As Pennsylvania’s ‘Bible belt’ evolves, clergy look to one another for mutual support

by | Feb 6, 2023 | Religion

LANCASTER, Pennsylvania (RNS) — Many outsiders who travel to Lancaster County every year are drawn by the area’s reputation as the heart of Amish country. In fact, the rolling hills of the county west of Philadelphia, and Lancaster City itself, host a diversity of Christian faiths, with Mennonites and Anabaptists outnumbered by Catholics and mainline Protestants.Such is the area’s historic religiosity that some call Lancaster County the heart of Pennsylvania’s Bible Belt.
But in recent years, an influx of transplants, particularly to Lancaster City and its suburbs, have made the area less religiously observant and more politically diverse. As the new residents have moved in over the past decade, clergy who have operated in a relatively homogeneous, small-town culture are navigating a landscape with new tensions. That friction has only been exacerbated by the difficulties of the pandemic and the widening gap between people of different political persuasions.
Amid this strife, the clergy of the Warwick Ministerium — an informal action and mutual support group for the Lancaster area’s pastors and other ordained Christian leaders — has been a source of calm and unity.
Missy Deibler. Courtesy photo
“Iron sharpens iron,” said Missy Deibler, a chaplain at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Lititz, a small town north of Lancaster and ministerium member, using an expression from the Book of Proverbs. “You can be isolated in a church and a particular tradition, but when you hear how others are handling it, prayerfully talking and respecting each other, the Spirit really moves through the group.”
Clergy of different denominations and even different faiths have long gathered to share their challenges and create community among their flocks. The Warwick ministerium — named for th …

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