1850s.

“It’s a very well established church,” he said, adding that many of the members’ families have belonged for generations.

Wright also said the church tries to “reach out;” several organizations meet in the church’s fellowship hall.

“It’s a very caring church, a very community-oriented church.” he said. “There’s hardly an evening that goes by that there’s not something going on here.”

With about 200 members, Hunterdale Christian is not affiliated with any denomination, which Wright said can make finding a pastor even more of a challenge because they don’t have higher-ups, like bishops, to aid in the search.

More than 200 pastors applied, keeping church leaders busy. Wright said he didn’t hear from them until about a year after he applied.

“You just want to make sure that you have the right person,” he said. “It’s not like they’re not all qualified—they’re all qualified—but you just have to have the right personality with the makeup of the church that you have.”

The independent status gives the church more freedom to develop its own practices, however, it doesn’t effect the church’s core beliefs, Wright said.

“You never really make changes in doctrinal belief,” he said. “Most Christian churches have the same core beliefs and those things never really change.”

Church secretary Rebecca Harden said the congregation pulled together while without a regular pastor.

“They came together very well as team players,” Harden said. “There was nothing that needed to get done that did not get done.”

She also commended the two interim pastors.

“They did an excellent job,” Harden said.

The late Hal Whitley, who served as the church’s minister of music, was instrumental in keeping things running smoothly.

“His music and his love for music really helped motivate people,” Wright said.