On Sunday morning, Pastor Chris Passante made the rounds at Trinity United Methodist Church in Bellefonte.
He paused to extend a warm welcome to each of the visiting parishioners, receiving in return what had to be some very cold handshakes.
Passante said that a typical Sunday service usually packs in about 70 bodies or so into the pews, but he was concerned that the low temperatures might keep his flock at bay — even on the church’s 200th anniversary.
Fortunately attendance wasn’t a prerequisite for someone — anyone — to claim a stake of ownership in the festivities.
“We celebrate as a family but we also celebrate as a community outside these walls,” Passante.
That celebration will continue all year long, earmarked by a revival of the “Trinity’s Got Talent” show, an outdoor concert by Bellefonte Community Band and a service with Bishop Jeremiah Park in December.
Sunday, however, was all about the service.
“On a day like today it’s time to reflect and think about how good God has been to us,” Passante said.
This was hardly their first opportunity. The congregation was founded in 1817, but according to Passante, the physical church didn’t come along until 1875.
Betty Kantner has been attending the church almost her entire life aside from a brief intermission for college.
“I can sit in church and I can name everybody in the church,” Kantner said.
A big part of what keeps her coming back is the sense of warmth and camaraderie she feels among the other parishioners.
“It’s my church home. I love it here,” Kantner said.
The concept of home was crucial to the sermon delivered by the Rev. Lori Steffensen, the superintendent of the State College District of the UMC Susquehanna Conference.
Steffensen said that Trinity’s longevity over the past two centuries was an amazing accomplishment.
“I won’t be here when you celebrate 300, but I know the church will be,” Steffensen said.