Saturday, October 2, 2010

The years sure do fly...

These are pictures are from the interior of Wilson Presbyterian Church near Pittsburgh, PA. I took them yesterday before officiating a wedding. My phone camera doesn't do justice to the interior of this sanctuary. See their website for a better view. The building is over 100 years old with some of the most beautiful stained glass you have ever seen.

It was about 25 years ago when the Lord led me to the ministry of the Grand Island Bible Presbyterian Church in the Buffalo area and a particular youth pastor. I was a pretty squirrely teen who could really wear on a person's patience. For some reason Pastor Ben Robinson didn't kick me out of the youth group, though looking back, no one would have blamed him if he had. At the time he was one of the few adults who seemed to think God could and would use me in some way. I distinctly remember coming to love and trust Christ, but having no idea how that was supposed to translate in to action.

Pastor Ben had (and still has) a gift with people. He can find a way to connect with any kind of person, I have seen it dozens of times over the years. He has been used of God to bring many to faith in Christ, myriads of other people to a deeper relationship with Christ, and a small host of us former youth who entered vocational ministry in some capacity. Very simply, he helped me live out my profession of faith in Christ.

Shortly after a I graduated from high school and went off to Moody in Chicago, Pastor Ben accepted a call to be the pastor of Wilson Presbyterian Church, a relatively small congregation in the Bible Presbyterian denomination that came out of the liberal United Presbyterian Church in the 80's. The church is located in Wilson, which is a section of Clairton, PA in the Pittsburgh area. The area reminds me of Buffalo and other "rust belt" towns that have declined consistently since most of the steel plants began pulling out in the 70's. Still, there are dear saints who need faithful shepherds at the many churches in such towns, Pastor Ben has been such a one for 22 years now. Back in 1992, during my summer break from college, I served all summer with Pastor Ben at "Wilson Prez", gaining experience and exposure to all facets of pastoral ministry. I became friends with the various members of the church very quickly and have kept contact with many of the folk over the quickly passing years. The church was predominantly elderly, but there were a few younger families with children and I found quite a few more in the neighboring houses. We had some wonderful times of ministry and outreach back in that summer of '92.

This past weekend I had the honor of officiating the wedding of Pastor Ben's daughter, Carolyn, at Wilson Prez. To my surprise, many of the elderly folk I met during the summer of 92 were still alive and kicking. There are some strong people at that church and in that area. We're talking serious hard workers-most associated with the steel industry in some way. I stayed at Jim's house these last couple of days- he has been working as a welder in one of the manufacturing plants since his early 20's, for 34 years now. He puts in long hours. One of my favorite persons during my time at Wilson was an elder in the church named Pete. He was a spry 70 year old when I served there. I got to see he and his gracious wife Gloria at the wedding- he is now almost 90 and still giving praise to God. Pete is a true father in the faith.
Additionally I was able to see quite a few of the youth from 1992, most of whom were now married with children.

The wedding was beautiful and meaningful. I remember when the bride, Carolyn, was born to Pastor Ben and Liz. She was just a baby when I started attending church at Grand Island Bible Presbyterian Church.

The years sure do fly. It all goes by way faster than any of us realize.


Woody Woodward said...

Dear Pastor with Purposeful Passion, as I read your thoughts on your past week’s blessed reuniting of old friends with older saints, I had tears in my eyes. The example you shared Sunday’s message about Pete’s spirit-filled proclamation, “Tony, I am almost there!” Makes me want to Rejoice in the Lord with my WHOLE HEART!” An abundant life well lived, and finished strong is what I think about.

M J said...

Having lived in Pittsburgh from '71-'76 (the Steelers rise from the ashes to 4 Super Bowl titles), I can relate to this wonderful description of life in the Steel City. I didn't know/understand reformed theology back then, but thanks to the ever gracious teaching of my beloved wife, Kris, and our superb preaching staff at Redeemer, I can see first-hand the calling of the chosen. The folks at Wilson Prez are to be commended for their perseverance. Praise His Name.