THE REV. CHARLES LLEWELLYN MARKS HIS 50TH YEAR IN MINISTRY BY RETURNING TO PASTOR THE CHURCH HE FOUNDED 44 YEARS AGO.





BY DAN IRWIN DIRWIN@NCNEWSONLINE.COM





In 1962, the Rev. Charles Llewellyn founded a church, and called it Lighthouse. The name proved to be more prophetic than he could have imagined. Like a ship following a beacon back to port, Llewellyn has allowed God's calling to return him safely to the place he began his spiritual voyage. He is once again pastor of the church he launched 44 years ago, following an absence of more than 30 years. It is now called Shepherd's Lighthouse, a name change that occurred this summer when it merged with the Shepherd's House. Llewellyn and his wife, Natalie, had been pastors at that Shenango Township church since returning to New Castle from California in 2003. The two churches belonged to the same Pentecostal denomination, and when Lighthouse's pastor had to step down in order to fight colon cancer, the congregations combined. Suddenly, Llewellyn found himself back in his former pulpit at 416 Lyndal St. "Talk about coming full circle," said Llewellyn, who is marking his 50th year in ministry. "We wind up back here in a church that we had pioneered and renovated. It has been exciting." But the d--eacute;j--agrave; vu doesn't stop there. Although Llewellyn began his church in a former one-room school near the Harbor area, it has been at Lyndal Street since 1964. That's when his congregation purchased the building -- or rather, what was left of it -- from First Wesleyan Church. A fire on Dec. 7, 1963, had gutted the structure, and First Wesleyan went on to build a new church on Pulaski Road. Llewellyn's church bought the building and property for $750 -- marked down from the $10,000 the previous owners had been asking before the fire -- and set about restoring it. Now, Llewellyn and his wife are spearheading a second major remodeling project. They've taken the sanctuary walls down to the exterior brick and installed insulation and drywall. They removed and rebuilt a set of stairs leading from the vestibule to the Sunday school rooms and fellowship hall downstairs. They're replacing the old, wooden front doors with new ones featuring leaded glass. The sanctuary also has new, brighter lighting, and air conditioning is to be added by spring. "What is ironic to me," Natalie Llewellyn said, "is that the first time he got this church, he had to rebuild it, and the second time he gets the same church, he's got to come back and do it all over again." The couple agrees, though, that this time is nothing like the first, when the fire gutted about three-quarters of the sanctuary, "from the basement floor, all the way to the ceiling," Llewellyn recalled. Adults and children alike helped to haul out charred lumber, getting so covered in ash and soot, Charles Llewellyn recalled, that "if somebody had come by then, they'd surely have thought this was a black church." But the project apparently did more than just build a church. It also forged some lasting bonds. "I wasn't here for that," Natalie Llewellyn said. "His wife of 41 years, who has passed away since, walked with him through all that. But several of the adults that we have in the church now were the children who helped then. "Now they have children and grandchildren, but when they found out that Charlie was back in town, a little at a time, they wandered back. That's quite a legacy." Still to come, the church's former parsonage next door -- where Charles Llewellyn once lived -- is to be razed, having fallen into disrepair after years as a rental property. The lot will be used to create off-street parking. It's space that the church will need. "It's beautiful when you sit out here," Charles Llewellyn said of the sanctuary. "When we first came down here in June, our attendance wasn't really great. "And it's still not 'great,' but it's growing. Every Sunday, we see new faces."



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