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Elvis escorts pastor into retirement

July 11, 2019
By CAROL S. SHETLER , The Luminary

CLARKSTOWN - At the conclusion of the benediction, sanctuary doors at the Clarkstown United Methodist Church swung open to reveal that Elvis had entered the building. The entertainer of yesteryear walked to the platform, took Pastor Connie Waugh's arm in his and proceeded down the aisle leading the minister into retirement. The event marked five years of pastoral service with the Clarkstown congregation, and 15 years previously serving the Warrensville Methodist Charge, both in the Williamsport District. Later the pastor said her first thought at seeing Elvis was, "I can't believe they did this!"

Well kept from the pastor, the secret had been whispered about for weeks. Contact with the entertainer was made by Debbie Wagner, a crooner in her own right. The idea came from a casual conversation during a trip with several women of the church; the pastor had mentioned Elvis and his songs. She later said, "It was the music of my generation."

After bidding congregates farewells at the auditorium doors, all proceeded to the social hall where Elvis gave a concert. As it was the pastor's special day, the king of rock and roll dropped to his knees, clutched Waugh's hand while singing, "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You."

Article Photos

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary
Elvis sings 'I can't help falling in love with you' to Pastor Connie Waugh on the day of her retirement at Clarkstown United Methodist Church Sunday June 30, 2019.

During the program, Elvis announced an impromptu chorus line asking four ladies to join him. Those answering the call were not exactly willing volunteers but were co-erced by the crowd calling out their names. The dancers included Krys Yarish, Kathy Grenoble, Nancy Winder and Bobbi Charles. Remarks by some of the hi-steppers included Yarish who said, "I was in school when Elvis died, and recall going to my room to cry." Grenoble said, "I can't wait to tell my brothers about this, our family was Elvis fans." Winder had an alternative view saying, "Hymns and country are my favorite types of music, but this was the pastor's day. I'm glad she was surprised and enjoyed it."

With only electric fans for a breeze in the warm space, Elvis noted his polyester suit made him sweat. At the remark, a traveling companion of the star addressed to as Col. Parker, handed Elvis scarves. After dotting his face and brow, one was placed around the pastor's neck while others were eventually tossed to the crowd.

If Joyce Warner was trying to be discreet in her adoration, she and a few others were caught peering from behind a kitchen pass-through. "This makes my heart flutter," said Warner of the music.

Most in attendance were of an age to recall the Elvis phenomenon. Of those who were not were the pastor's great-grandsons. "Wyatt and Dillon had never heard of Elvis, nor had they known the meaning of "impersonator". The whole thing was explained to them on the way home," the pastor said.

The entire day including the worship service was planned around the pastor. The choir sang "In Christ Alone" with Waugh explaining, "When I began the current choir and was the accompanist, this was a favorite of all of us." For this special occasion, the pastor accompanied the choir including Lila Snyder, Kathy Myers, Millie Moyer, Jeanette Holtzbar, Nancy Winder, Carol Shetler, Debbie Wagner, Tammy Kriner and Stephanie Simpton.

The closing hymn, "And can it be that I should Gain," written by Charles Wesley was chosen as, "It expresses all the joy of salvation through Jesus Christ," the pastor said. The sermon of the day highlighted the final lines of the Apostle's Creed.

Beginning July 7, pastoral duties at Clarkstown will be assumed by Pastor Kevin St. Martin, who will conduct three services each Sunday morning. Representatives from Clarkstown, Huntersville and Pennsdale, have been meeting to plan the addition to the Methodist Charge.

The king of rock and roll announced a free concert inviting all to the Molton Lounge at Wind Creek Casino (formerly Sands) in Bethlehem on July 16 at 7 p.m.

The King and King and Lord of Lords will be honored each Sunday at 9:15 a.m. at the Clarkstown United Methodist Church where admission is free and all are cordially invited.

 
 

 

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