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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

June 2011

Dear Friends,

Pittsburgh is home to me now.  In a way, it’s always been home.  As a child, I constantly lived in the outlying areas, but Pittsburgh was our city.  This is the place where we came to see caged tigers, and dinosaur bones, and tropical birds.  I saw my first skyscraper here and my first Monet.  After living years out west and overseas, it was to Pittsburgh that I returned for my Master’s degree.  It was here I met my wife and got married.  Here we had our first apartment together, and here our first child was born.

Whenever I catch the Greek Food Festival in Oakland, or attend a performance by the Renaissance and Baroque Society, or slip into a Wednesday night “Taizé” service at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, I’m reminded again of how wonderful it is to be back in this city.  And yet, Pittsburgh offers another joy that you may never have considered.  Did you know that Pittsburgh is one of the most Presbyterian cities in the world?

Now, I’m not disparaging other denominations.  And I certainly don’t think we’re superior to our non-Presbyterian brothers and sisters.  No matter how numerous the Presbyterians in Southwestern PA, we will always be outnumbered by the Methodists and the Catholics—and I like them just fine.  I’m especially fond of Lutherans.  But I’m glad for all the many Presbyterians around here.  Before returning to Pittsburgh, I lived in a place where I was one of three Presbyterian pastors in the entire county!  It’s enriching for me to be surrounded by so many clergy colleagues of my own denomination.  And it’s enriching for us as a congregation.

Bower Hill Community Church is now a spiritual home to four Presbyterian clergypersons other than myself.  That’s right; there are more Presbyterian pastors in our pews than in all McKean County!  Together, these pastors make up a loosely organized group that we call “The Company of Pastors.”  They are not paid employees of Bower Hill, but they worship with us, and they volunteer their services on an “as-needed” basis.  As clergy, they cannot join our church, since their membership is in a presbytery.  But our Session has granted the Company permission to preach, to lead classes, to participate on committees, and to make pastoral calls in my absence.  Any member of the Company is permitted to officiate at sacraments either during a worship service or while visiting on behalf of the church. Members of the Company of Pastors include:

·        The Rev. John Yohe, who is honorably retired from Chartiers Valley Church,

·        The Rev. Dr. Grafton Eliason, who is a professor in the Department of Counselor Education at California University of PA;

·        The Rev. Susan Shira Nilsen, who is honorably retired from Olivet Church in West Elizabeth.

·        The most recent addition to the Company of Pastors is the Rev. Dr. Betty Sykes, honorably retired member of Muskingum Presbytery (Ohio).  Betty’s doctorate is in Christian education.  She moved to Mt. Lebanon in order to be close to her family, but she also spends much time in Colorado.

Christ’s peace,