PHILIP AND SHERYL MCNEILL, LEAD PASTORS
Philip McNeill was born in Ireland and grew up in Canada. His father was bi-vocational, working in the workforce and pastoring congregations at the same time. As a young man Philip worked in several businesses and eventually started his own small enterprise. With a desire for business and to learn, he attended university in Canada studying business administration but then felt a call to ministry attending Elim Bible Institute in Lima, New York and graduating in 1987. After graduation, Phil founded a traveling ministry. It had anywhere from 6 to 12 people on the team ministering in music and word. It traveled for five years mostly here in the states but also overseas. It ministered in approximately 250 churches per year. His group’s emphasis was on ministering God’s grace to people through the comfort and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Sheryl McNeill grew up in a pastors’ home as the daughter of Bernard and Sharon Evans and was an involved member of the team at their church. For generations before her and since she was born, her family has been connected to Elim, in Lima, New York. Sheryl’s connections to Elim continued when she met Phil McNeill there. After they married in 1991, she joined him in his traveling ministry, Highest Call.
In the fall of 1993, at the invitation of Pastor Michael Cavanaugh of Elim Gospel Church, Phil and Sheryl assumed the pastorate of a Saturday night church plant in Henrietta, NY. In May 1994, another church merged with this church plant, starting a whole new church keeping the name Word of Life Christian Fellowship. At that time, Phil and Sheryl started their family, which grew to include four children who are now grown adults. In the decades of ministry at Word of Life, Phil and Sheryl’s children have served in many areas to bless the church, from music to childcare. Their involvement has been instrumental in the health and growth of the church.
Phil served as an area rep for Elim Fellowship from 2000 till 2006 and was appointed to the Council of Elders in December 2004. Phil graduated in 2009 from Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College with a Master of Divinity. From 2010-2014, he served as an Elim Fellowship Regional Rep. In 2015, Phil was appointed as General Secretary of Elim Fellowship. Many times, during the year Phil is invited out to minister in prophetic presbytery, preaching, and almost annually goes to different nations to minister with missionaries from Word of Life. Phil teaches Prophetic Ministry at Elim Bible Institute and College, in Lima, New York.
Sheryl holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Robert’s Wesleyan University, and she is ordained with Elim Fellowship of Lima, New York. In addition to serving the congregation in a pastoral role, Sheryl is also the Office Administrator. Her gift of hospitality is expressed in much of what Sheryl does around the church and in her home, as she seeks to help everyone feel welcome and connected.
Phil and Sheryl have been married since 1991. As much as Phil and Sheryl serve using their individual gifts, they flow well together as a team in ministry, hospitality, and parenting. They have four young adult daughters who genuinely love the Lord and have served in the local church for decades, either at Word of Life or in other churches.
JIM BLAKE, ELDER
Jim and Elizabeth Blake have been attending Word of Life since 1999. Jim came to Word of Life as a new Christian, hungry for the things of God. Elizabeth accepted Jesus about 1 1/2 years later, after a service here at Word of Life. They appreciate being involved in the church, growing in the Word, worshiping our Lord and the many relationships that have been built here. Jim has been an Elder at Word of Life since March of 2009.
The Blakes have three children, Sarah (Mike), Lindsey, and James, and four grandchildren. Jim retired from truck driving for Cardinal Logistics at Kodak Park in Rochester, and Elizabeth retired in 2022 from a position as a medical secretary for the University of Rochester. They enjoy camping in their traveler trailer with friends in the spring, summer and fall and have logged quite a few miles over the last several years. They also enjoy watching their grandchildren grow and taking walks together.
STEVE MAXON, ELDER
Steve Maxon is from Sackets Harbor, NY, the oldest of six children. Raised in church by parents who were heavily involved in teaching and ministry, he returned after graduating from Houghton College and led worship, assisted with youth group, and co-ran a small group for young adults for several years. Steve moved to Rochester in 2007 after earning a law degree from Syracuse, but traveled home often – putting him in the perfect spot to meet his wife, Alexis, on a visit to church. They have since been blessed with six wonderful children of their own.
Looking for a local church in spring 2014, Steve and Alexis were drawn to Word of Life when Alexis remembered sermons delivered by Pastors Phil and Sheryl at Elim Bible Institute. They have attended Word of Life ever since; Steve serves often on the worship team and they co-lead the Young Families group. Steve, who received an MBA from Simon Business School in 2020, has also been the church treasurer since 2016. He works in appellate law and is a candidate for Mendon Town Justice in fall 2023. Steve became an elder at Word of Life in the spring of 2023.