House of Faith

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, December 26, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Maranatha Pastor J.D. Minerella, right, and his daughter Sarah, left, wife Carla and son Josh are moving to Seabrook.
[Photo by Jackie Ricciardi]

HAMPTON -- The Maranatha Assembly of God will temporary set up church inside Seabrook Elementary School until a suitable location is found to construct a new church to house its faithful.

The parish held its last service at its old church at 150 High St. in Hampton two weeks ago.

The building in Hampton was sold earlier this year to the Odyssey House Foundation, which intends to open a new school to treat young people with drug and alcohol addiction.

"We've always wanted to move the church to Seabrook," Pastor J.D. Minerella said. "It just took us a long time to find a buyer. Everyone is excited about what the future holds for the church."

The parish intends to use money from the sale to purchase land to construct a new church off Route 107. And while they thought they found the perfect location the deal fell through.

Minerella said thankfully the parish received permission to use the school on a temporary basis to conduct its Sunday services until a viable location is found.

"I think the church can succeed in the school," said Minerella, who said it held its first service at the school on Christmas Eve. "I think it has to do with how we set up our ministry. We try to take the emphasis away from the building and put it on the people. It's kind of like we are going back to our roots."

The church was established in 1976 and held its first worship service in the North Hampton Town Hall. The founding pastor was Gene Lindley, followed by Terry Barriss and William Nilsen.

Minerella said one of the main reasons why they wanted to move was because half of the parish is from Seabrook while the other half live as far south as Amesbury, Mass.

"The building was also just getting too big for the church to support," Minerella said. "It was getting old and we were looking at having to spend a quarter of a million dollars in the next three years."

A church that once had 230 faithful began to see its numbers go down significantly especially after the Seabrook nuclear plant opened in 1990.

"I was told that after the plant was finished a huge chunk of our congregation moved away," Minerella said. "The church just never recovered."

Minerella said he hopes the move will entice more people to attend the church. He describes the church as one that is contemporary, where it's OK to walk in wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

"We don't have a lot of ritual traditions and there is not a lot of dogma with what we do," Minerella said. "We like to focus on personal relationships with each other and cultivating a relationship with God.

"I think a large segment of the population is tired of having church as usual. They want something fresh, new, personable and informal. That is the kind of demographic that we are trying to welcome."

Minerella said the church is under no timetable to purchase land and vacate the school. The church will begin conducting services every Sunday, starting in January. The church will also start up Royal Rangers Program, which is a faith-based Boy and Girl Scout organization.

And while there will be no services during the week, they will hold be bible study classes in homes in Hampton, Exeter, Kensington and Seabrook.