Two people were surprised with an honor at the United Churches of Lycoming County's 66th annual assembly held at the end of November.
First, the Rev. Danesta Whaley presented the Ecumenical Service Award to the Rev. Detlef Huckfeldt. Immediately after, Whaley was given her award by the Rev. R. Kenneth Weiss.
"I had no idea," Whaley said.
The Rev. Danesta “Nessie” Whaley, left, and the Rev. Detlef Huckfeldt, center, share a laugh with the Rev. Gwen Bernstine, executive director of the United Churches of Lycoming County, after they were honored recently with the organization’s Ecumenical Service Award. It was the second time that Huckfeldt has been so honored.
For Huckfeldt, it was a surprise because he had previously won the award in 2010.
This time, he was able to celebrate with his parents.
"I had no idea," he said. "We were basically coming in late (to the annual assembly). It was the only table that was free. 'Oh well. So be it. We'll have the honor to be at the front table.' I didn't think anything bad about it."
People are chosen based on suggestions from the board and pastors based on people who are active in their congregations and beyond. Once the suggestions are made, there usually is an unanimous agreement, said United Churches Executive Director Gwen Bernstine.
Huckfeldt was chosen for several reasons, including fostering ecumenical cooperations through visionary leadership as he helped establish and continue the United Campus Ministry and link students to congregations. He also witnessed to the German Lutheran traditions and ministries.
What he is most proud of is his part in bringing campus ministry to Pennsylvania College of Technology. He no longer is involved with the campus ministry there, but he and those involved decided to coordinate pastors.
" 'If we don't have someone to put a face to that ministry, we won't get anywhere,' " Huckfeldt said. "We had to hire someone. We had quite some successes."
In his last few weeks in the country, Huckfeldt has been keeping busy. He is the pastor at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, Quiggleville; the interim pastor with Northern Tier Lutheran Cooperative in Tioga County and the protestant campus minister at Mansfield University.
Huckfeldt will end his ministry at St. Michael's on Epiphany Sunday, Jan. 6, and return to Germany.
He has been in the country for 13 years.
"It was definitely a nice time in my life," Huckfeldt said. "I've been honored and blessed to have that opportunity."
Whaley has been involved with providing volunteer chaplaincy services at the Lycoming County Prison as assistant chaplain. She also serves as north central regional director in the Yokefellow Prison Ministry, helping to foster relationships with inmates and people from the communities. She has led worship in nursing facilities and prisons and witnessed to Christian traditions when invited to lead women's retreats and conferences around the country and teach in foreign countries.
What she is most proud of throughout her ecumenical services is having the opportunity in the ministry to preach, pray and teach at other people's churches.
"I really love working with other people," Whaley said. "Cross the denominational lines."
Whaley has been a minister for 14 years, but has been going into prisons for almost 20 years after being approached by a man from her church who served as director of Prison Fellowship Ministries to work as an administrative assistant.
"I never regretted it," Whaley said. "...I love ministering to the less fortunate, being able to direct people. Sometimes they're not even sure what they need to do in life."
She also has had the opportunity to train volunteers.
"I had a woman tell me it's the greatest thing," Whaley said. "When she got into it, she loved it."
Whaley loves traveling and has been to several nations. In the future, she wants to continue going to various nations to preach and teach.
"I want to go into prisons in other countries," she said.
The first ecumenical service award was presented in 1981 to Frank Bell, a Lutheran pastor at St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church. He had been active in the community and with the kids. He also had good friends in many denominations.
Other award recipients have been involved in migrant laborer ministry and starting the center city food pantry over the years.