BROCKWAY — As Rev. Christopher McCloskey stands in front of Brockway Presbyterian Church on Main Street, he can sense himself “learning and growing in faith,” the very lesson he preaches each week.
The congregation was founded on May 8, 1884, and first communion held May 11 of that year.
From 1884-1888, the church worshipped in the “Brockwayville M.E. Church,” which is now Moorhead United Methodist Church, and later in a room above the R.W. Moorhead Store, now Brockway True Value.
On April 11, 1927, the church’s name was changed to Brockway United Presbyterian Church.
The new manse, which is now the pastor’s house, was created from 1954-1955, and the current church on Main Street from 1962-1964. The cornerstone was then dedicated May 19, 1963, and the first worship in the new church held June 14, 1964.
Coming back home
McCloskey is a “Fourth of July” baby born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1991. He spent most of his childhood in Guilford, Connecticut, where he grew up attending First Presbyterian Church.
He has a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in psychology and minoring in ancient civilizations. In 2016, he graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey with a masters of divinity degree. In October of 2016, he was ordained as a minister of word and sacrament.
He began his service at Brockway Presbyterian Church on Oct. 9, 2016, and married his wife, Susan, in May of 2017.
McCloskey has faced his fair share of struggles, he says, none of which made much sense until he found God.
“God is in every moment, whether we see him or not,” he said. “My struggles make me a better pastor.”
When McCloskey moved to Brockway, he felt like he was returning home, revisiting many ties to the area and following what “seemed like fate.”
His great grandmother is a graduate of Ridgway Area High School, and her brother also lived in Kersey, and has a son who lived in St. Marys. The church had a pastor of 30 years, Dan Little, who went to school with McCloskey’s grandfather, and invited him to preach at BPC in the ‘70s.
“It feels like he’s here to support me,” McCloskey said, looking at a bookshelf of his grandfather’s collections in his office. “It was important to keep some of him with me wherever I go.”
BPC was his first and last interview after Princeton, he said, and he has never once looked back.
“God has clearly been guiding me,” he said. “I’ve been able to learn, grow and figure out who I am, where people have allowed me to figure out my preaching voice.
“I’m forever grateful for this congregation. Not only are they growing in faith, but I’m growing in mine.”
BPC is involved in many outreach programs, and is supportive of several organizations and efforts.
Some of those include Haven House of DuBois, Helping Hands Food Pantry, Clearfield and Jefferson County Children and Youth Services, Brockway Nursery School, Village Voices and two Girl Scout troops who have their own dedicated room. BPC is also part of the Brockway Ministerium, the “Rise Against Hunger” effort, Salvation Army and others.
BPC collects food and monetary donations for Brockway Area School District students, and nurses in schools coordinate a backpack program.
Every Wednesday, as part of the “Presbyterian Pantry,” volunteers prepare and deliver meals to more than 50 people a week, McCloskey says. Since October of 2012, more than 12,000 meals — in partnership with Moorhead United Methodist Church and St. Tobias Church — have been given to those in need.
Volunteers assist with disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina, and recently, in Texas, McCloskey says, and with efforts in Rwanda, Africa.
BPC’s new logo, a cross with beams of light radiating from it, symbolizes that in Christ, “we are made a new creation every day,” McCloskey says. The naturistic green symbolizes continuous growth in faith and as a “covenant community,” as well as the “Growing in Faith” tagline. The different shades of green signify a congregation open and equal to all brothers and sisters and people, regardless of age, gender or race.
Everyone may be at a different place in their journey with faith, McCloskey says, and that’s okay.
“Faith is not a destination — it’s a day-by-day journey with Christ,” he said. “We welcome people who don’t have their faith figured out.”
The church today
BPC is “thriving,” McCloskey says, bringing in new families and keeping the lifelong members.
“Church is different today,” he said. “This church has understood those changes, and been open to ways to do church differently, but hold steady to our traditions.”
Church can be a bright light in someone’s life, or a place to feel accepted when they are experiencing a darkness, he said.
“We want you to find a place where that loneliness is spoken to,” he said. “We just want you to know you’re loved.”
McCloskey himself has grown with the church he loves, he says, aiming to make personal and important connections.
“The church is not a building, it’s the people,” he said. “We, together, are the hands and feet of Christ. We, together, are going where we need to go.”
For more information, visit BPC on Facebook, www.brockwaypc.com or call 814-268-2463.