March 18 2013 12:00 AM

A new leader for the diverse Peoples Church in East Lansing

Thursday, July 21 — A new voice will lead Sunday services at the interdenominational Peoples Church in East Lansing starting this weekend.

The Rev. Andrew Pomerville describes himself as “exceptionally community oriented” and seeks to bring the message of the church beyond the physical walls of the chapel.

“Church isn’t just a building — it should be out in the community,” he said. “I’m excited to get out and start meeting people, become a familiar face and represent The Peoples Church well.”

Pomerville, who is 31, moved to East Lansing from the small northern Michigan town of Bellaire, where he had been a pastor at the Church in the Hills for four years. He learned about the East Lansing church from some Peoples Church regulars who were visiting his congregation over the summer. They enjoyed his sermon and passed his name along to The Peoples Church. A short time later, he was offered the pastor position in East Lansing.

Pomerville said he was not initially looking for a new church, and turned down the first offer. However, The Peoples Church contacted him again because it believed he was “their guy.” Revisiting the idea opened his and his family’s eyes to the area.

“We fell in love with East Lansing,” he said. “It’s a good place to raise kids, so we decided to make a move, and everything began falling into place.”

The Peoples Church is an interdenominational institution that represents approximately 23 different faiths and has a congregation of 800 followers. The church formally organized with 83 members in December 1907. Pomerville, who is married with two children, will replace the Rev. Harry H. Johnson, who retired a year ago. The Rev. Penny Swartz has been acting senior pastor.

“I’m sure there will be there own unique challenges with such a diversity of opinions and theological thoughts,” Pomerville said, adding that he thinks “being challenged by fellow believers is outstanding.”

Pomerville’s previous church was also interdenominational, so he is familiar with the unique atmosphere created by the gathering of many religions under one roof. As Sunday nears, Pomerville expressed his desire to unite the diverse community of East Lansing.

“Many churches are concerned about growing and expanding, but that’s not as important as going out and loving one another — what Christ told us to do,” he said. “I hope the congregation is challenged to go forward and feel like they serve a vital purpose and part, and that everyone will understand peace and understand love.”

Pomerville will step up to the podium of The Peoples Church for the first time on Sunday at 9:30 a.m., ready to “create new flavor” with his “new interpretation of old traditions.”