Harvest Church buys Calvary Baptist from Harrison and hopes to grow its congregation

Church leaders looking to expand their audience in Harrison finally have a building to call home.

Harvest Church, a non-denominational ministry, is expected to purchase Calvary Baptist Church in the Natrona Heights section of the township. The church is along Pacific Avenue, just off Freeport Road.

“I’m thrilled,” said Pastor Andy Sommers, of Leechburg. “We felt like we were in limbo for a long time.”

Pastor Joe Jewart, leader of Calvary, said the sale of the building allows him to streamline his ministry to those who need it most.

“We’ll probably focus our messaging closer to town or a college,” said Jewart, a 2010 Highland graduate.

Harvest Church last year temporarily moved to another Harrison sanctuary – Grace United Methodist – which is across from Highlands Middle School and had room to share on its four-story site. The idea was to give Sommers and his team time to bond in the community.

“They were very nice to let us rent this whole time, but we always hoped to have our own house,” Sommers said.

Based in Kittanning, Harvest also has locations in Petrolia and Indiana, Pennsylvania. The church adheres to traditional Christian teaching and “seeks to live in unity amidst diversity,” according to its website.

In the year it shared space at Grace United, Harvest nearly doubled its membership from 30 to 50.

Once her congregation has moved into the building, Sommers plans a host of activities to raise her profile even further.

A youth festival was scheduled from 6-7:30 p.m. July 25-29 for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Services will begin in September and will be at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

On September 11, there will be a community barbecue where all are welcome.

In the meantime, Jewart and his congregation of about 20 will continue to hold church services until God leads him on a new path, he said. Services are held at 12:30 p.m. on Sundays.

“This sale gives us the money to fund the ministry God wants us to establish,” Jewart said.

Earlier this summer, Calvary held an estate sale and emptied the church of almost everything, from its 32 red oak pews to hymn books to several pianos.

The congregation, bustling in its early days in the late 1960s, has dwindled to “the kind of people who just don’t want to maintain the status quo of cultural Christianity,” Jewart said.

It was time to move from being a place of worship to leading God’s kingdom mission, Jewart said.

Jewart’s father, Randy, said he was “humbled by all the people who have helped keep the church open all these years”.

He touted its rich history of missionary work, but said the building was just too difficult to maintain.

“We wanted to pass the baton to the younger generation and hope they bounce back,” he said. “We are excited about the next step.”

The same goes for Sommers.

“We were looking for a large community to make an impact,” he said. “I wasn’t sure everyone would be up for moving again, but they’re all excited to make this ours.”

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Jerry B. Hatch