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Celebrating 40 years: the CCO’s ministry at Gannon University

In April 2013, First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Erie, Pennsylvania celebrated four decades of ministry to college students in partnership with the CCO.

Because the church is located right on the edge of the Gannon University campus, Gannon students have naturally reaped the most benefits of this partnership by participating in the ministry of the Kirk House. This one-time manse of the church is now a gathering place—and residential community—for college students who want to grow in their Christian faith.

On Sunday, April 28, former CCO staff members and student alumni from several generations of college ministry gathered to commemorate this anniversary—worshiping together and then celebrating with coffee and cake. The Rev. Tara Woodard-Lehman preached that morning; she served at as a CCO Kirk House Director in the late 1990s. Today, she is the Presbyterian Chaplain at Princeton University.

“It was the vision of Dr. Robert Veon, Senior Minister, Church of the Covenant, to have a robust outreach to both college-age members of the church and local campuses,” explains Bob Bruckart, one of the first CCO staff members to serve in this partnership. Forty years later, the Rev. Robert M. Bruckart, PhD, LMHC, serves as Director of Pastoral Care for Health First, Inc. in Melbourne, Florida.

“Robert Long and Jim Welch from the CCO set up the relationship with Covenant and the college ministry began summer of 1973. Three of us—Janet Falhaber, Ron Mele and I—lived and provided ministries from both the Kirk House—the one-time manse of the church—and the Roth House. Ministries included weekly Bible studies, suppers, outreach to campus groups, service teams and, of course, the emerging annual college conference in downtown Pittsburgh, Jubilee. It was not long before we housed local college students in the two houses in exchange for ten hours work a week about the church.”

In the 40 years since this partnership began, hundreds of students’ lives have been touched—and those men and women are now serving God in their workplaces, churches, families, and communities. Check out the special commemorative issue of First Presbyterian  Church of the Covenant’s newsletter, which includes testimonials from some of these former students—including Todd Wahrenberger, Darin Sutton, Allie Mollenkof, Darcy Ginader, and Andy Halfhill.

“Not a day went by in college that I was not challenged to serve Christ with all I am,” says Courtney Halstead Snow, who lived in the Kirk House during the 2011-2012 school year. “Thank you to my fellow housemates, campus ministry, youth group, church leaders, and congregation for all the support and encouragement through college. My prayers are with you all. Congratulations on 40 years of faithfully serving God. May God continue to bless this ministry.”