To be Fair: UCC’s new pastor looks to minister to all ages

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The new pastor at St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Punxsutawney, Jennifer Fair, said that she hopes to reach out to the college-aged group as part of her ministry in Punxsutawney.

"My father, Stephen Fair, has pastored at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Johnsonburg and United Church of Christ in Ridgway, which had a profound effect on me growing up as a pastor's kid (PK)," said Fair.

Fair said her father was one of those people who went straight from
college to seminary and, from there, to pastoring his first church.

"We moved to Ridgway in 2004 and moved into the area just in time for me to go to college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in Indiana," Fair said, adding that she has never met someone who was a PK who wasn't influenced by it in one way or another.

"Obviously, it did influence me, as I was able to see the behind the scenes of a pastor's life," she said.

Fair said that most members of the typical congregation only see the one side of being a pastor — once a week for an hour so. They don't get to see everything that a pastor does.

"A lot of a pastor's work involves planning: A good parallel is someone who is planning a wedding," Fair said. "A wedding ceremony takes about 20 minutes, but it takes a whole year to plan it."

Fair said that a pastor's work is very similar in that the congregation may see a particular program or event, which may take a few minutes, but the planning may have taken weeks or even months.

"After all the time spent planning behind the scenes, which may have taken months, it now only comes into something that they can see or touch," she said. "Honestly, growing up, I had a very skeptical view of church, because I didn't just see the good, happy Sunday morning side of it, I also saw the nitty gritty side of it."

She said that when she turned 11 years old, she spent time thinking about how she felt about church spiritually.

"The conclusion I came to was, basically, what I knew about church put me at an advantage that most new pastors entering the ministry don't know about," she said. "Here I was, 11 years old, and I knew how congregations worked and how you have to love people even when they're not being very lovable."

Fair added that she thought someone who has that skill set might make a good pastor.

"It has been a very interesting dynamic for my life, that I knew when I was very young that I was going to be a pastor," she said.

On Nov. 1, 2012, Fair became the pastor at St. Peter's in Punxsy, and she said there are certain aspects of her job that bring her more satisfaction than others.

"My style of pastoring is a teaching style. I want my congregation to think and contemplate how they can use their gifts to help in the church," she said.

Fair said she is strong on Christian Education, preaching, teaching, leading worship and visitation.

"I'm someone who finds structured liturgy meaningful," she said. "After I first arrived here, I changed the liturgy from a free-flowing worship style to one that is more structured," Fair said.

She said the Sunday morning worship service is a mix of traditional hymns and what may be perceived to be contemporary.

"I consider the hymns of the church to be treasures from our past," she said.

Fair said the evening service is one that will be more tranquil and calm.
"It's time to unwind and bring yourself before God," Fair said, adding that she believes her main mission field is ages 16 and under.

"I'm attempting to reach the spiritual needs of everyone. The more different you can be, the more people will come to get fed," she said.

Fair has a Master’s of Divinity degree and theological degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancasater, Pa., and she said she's hoping to establish an on-campus ministry at the IUP Punxsutawney Campus.

"I would like to have an evening of contemporary Christian music to help lessen the students' class load and allow them to spend time with God," Fair said, adding that everyone is extremely busy these days. But, she said, the church can offer one thing that they can't get anywhere else, and that's God.

Fair said St. Peter’s in Punxsutawney is a member of the national church body known as the United Church of Christ.

"One of the distinctive qualities of the United Church of Christ is freedom of conscience and belief, which allows individual congregations the freedom to decide their own standards of faith," Fair said, adding that is why the United Church of Christ has a reputation as a very diverse denomination.

Church information:
• Sunday's worship service is at 10:30 a.m.

• Wednesday, there is an 8 a.m. Morning Prayer service in the chapel; at noon there's a Bible study on the Fellowship Hall stage; and the day concludes at 7:30 p.m. with choir practice in the Sunday School room.

• Thursday at 7 p.m., there is a Taize evening prayer service held in the chapel.

For more information check the church's website: or call 938-4021.

The church's mission statement is: "No matter who you are...or where you are on life's are welcome here."