Rather than a typical sermon, Rev. Lucas structured a meditation on “The Parable of the Talents.” She then asked Rev. Harpster to speak about his talents, interests and ordination path. The congregation learned much not previously known. Rev. Harpster grew up on farm near State College, Pennsylvania. He attended a very small Evangelical Reformed Church where everyone was a relative. By age 13 he was teaching Sunday School—to the adult members. The head of his denomination in Pennsylvania told him, some day he would be a minister. He came under “care,” a period of discernment about ministry, at age 14. Two teachers played important roles. He was very shy and reluctant to speak; his English teacher enrolled him in an Am. Legion oratory contest. Another teacher engaged his interest in history.
Dr. Harpster loved school so much that he graduated with a B.A. from Penn State in three years (1966). He received an M.A. from Penn State (1960) and a Master of Divinity from Yale University (1972). He was particularly influenced by Professor Sidney Ahlstrom, an historian “who made church history come alive.” Returning to Penn State, Rev. Harpster earned a Ph. D. (1976); his dissertation "Controversy in the German Reformed Church….” encompassed his twin passions of history and religion.
Pastor Harpster was ordained at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, State College, July 1972. He served churches in Littlestown and Shamokin, Pennsylvania between 1972 and 1986. He was then pastor in Bangor, Maine and moved to Vermont in 1990 to take an Assistant Professorship of History and Political Science at St. Joseph’s College, Rutland. In 1996 he became Associate Professor and Chair, Arts and Sciences Division, and in 2000, Professor. During his time at St. Joseph’s, he provided part-time pastoral service to Shrewsbury Community Church and Sherburne United Church of Christ before becoming Pastor of the United Church of Ludlow in 2002.
Dr. Harpster has been active in various state, local, regional, and church historical associations. He served as Trustee (1999-2002) and the Educational Coordinator (2002-2006) of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation.
During the picnic portion of the celebration at a pavilion in Plymouth State Park, congregation members and guests provided and consumed a broad array of scrumptious foods and desserts. Fun and fellowship prevailed. Organist Ed Boadway lead a short hymn sing from his portable, foot pumped, chaplain’s organ produced by Esty Organ Corp. for WWII. Minor “roasting” occurred on the theme of Pastor’s love of music but infamous inability to carry a tune. Chair of Deacons, Sandy Peplau, read a letter of appreciation from the congregation. Peter Read (aka, Bob Kottkamp), pastor in 1810 made an appearance in period dress to inform Rev. Harpster that he was, by two years, the second longest serving pastor of the church and encouraged him to continue his service. At that point the clouds burst; all were happy to be under a pavilion.
Pictured above at the festivities are, from left to right, Pamela Lucas, Associate Conference Minister, Vermont Conference, UCC; Johanna Harpster; Rev. Dr. Donald Harpster; Sandy Peplau, Chair of Deacons and Bob Kottkamp, President.