Lester and Erma Zimmerman, Senior Pastors at Petra Church, New Holland, conclude 38 years of service on Jan. 3.

The baton of senior leadership will be passed to Brian Coles, Leola.

Brian and his wife Tracy served as Student Ministries Pastors at Petra since August of 2016. They led both the Middle School and High School Ministries and launched a ministry to Young Adults. Three years later, in 2019, Brian was named Associate Pastor with the goal of his eventually assuming the role of Lead Pastor. Tracy will be serving as Local Outreach Pastor.

Pastor Lester Zimmerman will transition to an expanded role giving leadership and oversight to the Hopewell Network of Churches.

Petra began as a small group of believers from Hopewell Mennonite Church, Elverson, which was experiencing a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the 1970s and 80s.

At the time, Lester and Erma Zimmerman were working in church-planting and inner-city ministry in Baltimore, Md. In 1981, after the birth of their daughter, Amy, they took a break from this ministry and moved to the New Holland area. They began attending the Hopewell Church, joined a small group which met in New Holland, and in the course of time responded to God’s call to head up Hopewell’s New Holland church plant.

Petra’s first Sunday morning service was held on Jan. 9, 1983, in the New Holland Fire Hall. By the end of that first year, the church had doubled in number to approximately 100 adventurous people who drew together in worship every Sunday.

The emphasis of the young church was on Jesus, our hope and joy; worship, led by a contemporary music team; small group fellowship; good teaching; wholesome activities for children and youth; prayer; outreach; and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

After several years of meeting at the Fire Hall, the Lord led the congregation to a portion of land that was originally part of the New Holland Airport. Land was purchased in 1985 and the original Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall constructed in 1987. An Educational Wing was added in 1991; a neighboring farm purchased in 2004; an enlarged Sanctuary built in 2000; and a Student Life Center added in 2016.

“Throughout our 38-year journey — with tremendous growth in attendance, staff, ministries, and outreach — Pastors Lester and Erma have served with humility, faith, wisdom, courage and integrity,” said Ken Reinford, Executive Pastor of Ministries.

A Night of Honor on behalf of Pastors Lester and Erma Zimmerman on Nov. 7 featured worship through the ages, special video presentations, a light and water show, gifts of honor, and a time of prayer and blessing.

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