By Darrell Cole, Amherst Daily News
The Rev. Lawrence D. Hartley began servicing the church late last year and working to rebuild the congregation that lost its minister in 2013 when former pastor Christine Slaughter was transferred to Chicago. Hartley joined Highland AME Church after 40 years of service with the Baptist Church in the Moncton area. The 71-year-old Hillsborough, New Brunswick resident heard about the situation in Amherst last year while attending a funeral in Moncton and was asked about his interest in coming out of retirement to serve the community. He was later approached by the AME Church about becoming the pastor of the Amherst church.
“I knew right away that I was not coming into a place that was pre-made for me. I knew I was going to have to do a lot of work,” Hartley said. “I felt that if the Lord wants to utilize me he will help me here. I knew I was coming into an area that had lost its congregation,” he added.
Many of the members of the previous congregation found homes with other churches in the area and were happy in their new surroundings. Hartley said he is pleased they found a new home and has not tried to encourage them to come back.
Hartley said he has treated his work in Amherst as a mission field in that he’s attempting to re-establish the church in the community. “We were not going to attempt to get the previous congregation members away from the churches they are attending. We want them to remain there if they’re happy,” he said. “What we want to do is call around to previous members to see what they were doing and see if they wanted to come and share our service,” he noted.
The first service and meet and greet last December had approximately 20 people, who also enjoyed Christmas service and supper. Since then, the number of people coming to services has gone up and down but it has been building steadily.
Hartley is looking forward to September when there will be a number of guest speakers from the AME Church as well as some Baptist speakers from Halifax. “We’re looking forward to having a busier time and hopefully by the grace of God it will bring some people in and hopefully they’ll enjoy it and keep coming,” he said.