The pastor who many in the McDonald United Methodist Church congregation give credit for saving two churches by combining them will leave that behind to pursue a new challenge closer to home.

For the last three years, the Rev. Sandra Conti has driven 35 miles each way from her home in Fredericktown to tend to the ill and deceased, lead church services on Sundays, and offer office hours for those in need mid-week.

On June 30, the congregation will receive her replacement, the Rev. Lisa McCauley, with a pot-luck luncheon following Conti’s final service, which begins at 10 a.m. Anyone interested in the Methodist church is invited.

McCauley lives in Glenshaw and brings with her a 28-year career in pastoral counseling from her practice in Cranberry.

Conti took charge of two churches in July 2016, after Noblestown United Methodist’s congregation made the decision to close their doors and merge with McDonald United Methodist. She was instrumental in successfully melding the two congregations.

Under her leadership, the church prospered, recently adding electronic screens to show animated biblical stories to adults and children during Children’s Time every Sunday and a new sound system.

Both pastors have diverse backgrounds. Conti spent most of her adult life in Youngstown, Ohio, graduating summa cum laude with a fine arts degree from Kent State University, later earning her master’s in education at Youngstown State. She taught for 30 years in high schools before moving to Deemston Borough in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and coming to the attention of Mt. Zion Methodist Church’s pastor, who recruited her into the ministry. After leaving McDonald, she will service two small congregations near her home and care for her husband, Ed.

McCauley earned a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and returned to Pittsburgh to work in Homestead Park United Methodist Church as associate minister, handling hospital visits and preparing lay ministers. She later studied at the Pastor Counseling and Psychology Masters program at Loyola University in Maryland, and did pastoral counseling for the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute. She eventually gathered other Methodist ministers and formed her own practice.

In her service, McCauley projects compassion, listening, reflection and openness to people and the movement of God in our lives. Her theological view is that God gives the ability to experience his love, saving grace, and forgiveness, which leads to being able to love one another.

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