Chapel’s next pastor former church staffer
The Rev. Knute Larson yet to retire, but the Rev. Paul Sartarelli is new hire scheduled to succeed him
By Colette M. Jenkins
The Akron area’s largest church has found its next pastor.
But the current pastor — the Rev. Knute Larson — isn’t retiring just yet.
In addressing the congregation at Riverwood Community Chapel in Kent, the Rev. Paul Sartarelli said Sunday that he has accepted an offer to join the staff at The Chapel to eventually become its fourth senior pastor.
“God willing, I will be working toward being the senior pastor of the church,” Sartarelli said. “I will begin preaching at The Chapel this spring.”
The nondenominational evangelical Christian church, which has campuses in downtown Akron and Green, attracts between 8,000 and 10,000 worshippers to Sunday services. On Sunday, Larson, who is out of the country, addressed The Chapel congregation via video to announce Sartarelli’s appointment.
The plan is for Sartarelli, 47, to work alongside Larson, 65, sharing the senior leadership role. In the next two years, Sartarelli is expected to become part of the transition team, moving into a co-pastor role with Larson. He would ultimately succeed Larson, who has not announced a plan for retiring.
Sartarelli, the founding pastor of the nearly 15-year-old Riverwood, is no stranger to The Chapel. Before starting the church, which has grown to attract 1,000 people to its three services on Sundays, Sartarelli was on the staff at the Akron campus. He started as an intern in 1984 and within a year became leader of the sports and singles ministries.
Over the years, Sartarelli, Larson and the Rev. Jim Colledge, pastor of Hudson Community Chapel, have partnered as leaders of The Chapel Consortium and Association. The association is a group of churches sharing resources and providing mutual support.
“We’re both on the same page when it comes to ministry and pulpit concerns,” Larson said from Peru, where he is working with Wycliffe Bible Translators. “A lot of prayer and a lot of hard work went into our search for the person to fill this position. We searched nationwide and found a diamond in our own backyard.”
The Chapel launched its search for an associate senior pastor several years ago.
Now, a search is under way at Riverwood to find a replacement for Sartarelli. Although no timeline has been established, Sartarelli said he hopes the congregation will have a pastor in place by summer. He will finish preaching at Riverwood in mid-February.
“I have mixed emotions. We’re sad to leave the people who we love so much, but we firmly believe this is what God is calling us to do,” Sartarelli said. “We trust that God will bring a leader to the Riverwood family who will invoke new vision that will lead to growth and renewal.”