Nearly four years ago, a newly formed committee at the Sherman Church began the search for a settled pastor following the retirement of the Rev. Paul Astbury. Last June, the congregation voted to hire the Rev. Jitesh Immanuel Soans.
The Rev. Soans, 42, a native of India, was officially installed June 21 at the church, 6 Church Road, during the first in-person service since the Covid-19 lockdown. And it was also the first service to be live-streamed and recorded on shermanchurch.org. A fuller church-wide celebration will be planned later this year.
“It is truly something that we can all rejoice in and celebrate,” Deacon Chair Amy Smith said. “Prayer has been answered, and God has revealed that this is exactly where Jitesh (pronounced Jiht-aysh) is supposed to be — with our church.”
The congregation was fortunate for nearly three years to have the spiritual guidance of two outstanding interim pastors, the Rev. Richard Woodward and the Rev. Dr. Bernard Powell. And since last August, several substitute pastors have preached sermons both in person and via video during the lockdown.
The Soans family — Jitesh, his wife, Lora Kumar, and 10-year-old daughter, Geneene — moved into the church parsonage last week. Geneene has been attending the Sherman School and will be a sixth-grade student in September. In May, Lora earned her Master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. The family has lived in a Sherman home graciously loaned to them through June. Timing was everything.
“After finding each other, we had to wait a year,” Smith said. “But because he was able to live in Sherman, he was able to learn more about our church and our community, and that has been wonderful.”
And the Rev. Soans added, “Through various hardships, God continued to help my family and I to depend upon Him and not upon our own wisdom, strength or understanding. Through insurmountable situations, God taught us to wait upon Him.”
The Rev. Soans and Lora received Bachelor of Divinity degrees from Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India, and the Rev. Soans his Master’s in Ministry from Lancaster Bible College. The Rev. Soans also holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Jai Hind College in Mumbai, India. He served as lead pastor from 2012-2017 at Oldham Memorial Methodist Church in Pune, India; and was lead pastor of the Vernon Memorial Methodist English Church in Kalyan, Maharashtra, India from 2007-2012.
“I was born in a Christian family,” the Rev. Soans explained. “I was part of a teen-age Christian group and later a Christian band, sharing the Gospel through skits and songs in churches, on streets, in prison and juvenile homes.” But it was only after intense Bible study and prayer every day that he said he surrendered his life to Jesus and eventually went to seminary expecting to be part of a teaching ministry.
When Lora’s mother was diagnosed with end-stage cancer, the Rev. Soans took a year off before his Master’s degree study to be with her parents. “I applied to the
Methodist Church, and God opened the way for me to pastor a small church. I had never planned or dreamed that I would ever be a pastor.”
Yet, here he and his family are, having waited patiently through a year of uncertainty in all aspects of their lives. During that time the Rev. Soans has been instrumental in setting up the online video services at the church, has led a Bible Study every Tuesday, and initiated a series of interviews with Sherman leaders and first responders entitled “Corona Conversations: Whispers of Hope,” the first of which was posted on the church website, shermanchurch.org on May 25.
“I believe that God has been working in me,” the Rev. Soans added, “shaping and teaching me to be a better pastor to meet the growing challenges and needs of the future.”
Story contributed by Aimée Suhie