By Glenn Ference / Opinions Editor
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Dean Ward, Pastor of The River Church, is a man that has a vision for the city of New Kensington. When talking about the community, many people seem unenthusiastic, and almost think of it as a depressing subject to talk about. Ward believes otherwise.
He grew up in Delmont and began his career at Statler’s Driving Range. Interestingly enough, this small job gave him what he knew to be his very profitable and enjoyable job, diving for golf balls. Ward had this job for 8 years and picked up nearly one million golf balls in many neighboring communities.
He attended a Christian University known as Liberty University to become a pastor. After graduating, he decided to return to his job of diving for golf balls. Finally, he decided to become a pastor and fulfill his calling in life.”I’ve been involved with ministry my entire life really,” said Ward. “I can remember helping with the church when I was 7 or 8.”
Ward attended a Christian high school and recalls his principal being one of the major influences in his decision to become a pastor.
When discussing religion, The River church is hard to categorize. This church is a protestant, Christian, Bible-believing church. It’s also a very modern church.
Before entering service, guests are invited to enjoy various doughnuts and pastries in the “Kensington Room.” You can expect to be handed a bottle of water when you walk in the door. All of these services are provided free of charge to any guest that decides to check out The River.
At the services, guests can enjoy modern music played by a live band that even includes and electric guitar.
When asked why he started a church in New Kensington when there’s already an abundance of churches, Ward said, “There isn’t a church like The River.” Ward felt that he was called to this community and mentioned that his wife has many friends that are non-believers.
The vision of The River is, “Helping people on their journey back to God.” This is what separates this church from others. Ward mentions that The River is, “a hunger creator.” While other churches may try and force to you attend, The River allows you to have your own space without guilt.
Helping the community is one thing that The River truly excels at. The pastries that are given away at every morning service are donated by Panera Bread. These are given freely to anyone who decides to check out the church for their enjoyment. The River also gives out free loaves of bread and bagels as people are walking out the door. These are also donated by certain companies that The River associates with.
“Kid’s Closet,” is another way that the church helps the community. Clothes are expensive and families that need help providing quality clothing to their children can attend this event and exchange their children’s outgrown clothes for clothes that others have donated. As of now, over 1000 articles of clothing have been given out.
“God is more accessible than we may believe,” Ward said, when asked what one message he would deliver to the community. “The River is fun and just makes sense.”