About Us

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22: 37-38

Our History

In 1984, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church determined that a new church was needed in the Exton-Lionville area to accommodate a rapidly growing population. A five-acre parcel of land was purchased, and the Rev. Gordon E. Hendrickson was assigned the responsibility of gathering a congregation, performing worship services, and coordinating all phases of church development. Seven families met in a conference room of the Holiday Inn on route 100 for our first worship service on September 16, 1984.

The fledgling congregation decided to actively pursue the dream of church building. The members of another Methodist church, the Centralia United Methodist Church, were aware of our dream to build and were in the process of closing their doors due to fires in the coal mines underneath their town. Their generous donation of a portion of their financial estate to the new church building at Exton is a living testimony to the faith of this congregation. Since moving into the current building, constructed in 1986, multiple additions were made. This included several classrooms, offices, storage areas, and the Community Life Center. We praise God for the Community Life Center area that allows us flexibility in the use of space at Exton UMC. The Exton United Methodist Church sanctuary is a living testimony to the faith of that early congregation and a reminder of our roots as we move forward with our Mission Statement of Love God, Love Others, Serve.

Centralia United Methodist Church


Carl Houston accepted Christ as Lord and Savior in 1974 as a result of being involved in VBS, Sunday school, and the choir. Prior to 2016, Carl was an active member of Haven Peniel UMC as a Christ Servant, Finance Chair, and U.M. Men’s Chair. In 2016, he received his calling which led to Pastoral Leadership after completing the LLP program. Carl is a graduate of Palmer Theological Seminary & Eastern University holding a Masters of Divinity and a Master of Business Administration. He is bi-vocational as an Accountant, Financial Consultant and Pastor. His passion is preaching and teaching the word of GOD. He lives his life holding on to Jeremiah 29:10-11. This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Carl Houston, Pastor

Diana Vessells, Church Administrator

In 1994, after working for 28 years in the corporate world, Diana took a position as a teacher’s assistant at Great Beginnings Preschool and Kindergarten at Exton UMC when her son began attending preschool, there.

In 2005, Diana became the Church Administrator and has been doing the job she enjoys ever since. Diana is responsible for monitoring the facility’s upkeep and also communicating with both the pastor and the church leadership. She is in communication with the preschool director for issues related to daily operation of the school, also.
Diana grew up in West Chester and is married with two grown children.

Joe Gehring has been with the church since 2004, playing piano, leading the choir for special music services, and coordinating the service projections, and live streaming programs. Joe is also Music Department Chair and Director of Ensembles at Immaculata University where he is the conductor of the Immaculata Symphony and the Immaculata Concert Band. In addition, he teaches courses in music theory, music history, conducting, and orchestration. He is also the Music Director of the West Chester Band and the Chesco Pops Orchestra. Joe graduated from West Chester University with his undergraduate degree in Music Education and a Master of Music Performance in Orchestral Conducting. He is currently completing Immaculata University’s doctoral program in higher education with dissertation research focused on music performance anxiety.

Joe Gehring, Director of Traditional Worship

Jeff Beideman, Director of Contemporary Worship

Jeff grew up in the Souderton area of Pennsylvania but has lived in this area for many years. He feels his musical and spiritual growth are both rooted in his family, church, and schooling. His musical experience includes learning the trumpet, piano, and guitar, as well as, singing in various choirs, choruses, and musical theater companies over the years. “Music is my comfort zone,” Jeff says. Jeff’s involvement in musical worship began many years ago when he was involved in the Praise Team at his two previous churches, playing the guitar and singing. He started at Exton United Methodist Church in 2011 with the merger of churches that teamed him with Joe Gerhring, the other music director. Jeff’s love of contemporary Christian music is obvious as he leads the Praise singers and acts as Praise Leader for our worship service. Jeff and his wife, Illyona, they have three grown children and three grandchildren.

Libby started as Director of Great Beginnings in June 2022. Her first encounter with Exton United Methodist Church was back in 2011 when she was the Youth Group Coordinator. Libby began her career in education by teaching public school Kindergarten and middle school English in Coatesville and Harrisburg. She has a passion for theatre and directed all her school’s musicals! She made the transition to ministry work after feeling a strong call to Christian Education. Libby was previously Director of Discovery Corner Preschool at First UMC of Lancaster and worked in Children’s Ministries at various other churches in the conference. Libby, her husband Richard, and their three daughters (Poppy, Bellamy, and Valley) all live in Downingtown.

Libby Barringer, Director of Great Beginnings Christian Preschool & Kindergarten


As a United Methodist Church, we are part of the second largest Protestant denomination in America. As part of that, we uphold our heritage by pursuing ministry with this tradition in mind. We seek to be generous in spirit, broadminded in welcoming others, devoted to Jesus Christ as servants to the world, and wholly surrendered to God with our lives.

We strive for personal holiness by inviting all people into a life-transforming personal relationship with Jesus Christ by addressing key issues of our time so that our world will look more like the Kingdom of God.

At Exton UMC, we live by and uphold our mission statement in all that we do. As followers of Jesus Christ, we live out our mission to Love God, Love Others, Serve in our community and in the world. Through our service, we show our love and care for those around us. The work that we do is rooted in our love for God. We recognize God’s love for us through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ, and through his promises to us in scripture.

For more information on the United Methodist Church’s beliefs and values, please visit www.umc.org.