Meet our Pastor & Deacon


Rev. Bernard R. Kelly, Deacon Karen B. Kelly: Best Friends, Life-Partners, and Colleagues:

Pastor Bernie Kelly and Deacon Karen Kelly attended Wissahickon High School in Ambler, Pa where they met and became high school sweethearts. Karen is a cradle Lutheran and attended St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Center Square, PA. Bernie had no religious affiliation until he started attending St. John with Karen. (It was a date their parents couldn’t forbid). Karen attended Germantown Hospital School of Nursing and Gwynedd-Mercy College and Bernie attended Drexel University. After graduating, Karen began working as an R.N. and Bernie began working as an accountant. Bernie and Karen were married at St John and they eventually became the Sextons at that church when they were expecting their son, Josh. Their intent was to stay there while Josh was a baby and then move on. During their time serving as Sextons (which turned into 13 years!), they became more involved in the church and Bernie eventually felt a call to become a pastor. He attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (LTSP) and earned his Master of Divinity. He was called to serve St. John Lutheran Church, Richlandtown, PA in 1997. Pr. Kelly served St. John for ten years before being called as pastor to Family of God Lutheran Church, Buckingham, PA in 2007. He was then called to Messiah Lutheran Church, outside of Sea Isle City, NJ in 2012, and served there until he was called as pastor of St. James Lutheran church in August, 2016.

While Karen continued working as an R.N., she too sensed her own call to seminary. While not feeling called to become a pastor, Karen pursued a call to become a Diaconal Minister, a roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at that time whose call was to take the proclamation of the Gospel from the church out into the world and bring the needs of the world back to the church. Karen also attended LTSP and earned her Master of Arts in Religion in 2008. She was consecrated as a Diaconal Minister of the ELCA and served as a hospice chaplain for several different hospices. In 2016, the ELCA united 3 different rosters in the Church (Diaconal Ministers, Deaconesses and Associates in Ministry) and they became known as Deacons and are considered Ministers of Word and Service. Pastors are Ministers of Word and Sacrament.  In one of those Godly “coincidences”, shortly after Bernie began his call at St. James in 2016, another nearby Lutheran Church (Grace, Phillipsburg) had a pastoral vacancy. This began a year-long discernment process which culminated in the two churches entering into a shared ministry agreement. In short, this agreement allows the services of the two rostered leaders (Pr. Kelly and Deacon Kelly) to be shared by the two congregations and the cost of employing those two leaders is split evenly. Karen was called as the Deacon for Congregational Care to Grace Lutheran Church and began in November, 2017. Variations of this type of shared ministry model are developing throughout the ELCA and are new and exciting examples of how congregations can work together for the sake of mission. Karen and Bernie feel blessed to have this opportunity to be on the cutting edge of this new ministry! Both Pastor and Deacon Kelly have a passion for bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are broken, hurting, or desiring to grow in their relationship with Jesus. They love spending time with family, especially their son, Josh (soon-to-be graduate of Princeton Seminary), daughter-in-law Beth, and their granddaughter Maddie. They also love spending time with friends and family at the beach, especially Ocean City, NJ. They enjoy canoeing/kayaking, reading, music, movies, and going to the theater. Pastor and Deacon Kelly live in Phillipsburg with their dog, Winston and their cat, Linus.




1. Do I have to be a Lutheran to attend church services?
No, anyone is welcome to worship with us from any tradition.

2. Is there a need to dress up if I come to church?
No, even among our parishioners the attire varies.

3. What is the difference between your Saturday night(6:00 pm) and Sunday service(8:45 am)
While  the format of each of the services is the same, Saturday evening tends  to be more informal using a more contemporary setting of a service of  Holy Communion from the blue Hymnal supplement With One Voice. Sunday  Service is a traditional service of Holy Communion from the 1978 green  hymnal (Lutheran Book of Worship). Participants and leaders use an order  of worship that has been with the church for a long time. Worship  includes hymns, prayers, reading of Scripture, a sermon based on at  least one of the Bible Reading appointed for that day and sharing of  Holy Communion.

4. You said communion? What do you believe about that? Do I have to be a member or a Lutheran to take communion?
We  Lutherans believe that the bread and the” wine” are truly the body and  blood of Jesus Christ. All baptized Christians are welcome to receive  communion. Young children if they have had proper instruction in a  previous church or have gone through our preparation for children in  fifth grade may also take communion. If you have younger children who  have not been prepared please bring them with you anyway that they might  receive a blessing. 

5. I am a recovering alcoholic? I do not drink. I take  medication that does not go well with alcohol. What do I do about the  wine?
 At every public celebration of Holy Communion, we  offer both grape juice as well as red wine.  Here at St. James the grape  juice will always be offered first followed by the wine.  It is your  choice when you come to take communion.

6. Do I take communion in my seat or do I come forward?
Communion  is received when an usher escorts you forward, and you and the  group     with you form a semi-circle around the altar. First you will  receive the bread then someone will come next with either a cup to dip  the wafer in or a tray with small glasses depending on the services.  Remember if you wish to have wine please wait for the third person to  come to you.  After you have communed please wait since the pastor gives  the group a blessing and dismissal before they go back to their seats. 

7. How do I participate in the service?
Our  service has an order based on the historic order of the church  throughout the ages. Sometimes responses from the congregation are  spoken, sometimes sung. Our green “Lutheran book of Worship”, Holy  Communion Setting II is our primary resource for worship on Sundays. On  Saturday evening we use the blue soft cover “With One Voice”. To help  you find your place, there is a printed order on the outside cover of  the bulletin, and pages will be announced by the pastor or worship  leader. 

8. I’ve seen your church and have visited. I have a child who  needs to be baptized, how do I find out about that? Do I have to be a  member to get my child baptized?
You do not have to be a  member of St. James Lutheran Church to inquire about baptism. However  the pastor feels strongly that one or both of the parents should attend  St James on a regular basis. Baptism in the Lutheran Tradition believes  that a child by God’s gracious action in the act of baptism becomes a  Christian, part of God’s family. The faith that both Sponsors and  Parents speak on behalf of the child is one that is to be nurtured in  the life of the child so that at a later age the child professes their  faith on their own in an act that is called the “Affirmation of  Baptism  “ or what we know as “ Confirmation”.  The parents must first meet with  the pastor to discuss baptism, and pastor will make the final decision  as to whether the baptism will take place.

9. Do you do private baptisms?
Only on the rare  exception. Almost all baptisms will normally take place during the set  times for worship, since the newly baptized will be part of that  Christian community, and  the congregation participates in the Christian  formation of the child since the child becomes a member of the  congregation when they are baptized.

10. Do you baptize adults?
Yes.  The pastor will  gladly give instruction for baptism if you have not been baptized.  Please be aware that adult baptism also means that you are “confirmed”
as well, so that you would be a full communicant member of the church. .

11. I like the look of your church, and would like to hold my wedding there. What about weddings?
We  will gladly assist you in information concerning weddings at St.  James.  Please call the church office or e-mail the church for updated  guidelines for marriage at St. James.  All inquiries must go through the  pastor and church council. The couple also must meet with the pastor  for pre- wedding planning and counseling. 

12. Is there anything for children at St. James?

Pastor has a special  children’s lesson at both the Saturday and Sunday Services.  We have  specal classes for First Communion for children in fifth grade and  above. We also have a special “Confirmation” program which is a two year  program. Please call the church office for more details.  We have a  Youth Group which can consist of a Sunday evening gathering, fun  activities, and possible attendance at special youth events with the  wider church.  We also welcome you to our vacation bible school held for  one week every summer. Please call the church office for details.

13. How about “get togethers”, “social times”, or “fellowship?
We  have occasional social hours after services on Saturday and a coffee  hour after church every Sunday.  We have a  very active Social Ministry group that has its own separate section on this website.  Please watch for news of other groups that will be forming in the  future.  Plans include “intergenerational events”, as well as other  events for different age groups.


14. I need to contact the office. When can I call?
Please take a look at our church contact page for our office hours. Please feel free  to leave a message on our voice mail.

15. My group is interested in meeting at St. James. Who do I contact?

You may call the church office and a get a form with guidelines and cost.

16. What about Adult learning opportunities?
Thereis an  active Adult Bible study on Wednesday mornings. Please contact David Morris,, if you would like to attend. Other opportunities will be announced as they develop.

17. Do have any other worship opportunities besides Saturday and Sunday?
We have special services during Lent and Holy Week, as well as several services on occasions like Christmas and Easter.  

If you still have questions, please reach out to our church office for more information.