Have faith, will travel
Adirondack Alliance Church interim pastor travels from Ticonderoga
SARANAC LAKE — Every Sunday, Daniel Ockrin loads his daughters Noah Rose and Mary Ruth, ages 3 and 1, into his car with a breakfast of eggs and oranges to commute more than 60 miles from Ticonderoga to Saranac Lake, where he preaches at the Adirondack Alliance Church on Canaras Avenue.
On the hour-and-a-half drive, he said the two youngsters usually fall asleep, giving him time to think for a while, and on the return trip, he calls his wife.
Ockrin said he’s settled in Ticonderoga. He and his wife Jocelyn recently built a home, and he runs a tree service company with his brother there. He is getting ordained through the Christian Missionary Alliance and AAC was the closest church that had an opening.
The AAC’s former pastor was removed by district in October 2021 for “financial misconduct.”
Ockrin said AAC worshipers loved and trusted their former minister and were hurt by this “betrayal of trust.”
Now, he’s working to move forward and heal after a year-and-a-half gap in having a pastor, while also “assuming responsibility for the vision and direction of the church.”
Ockrin is an interim pastor. The church is still looking for a long-term one, and while he’s not a candidate, he is here for the foreseeable future.
“Only God knows,” he said.
Ockrin said there is a shortage of pastors all around in all denominations, adding that the coronavirus pandemic led a lot of people to leave ministry. As social and political conflicts over masks and vaccines entered the church, some leaders left.
Ockrin started “supply preaching” at AAC in June and eventually began coming every weekend. He became the church’s interim pastor on Jan. 1. He said he likes the people and the region.
Saranac Lake has history as a place of healing, from being a hub for tuberculosis treatment to the addiction rehabilitation at St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers. And Ockrin said he has always wanted to care for people. He has worked as a school teacher and done mentoring and counseling for issues including drugs, depression and relationships.
A large part of pastoral work is “people care,” he said, as well as “teaching and preaching.”
AAC is a small church — Ockrin said they have around 10 to 20 worshipers every Sunday.
Music, though small, is authentic, from the heart and blends traditional and contemporary sounds, he said. Some weeks, it is everyone raising their voices in song. Other weeks, Bruce Thompson, a skilled folk and classical guitar player, lends his talents.
Ockrin wants the church to be active and present in the community.
Last month, he could be seen at the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade handing out hot chocolate and speaking with people watching the festivities on Broadway.
AAC will hold a free Easter lunch at its Easter Sunday service on April 9. To RSPV for this meal, call 518-524-4162 or email email@example.com.
The Christian camp Young Life recently restarted a weekly Thursday morning breakfast cooked in the church’s new kitchen for high schoolers going to class at the building right around the corner from the church. These breakfasts returned in February after a hiatus because of the pandemic.
Ockrin said the AAC seeks to provide “soul care.”
Jesus is called the “Great Physician” in the Gospels and was known for being among sinners.
“The healthy don’t need a doctor,” Ockrin said. “The church is supposed to be a place where people can encounter God and find wholeness.
“A lot of people have been hurt by churches, religious organizations. I’d like this church to be a place of healing.”
Churches also need to be healthy, and unhealthy systems hurt people, he said, adding that unhealthy leadership has to do a lot with control and power.
“The backside of control is fear,” Ockrin said.
The original Christian church was set up by apostles as place for people to come together and create “something that is better than the sum of its parts,” Ockrin said. Everyone has gifts and talents to contribute, but he said unhealthy systems stifle those gifts and push away the people who want to be involved.
Other people, he said, don’t want to be in a church because they feel judged or see the church as hypocritical. He feels the Alliance Church is different. As in its name, he said it is inclusive of other church backgrounds with a more generic mission statement.
The Alliance Church began organically in the late 1800s in New York City when people from different churches came together with two goals — foreign missions and holiness. It was not intended to be a new denomination, but he said the mingling of people from different backgrounds resulted in a church structure that is humble in its philosophy.
“It’s really intended to kind of hold up the idea or communicate that, you know, we don’t have a monopoly on answers,” Ockrin said. “We are a church organization among many.”
This allows them to cooperate with other groups to accomplish things, he said.
Before coming to lead the AAC, Ockrin was attending the Wesleyan Church in Ticonderoga. He grew up in the church, attending an offshoot of the Saranac Lake-based High Peaks Church, and said he always had a desire to connect with God. In middle school he started attending a youth group at an Alliance church in Ticonderoga where he began “experiencing God through music, worship and song.”
“I really felt there was something special going on there,” Ockrin said.
As he grew up, he found a desire to do something with his life.
“You know, kind of make my life count for God, to serve him,” Ockrin said.
He worked in the Bible translation field for a while, studied Hebrew in-depth and volunteered with the Jerusalem Center for Bible Translators in Israel.
The Adirondack Alliance Church started in 1999 as a small group meeting at a house and formally became a church two years later. It moved into its current building in 2005.
Services on Sundays start with Sunday School for all ages at 9 a.m. and a worship service at 10 a.m. Services are also streamed on YouTube at the church’s “Adirondack Alliance Church” channel.