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Cuyahoga Falls -- The congregation of Northampton Bible Church knows Joe Pryor well. They remember him as a child, growing up in their midst. Recently "Pastor Joe," now 38, was installed as senior pastor there, only the third pastor in the church's 60-year history.
Pryor started attending the church at 333 W. Steels Corners Road as a middle schooler in the late 1980s. While he attended Malone University, he served as an intern on the church staff. He left to serve another area church for more than 14 years; however, three years ago, Pryor returned to Northampton Bible Church in the role of family pastor. He started leading a second service there. When the senior pastor of 11 years felt a call to return to a church he had led 30 years ago, the congregation of Northampton Bible found their next pastor in their midst, promoting Pryor on April 13.
"I never anticipated this," Pryor says, "When we left here in 2002, we didn't think we'd be back, but my wife and I were very sensitive to God's lead in our lives. It's like we've come full circle and I'm where I'm called to be." Pryor says he considered the founding pastor of the church, Frank Lorenz, a mentor. Lorenz passed away in 2011. "Several people have told me they think he's smiling down from heaven at this turn of events," Pryor says, "and I feel like I'm home."
Northampton Bible Church has approximately 300 members. Pryor estimates between 250 and 270 attend services on a typical weekend. The new senior pastor says one of his top priorities will be to establish Northampton Bible Church's niche as "the church that cares about people and the community."
"I often ask people, 'If we were to close our doors tomorrow, would people even know we had been here?'" Pryor asks. "I want our church to have such an impact in our immediate community that when people hear our name, they immediately think, 'That's the church that cares.'"
Pryor and his wife, Kelly, live in Stow. They have two sons, Caleb, 15, and Wyatt, 13.
"To be back here is a real blessing," Pryor says. "I intend to stick around."
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC