Congregation moves into former Shenandoah church

SHENANDOAH (AP) — Last Christmas, the congregation of First United Methodist Church had its final worship service at 38 E. Oak St.

Then the church closed.

Two weeks ago, another congregation moved into the white-brick building and started holding services — Divine Power of Christ Church, which formed in the borough in 2012.

“We’re made up of 15 families. We have more than 60 parishioners,” Nilsa Torrez, of Shenandoah, the church’s secretary-treasurer, said.

Her husband, Ed, a contractor, was installing a sink in the kitchen on the lower level on a recent afternoon. He said it was donated by Kowalonek’s Kielbasy Shop.

Divine Power of Christ Church hosted a two-day “Glorious Inaugural Celebration” to dedicate the church last Sunday.

“We invited people from the community, people from churches from out of town and community representatives,” Nilsa Torrez said.

First United Methodist Church formed in 1866. Over the years, membership dwindled. In November 2016, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church announced the church would close.

On Jan. 1, the conference trustees took ownership of the building, and on May 11, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church sold the building at 38 E. Oak St. to Divine Power of Christ Church for $15,000, according to a deed at the Schuylkill County Courthouse.

According to Schuylkill Parcel Locator online, Divine Power of Christ Church has an office at 312 S. Ferguson St., Shenandoah. It is a Pentecostal church, according to its Facebook page.

“It originated in our home. We started gathering in my home at 312 S. Ferguson St.,” Ed Torrez said.

The pastor is Marcus Alvarez, formerly of Brooklyn, New York, who resides in Shenandoah. Before he moved to the borough, he was evangelist at Faith Fellowship Church in Cleona, Lebanon County. He works as a group leader at American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Humboldt Industrial Park, Hazleton.

Ed Torrez and his wife are from New Jersey. Ed has lived in Shenandoah since 2000. She moved there in 2010, when they married. In October 2011, the couple and the pastor were part of a group who formed Divine Power of Christ Church Inc.

“We believe in the power of Christ and what he did in our lives in reference to transforming us and the way we act and the way we look at people. Instead of in a negative way, we look at them all as children of God. And we try to see, through Christ, how we can serve our community,” Ed Torrez said.

“We didn’t have a bilingual born again Christian church in our area. So we started one,” his wife said.

On Jan. 1, 2012, the congregation started holding services at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 115 E. Cherry St., Shenandoah.

“We shared the worship hall with Pastor Mindy Heppe,” Nilsa Torrez said.

This summer, Divine Power of Christ Church will schedule community meals.

“We do Thanksgiving dinners. We want to be able to run a soup kitchen and have a food pantry and be able to provide our community with things our community needs. We believe it was God who put this opportunity before us. It’s a beautiful building and it’s going to be able to serve our purposes. I’m grateful that this opportunity came up,” Alvarez said Friday.