Charlie Ness once joked that he would not take on any more interim pastorates. The two churches he served in this manner became long-term ministries, most recently at Perkiomenville (PA) Mennonite Church. In 1990, Charlie, with his wife, Janet, accepted a one-year call to be the interim pastor. They stayed 31 years. At the end of 2020, Charlie “retired” from ministry, formally ending his time as a staff pastor at Perkiomenville (“Perk”).
During their 31 years, Charlie and Janet had a front row seat to God’s work in growing the congregation. In that time, the church physically moved locations, from a property on Deep Creek Road to the main road in Perkiomenville, Gravel Pike (Highway 29). The move accommodated the church’s growth as established members welcomed new families into the congregation. They also worked with people who came from broken backgrounds, introducing them to healing and hope in Christ.
Charlie and Janet have seen many changes in ministry and worship styles in their time. But many would agree that the constant amidst those changes are Charlie’s heart for evangelism and Janet’s gift of hospitality. Many Perk members benefited from Janet’s home-cooked meals, whether at their table or delivered to their homes. The once-a-month “JOY lunch” is a staple gathering for the seniors, where Janet and her team prepare a meal, and Charlie coordinates a theme or speaker.
Charlie’s influence extends beyond the church. He helped form Liberty Ministries to help men released from jail find a new start. This ministry came about from Charlie’s visits to Graterford prison to lead Bible studies. Charlie has also been a member and president of the Upper Perkiomen Ministerial Association, serving as an advocate and coordinator for mission work. He is also the driving force for Men’s Encounter, a weekend program where men are challenged to deepen their walk with God and choose God’s ways of living.
To honor Charlie and Janet Ness for their years of ministry and God’s faithfulness through them, Perkiomenville congregation hosted an open house on the afternoon of April 11, 2021. Earlier that day, Missionary Bob Stevenson preached at a celebratory worship service. Stevenson was one of many men Charlie influenced through the prison ministry. Stevenson now oversees a network of churches and church plants in and around Mexico City.
Charlie and Janet’s ministry is not truly ending. Charlie serves as an interim associate pastor at Towamencin (PA) Mennonite Church. Charlie will also continue his work with Men’s Encounter. Perkiomenville Mennonite Church has established a fund to enable Charlie to continue to do the ministry God calls him to do.
But Charlie is very clear on one thing: his interim work will not lead to another long-term pastorate.