From chicken coop to church

First Posted: 11/18/2014

Members of Country Alliance Church in Newton Township celebrated the church’s 30th anniversary with a ceremony on November 15. It began with food, cake, and fellowship at 6:30 p.m. in the church’s dining room. At 7 p.m., people gathered in the worship center for Scripture, prayer, and testimonies from pastors of Country Alliance Church and pastors of the same congregation.

“It (the church) has nothing to do with a physical building or a physical house,” said Peter Toro, founding pastor of Country Alliance, during the service. “It has to do with the people in the home, the family. It has to do with the parishioners.”

Toro also quoted a past sermon about the church.

“‘The church is not a place that you go to. The church is within us. The church is the people. The church is a body of Christ. It is not a building. We are the originators of the church.’ We know that to be a fact since we’ve been in a chicken coop,” he said. The audience laughed.

Toro recounted his founding of Country Alliance Church when he was called 31 years ago by the Eastern Pennsylvania district office to find a Bible study with the intentions of finding a church in the area. He said that he started a Bible study in a banquet hall on Newton-Ransom Boulevard with eight to 10 people and then grew. He said that he received an offer from Newton resident Vera Franklin to hold the Bible study in her building free of charge.

“It had been a chicken coop,” he stated. “It did have electricity, but it had no water or heater or anything else.”

Toro said that he and his Bible study followers cleaned, scraped, and painted the building, and also added a pot belly stove, which had burnt coal for heat.

“We met in there for three years,” he said.

Toro also said that Franklin and her husband then offered four acres of land for a church building.

“We secured a loan,” he said. “We got some plans, and got a contractor, and began to build this church.”

Toro said that the building had a worship center, Sunday school rooms, and bathrooms. He said that when the people met at the chicken coop, people would kid around sand say, “How many chickens did you have at church last week?”

“But we never let that ruffle our feathers,” Toro joked as the audience laughed.

Toro also shard his accounts of helping Franklin’s husband Walter, who was agnostic, in receiving Christ when he was sick in the hospital. He concluded his speech by saying that God has built this church quoting Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, he labor is in vain.”

“When the Lord builds the house, he will accomplish his promises,” Toro said.

Other testimonies were made by the Rev. Arthur Harshman of Moosic Alliance Church, Pastor Jeremy Mullen of Trinity Congregational Church in Scranton, and Pastor Jim Whitman of P.M. Church in Taylor.

Mullen said that he started coming to Country Alliance Church at age four.

“I had many fond memories of coming here as a kid,” he said. “It’s a great church to grow up in.”

During the ceremony, there were musical songs of praise performed by a band called Original Worship, which is from City Light Church in Wilkes-Barre.

“The worship team is phenomenal,” said Pastor Rob Lopez.

The band consists of singer Crystal Johnson, her daughters Naomi and Ariel Johnson on keyboards, David Romero on acoustic and electric guitar, and Bob Sherlinski on drums.

“I hope that our ministry would hear how God has ministered to people years down the road,” said Crystal.

Church members enjoyed the celebration of the Country Alliance’s 30th anniversary.

“I think it was a really good presentation,” said James Whitman, whose father is Whitman of P.M. Church. “It’s about time it was recognized from a chicken coop.”

Pastor Carl Berg said that Country Alliance Church may be small but it acts like a big church.

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