, Derry, New Hampshire


June 23, 2009

In aftermath of church split, two congregations flourish

LONDONDERRY — On a recent Sunday, the Rev. John Mokkosian welcomed 19 new members to the Londonderry Presbyterian Church.

It's been a regular occurrence over the last year. The church now has 224 members.

That's much bigger than it was a year ago, when the Londonderry church resolved its schism with the more conservative New Wineskins Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which splintered off and formed the Orchard Christian Fellowship.

"Our first service there were 39 people," Mokkosian said.

In September 2007, a majority of the congregation members felt the Presbyterian Church had drifted from traditional teachings and voted to switch affiliation to the New Wineskins. At the time, there were 375 church members.

Mokkosian and his followers who stayed with the Presbyterian Church were left without a home. They gathered for Sunday services at the Tupelo Music Hall because they had been locked out of the Pillsbury Road church.

A four-day trial took place in Rockingham County Superior Court last August. A settlement was reached soon after, giving the minority group ownership of the historic church, but giving 15 acres of adjacent, undeveloped land to the conservative group.

Since the resolution, officials from both churches said they have made changes, but are growing and relating well to the community.

The Rev. Kenneth Glasier of Orchard Christian Fellowship said his parish has grown about 20 percent from last September to 450 members. Glasier was elected to the Londonderry church last summer, but received his formal installation service on June 14, in front of friends and family from around the country.

"It was a great celebration of my being pastor of Orchard Christian Fellowship," Glasier said.

His church is still using Matthew Thornton Elementary School for its Sunday services. Right now, they have no plans to build a church of their own.

"We're still at a point of praying about it," Glasier said.

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