Meet David Oyler, General Presbyter and Anita Bernhardt, Emmanuel Presbyterians Pastor.

I am looking forward to getting acquainted with the people of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church and growing together in God’s grace.  Here’s a little bit about me.

I was born in Nelsonville, Ohio, with 2 sisters and an older brother.  We grew up near the central Kentucky college town of Berea, KY, where our father was a professor of Mathematics (and, later, Computer Science) at Berea College.  I was baptized and raised in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which nurtured my faith and provided my first ministry experiences as a “Timothy Project” traveling student minister in 1983 (pre-seminary and ordination).  Seminary was at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, now Union Presbyterian Seminary, where I met and married James Bernhardt, a life-long Presbyterian and now active PC(USA) minister.  After our marriage and the second year of seminary, we served churches in central Missouri during 15 months of internships before returning to Richmond and completing our Master of Divinity degrees in the Spring of 1988.  Our first parishes were in neighboring small towns in Minnesota – James being called as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Claremont, MN and I as pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Dodge Center, MN.  These were the calls that led to ordination.  I was ordained January 6, 1989 (Epiphany) by the United Church of Christ, a denomination that I had joined during college and worked for summers before, during, and after college.  Since ordination was in my home church, St. Paul’s UCC, Navarre, Ohio and needed pre-planning, I had already begun ministry in Dodge Center when I came back east for ordination.  After four wonderful years in Minnesota, James was called to a new pastorate at Clinton Presbyterian Church in central Illinois.  I reluctantly moved with him, leaving a congregation that I loved.  Our first child, Samuel Lewis Bernhardt, had been born in August 1991, however, and I was busy being a new mom.  Soon after our daughter, Mary Frances, arrived February 2, 1995, I was working full-time as the Protestant chaplain at St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, IL, a large Catholic hospital run by the Order of Saint Francis.  [I had done Clinical Pastoral Education during seminary and been certified as a hospital chaplain.]  Then we discovered what busy really looked like as we juggled ministry and home life!  By 1999, the tug to help care for aging parents and to return closer to James’ homeland, brought us to western North Carolina and new ministries.  James became the pastor of North minister Presbyterian Church in Hickory, NC for the next 16 ½ years. Meanwhile, our children grew up, we hosted two foreign exchange high school students in separate years from Thailand and Finland, and I ministered where I was needed.  At first, I was pastor of Church of the Master UCC in Hickory and, concurrently, part-time Associate Conference Minister of the Western NC Association, Southern Conference UCC (a position similar to an Associate Presbyter position) with responsibilities in 139 congregations.

Then my colleague in the Association moved away and the Southern Conference (composed of 330 congregations in 3 Associations) called me as a full-time Interim Associate Conference Minister for Western NC Association.  The interim was 2 years of mostly 14+ hour days…and then I took a break from preaching every week/serving congregations while our children were in Junior High and High School.  For 8 years (2005-2013), I worked with the Mennonites and was manager of a local fair-trade, Ten Thousand Villages international handicrafts store.  Besides strides in cultural understanding, my greatest accomplishment here was growing a non-profit that had chronically been in deep debt into a viable, thriving business.  The last four years of this, I also worked part-time with a cluster of Presbyterian churches in the area for the Presbytery of Western NC, PC(USA), having my pastoral credentialing/ordination recognized again through the Full Covenant Communion of similar participating denominations.  [This is an authorization that I used again in Erie with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America during 1 ½ years as Interim Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Sterrettania Road from September 2016 to March 2018, and which I have been granted again by the Lake Erie Presbytery to serve Emmanuel Presbyterian!]  Part-time ministry with congregations in the Presbytery of Western NC led to a full-time call in January 2013 to serve as Interim Associate Presbyter for Mission, Witness, and Church Support, a ministry with a wonderful variety of churches that I scurried to finish as we were moving to Erie, PA.  In fact, my husband, James, ended up moving to Erie 10 months before me in order to start as Senior Pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church on December 1, 2015.  I “commuted” between Erie and western NC until I could bring closure to some important Presbytery projects (including a $2.2 million campaign for mission support I was the lead on, and the start-up of a campus ministry at Western Carolina University where I was building a new Board of Directors).  I also needed to “stick” just a bit longer with a handful of congregations that I had been working with through some difficult transitions (until a new Presbyter could assume leadership).

Now, having been introduced to Erie through St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, I am ready to join the people of Emmanuel Presbyterian to grow in our faith and witness to Christ’s love in this place.  May God be glorified and enjoyed forever through our life and ministry together!


This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

The Session is happy to present Pastor Anita Bernhardt as our Temporary Supply Pastor, she will be starting on Sunday November 4, 2018. On Sunday, October 21, 2018 she joined us along with Rev. David Oyler in worship.    We had a coffee hour after church to welcome her. On her first day of preaching at Emmanuel, November 4, we will have a luncheon after church by our own KFC.  Please mark your calendar to join us in wishing a warm welcome to Pastor Anita!