HARRISBURG — For the past few weeks, Laurie Anne Fields has been stationed at Steam Café in Harrisburg, visiting the sandwich shop and coffee house to meet and talk to whomever will come by, about whatever — their work, their spouses, their children, their problems, the meaning of life.

It’s an outreach the Rev. Fields started as the new pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Harrisburg, one of her goals to reach out to the community. The sessions are called Community Office Hours and run from noon to 1:30 p.m. Mondays at Steam Cafe.

“It’s been slow,” Fields said of the new initiative. “It’s also a new thing, and so people aren’t used to it. It’s something I think is an important outreach to the community and the church, and I’m going to keep at it for a while. … I think it’s one thing that have to do for a while before we can tell if it’s effective or not.”

That’s just one thing Fields is doing as she adjusts to her new role as pastor of the historic church in downtown Harrisburg that celebrates its 150th anniversary next year, she said. Planning committees have just formed.

Fields, who was hired by the church in June, will be installed in that position at a special ceremony at 4 pm. Sunday at the church. The community is invited to this event. This is her second pastorate; her first was at a church in Mount Vernon, Indiana. Her husband — Wade Halva — pastored three small churches in southwest Indiana. Fields most recently served as Christian Education director for First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale.

She said one thing that’s special about Sunday evening’s ceremony is that while she takes a pledge to faithfully lead the congregation, the members of the church will also take a vow to support her in her work at and to First Presbyterian Church.

“It’s exciting,” Fields said. “I really feel hopeful about the future. I’ve had a lot of conversations with folks in the congregation about making changes and doing new things — and that’s always kind of scary for us in the church because the old way worked so well for a long time in the past. The world is changing, and it might be changing a little slower here in Southern Illinois, but it’s still changing and the challenge is for us to find new ways to serve Christ and witness to the world.”

She’s planning to continue the church’s work in supporting the 4 C’s — Christian Community Compassionate Center — and Habitat for Humanity or packing donated toiletries into hygiene kits to be shipped to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the church’s Disaster Response Group that distributes the Hygiene Kits to people in crisis around the globe. (She invites the community to join them for packing the kits at 9 a.m. Sunday during the church’s Sunday school hour).

She’s also pushing the church to reach out more through social media, for instance, aiming to post at least five to six times a week on its Facebook page. She’s also concerned about worship and Sunday’s liturgy, working to ensure that the experience and teachings are contemporary and relevant to the lives of church members and attendees.

The church will also be preparing for the Oct. 5 International Peacemaker Visit of Mphasto Nguluwe, from the Central Church of Africa, Presbyterian, Synod of Livingstonia.

She and her husband, parents of 13- and 10-year-old daughters, live in Marion.

“I’m excited about trying to figure out what these new ways are for Harrisburg and … be faithful witnesses,” she said.



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Stephanie Esters is a reporter covering Jackson and Union counties.

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