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Rev. J. Morris Smith to retire as Shepherd of the Streets in August

SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO J. Morris Smith, Th.D, coordinator of Shepherd of the Streets ministry, speaks at the Pearls with a Passion annual luncheon in the city in 2017. Smith has announced he will retired effective Aug. 28.

Lycoming County’s “Shepherd of the Streets,” the Rev. J. Morris Smith, Th.D., has submitted notification of his pending retirement as head of the program that has brought help and assistance to hundreds of needy in the county, effective Aug. 28.

The Shepherd Program is the imaginative creation of the United Churches of Lycoming County that has successfully functioned over the past 32 years. Many miracles have been seen as those who come in feeling stressed and hopeless find a listening ear and assistance in finding ways to get to medical appointments or obtain a needed prescription.

New programs have been implemented and many have come to faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the spiritual counseling they find when they come into this office.

Rev. Gwen Bernstine, executive director of United Churches, said that the program will continue to operate under new leadership. This ministry meets the personal, emotional and spiritual needs of homeless, hungry, unemployed and troubled individuals in Lycoming County. She noted that, while the overarching goal of the Shepherd of the Streets program has not changed, the primary focus of the program at this time is to help people with their health concerns.

In acknowledging Smith’s resignation, the United Churches’ and Shepherd of the Streets’ executive committees noted the tremendous impact he, as the Shepherd, has had on the needs of the population in crisis countywide.

Smith has served the program for 20 years. His dedication to the underserved has been honored in many places throughout the community, including by receiving the St. Vincent Humanitarian Award, the YWCA Racial Justice Award and the Pickelner Brotherhood Citation.

Yvonne Shenuski, president of the Shepherd of the Streets’ advisory committee, gratefully acknowledges Smith’s work and ministry to the needy.

“The Shepherd Program has generated generous support from both organizations and individuals in our county,” she said. “Through the Shepherd Program, we try to meet needs that are not being addressed in other areas of the community. The Shepherd ministry helps people in need purchase medicine, medical equipment, and make it to out-of-town medical appointments. Some of us take these things for granted, and others look at them like someone is asking us to climb the tallest mountain.”

Phyllis Girven, president of United Churches, said, “The United Churches thanks all those who support the Shepherd of the Streets’ ministry. We look forward to working with residents and organizations throughout Lycoming County as we continue to address the needs of our county. We have always appreciated Dr. Smith’s willingness to work in the community, serving on the MH-MR Joinder Board of Lycoming-Clinton Counties, the FEMA-HAP Advisory Board and as a past president of the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition.”

Smith and his wife, Barby, are planning to move closer to family in the Kansas City, Missouri, area and enjoy retirement. Please join us in wishing them many blessings!

God has indeed called United Churches to provide pastoral care and spiritual guidance to those whose spiritual or physical needs are not met by the churches and communities of faith in our area, especially seniors and those who are hungry, homeless, unemployed and unemployable. For information about how to apply for this part time position of Shepherd of the Streets, contact Rev. Gwen Bernstine at director@uclc.org or 570-419-1464 as soon as possible.

“God has indeed called us to provide pastoral care and spiritual guidance to those whose spiritual needs are not met by our churches, especially the hungry and homeless, the unemployed and the unemployable,” Bernstine said. “Please join United Churches in sincere prayer and cooperation that this special ministry will continue to contribute to the deepening and advancement of God’s kingdom of love and service in our community.”

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