Motived by a force greater than himself, a Collegeville pastor has returned to his hometown of Phoenixville to open a new non-denominational ministry on Hall Street.
“I was born here, I went to school here at St. Anne’s, and was married here so I felt compelled by God to serve the people of Phoenixville,” said pastor Anthony Etzel as he moved through the main hall of the new Fellowship of Believers church where he and Dr. Gregory Pierce serve as pastors.
“The location is ideal for our purpose,” Etzel said of the building at 224 Hall Street, which will be recognized by long-time area residents as the Hungarian American Club building and former location of Hope Community Church.
“Our goal is to bring in people who are ‘unchurched’ who have not gone or who have stopped going to church, and are looking for something different from the traditional church,” said Etzel. “Our church has no ‘club rules’ (because) you are meant to have your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
For Etzel, the ‘return’ to Phoenixville came as a result of a very personal and faith-based experience that began in 2000. He attended a business seminar with Christian overtones which so impacted him that he became born-again at 50 years old.
“I believed that the Holy Spirit was motivating me to do something – God had blessed me with all that I had wanted out of life – a family, a home and a successful business.”
Etzel began studying theology, and also started to offer his family home as the host site for a weekly Bible Study in Collegeville. A few years later the bible study which continued on also evolved into a home church service led by a close friend, a friend who later ordained Etzel through the Gospel Fellowship. In the early 2000’s Etzel was involved with Gospel fellowship as the assistant pastor and services were held in different locations, including a hotel in Oaks, leased space on Ridge pike and then to another lease for space offered by a church in Collegeville. After Gospel Fellowship closed a few years ago, the services were move to a home church base once again. When Gospel Fellowship closed its doors the small group no longer had a place to worship, and after a few months Etzel assumed the mantle of pastor for the new home based church called Fellowship of Believers.
Then came the series of events that led to the move to Phoenixville.
“I was invited to speak at an evening (Sandy Hook) memorial service at Reeves Park in December (of 2012) by my friend Bob Domoroski because (the event organizers) did not have anyone to give the memorial,” he explained. “It was the day of the event – the Friday before Christmas – and Bob called me at 9 a.m. and said Tony, we don’t have anyone to do the memorial!”
So it was that he gave the memorial, where he also encountered Phoenixville Mayor Leo Scoda, who Etzel knew from attending Phoenixville High School. The whole memorial experience went well and he pondered why it was that he, a pastor from Collegeville, came to be the one to give that memorial. Upon further reflection and prayer, he believed as if he was being guided to bring his ministry to Phoenixville.
While looking for a site, Etzel met with the owners of the Moose Lodge in downtown Phoenixville and thought that the Fellowship had found its new home, but to his vexation he discovered that zoning restrictions did not permit a church to be located in downtown Phoenixville.
Etzel then spoke with Mayor Scoda about the zoning issue, and Scoda made mention of another building that was empty and available – the old Hungarian-American club on Hall Street.
“God was calling me back to my roots so that I could do ministry work in my hometown. It began with the memorial service where I came across Mayor Scoda, then the Moose location, then finally here at our new home – it was a case of ‘right church, wrong pew’.”
Fellowship of Believers officially opened in June, with its small congregation from the Collegeville area traveling to Phoenixville, and is now looking to welcome new members.
“After getting the building leased in May we began to let people know who we are and what we do. We began by inviting our neighbors, and our first ‘real’ outreach effort came at (the September) First Friday.”
Fellowship of Believers currently holds two services each week – one contemporary service on Saturdays and a recovery and deliverance service on Sundays. The former is a come-as-you-are service which pairs high end contemporary multimedia presentations that are personalized with the weekly messages of Etzel and Pierce. The latter is for people who are having problems with any type of addiction which is geared toward helping others and followed with an opportunity for service attendees to meet with councilors and talk.
“We also have things like coffee and cake after our weekly services, and sometimes host periodic luncheons,” said Etzel.
Wednesday night Bible Studies are also a weekly occurrence.
The Fellowship also sponsors Bingo events starting at 6:30 p.m. each Friday, with the proceeds benefitting the church.
“We also do food. We open two hours before Bingo starts and sell things like burgers, dogs, chicken fingers and fries,” Etzel said.
Other activities that are on the horizon include free movie Saturdays held the first week of the month featuring faith-based family movies (Fireproof and Courageous) with soda and popcorn (donations are appreciated, Etzel added).
Pastor Tony also offers pre-marital instruction and provides personalized wedding services, and the facility is also available to host funeral luncheons up to 70 people.
“We will make this ministry a benefit to the community… …and we will have with family-oriented activities that let us reach out to the community,” Etzel said.
To find out more about Fellowship of Believers visit the webpage www.fellowbelievers.org or contact Pastor Anthony Etzel by phone at 610-220-5089 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org