In Memoriam: The Reverend John D. Dennis

September 18, 1937 – September 4, 2019

Please remember in prayer the family and friends of the Reverend John Davison Dennis, who passed from this life into the Church Triumphant on Wednesday, September 4, 2019, at the age of 81 years old. A ministerial son of our church family, Rev. Dennis was nurtured in his faith at Shadyside Presbyterian Church during the early years of his life, from his baptism in 1938 until his ordination in 1962, both of which occurred in our Sanctuary.

John was born September 18, 1937, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was baptized in Shadyside Presbyterian Church on May 1, 1938, and later joined the church as a member on March 26, 1950. In 1959, he graduated from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, with a degree in economics. When a college professor encouraged him to devote his life to a pursuit other than making money, John applied to, and was accepted at, Princeton Theological Seminary, where he received his Master of Divinity degree (1962) and his Master of Theology degree in counseling (1965).

On June 18, 1962, John was ordained by the Presbytery of Pittsburgh in order to serve as Assistant Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Germantown, Pennsylvania. The Reverend Dr. James T. Orr, Moderator of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh at the time, presided over the service, with participation from the Reverend Dr. James H. Blackwood, Associate Pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church; the Reverend Dr. Howard C. Scharfe, Pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church; and the Reverend Dr. Harold E. Scott, Associate Professor of Homiletics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. The music for the service was under the direction of Russell G. Wichmann, Shadyside’s organist and choirmaster.

In 1969, Rev. Dennis was called to serve as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Corvallis, Oregon, in the Presbytery of Willamette, which later became part of the Presbytery of the Cascades. He served as pastor of the church for thirty-seven years, retiring in 2006 as Pastor Emeritus.

John’s service to the church and the world went beyond his work as a pastor. He served terms on many presbytery committees and also served as commissioner to the General Assembly in 1984. In 1978, he was chosen to represent the denomination in the struggle against apartheid and spent four months working at St. Columba’s Presbyterian Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. His recommendation that U.S. banks apply tougher rules to loaning money in South Africa based on fair employment practices was adopted by the United Stated and played a part in the fall of apartheid. He served as West Coast Dean for the denomination’s Young Pastor Seminars in the 1980s. From 1995 to 1997, he served two terms as chair of the Board of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. He also organized an effort to provide over 2,000 prosthetic arms and legs to landmine victims in Cambodia.

Rev. Dennis is predeceased by his wife of fifty-two years, Nancy, and survived by sons Michael (wife Allison) and Andrew (wife Rebecca) and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will occur at the First Presbyterian Church, 114 S.W. 8th Street, Corvallis, Oregon, on Saturday, October 12, at 1:00 p.m.

An obituary has been published online; you may read it by following this link.

As we mourn our loss and give thanks to God for a life lived in faithful service, we consider again John’s favorite benediction, words from a poem by Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel: “Life is short and we have not too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. Be swift to love. Make haste to be kind.”

Editor’s Note: Shadyside Presbyterian Church gratefully acknowledges the contributions of G. Dixon Shrum Jr., member of Shadyside Presbyterian Church, and Paul Belz-Templeman, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Cascades, to this writing.

Remembering Loved Ones: All Saints’ Sunday

All Saints’ Sunday: November 3

Christians throughout the world celebrate All Saints’ Day in honor of all the saints, both known and unknown. In most Protestant churches, it is celebrated on the first Sunday of November. Protestants regard all Christians, both past and present, as saints. As we solemnly remember all those who have died in the past year, we also focus on Christ’s victory over death. While the festival acknowledges the reality of death, we emphasize our hope in the Resurrection and our place in the “communion of saints.”

  • During the All Saints’ Sunday morning service at 11:00 a.m., we will remember those members of Shadyside Presbyterian Church who have been received into the Church Triumphant during the past calendar year.
  • On the afternoon of All Saints’ Sunday, at 3:00 p.m., the Chancel Choir will sing Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem. We invite the congregation to submit the names of any deceased family members whom they would like to have acknowledged in the afternoon bulletin. Please submit the names to Kaysie Strickland in the church office before Friday, October 25.

Additional Resources:

  • Shadyside Presbyterian Church offers a Grief Support Group designed to provide encouragement and a faith-centered perspective for those who have lost a loved one. Two meetings will occur within the next month, including one which will focus on surviving the holidays.
    -Monday, October 21, 2019, at 7:00 p.m.  (Details)
    -Monday, November 18, 2019, at 7:00 p.m.  (Details)
  • Please remember that Shadyside Presbyterian Church has four pastors who are available to talk and pray with you. Although each of them focuses upon certain aspects of ministry, they all are, first and foremost, pastors. They all are ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, and all of them desire to walk with you as you seek God’s strength and wisdom through both joys and challenges of life, including your seasons of grief. If you would like to speak with one of the pastors, please do not hesitate to call the church office.

“Blessed are they who die in the Lord,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”

Revelation 14:13

Celebrating Rebecca Reeder’s Ordination

The Pittsburgh Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) invites you to celebrate the ordination and installation of Rebecca D. Reeder as Associate Pastor of Sewickley Presbyterian Church on Sunday, October 6, at 5:00 p.m. in the Sewickley Presbyterian Church sanctuary, with a dinner reception in the dining hall immediately following.

Above: Rebecca Reeder, with her husband Zachary, celebrates her commencement from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Rebecca Reeder, with her husband Zachary, celebrates her commencement from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in May 2019.

Since 2011, Rebecca has been a member of Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC), and, earlier this year, she successfully completed the denomination’s candidacy process, which she entered under the care of the Session of SPC. In May 2019, she received her Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, along with several awards recognizing her achievements, including:

  • The William B. Watson Prize in Hebrew, awarded to that member of the senior class who, having elected Hebrew Exegesis, submitted the best grammatical and exegetical treatment of a portion of the Hebrew Old Testament;
  • The Paul T. Gerrard Prize in Homiletics and Pastoral Care, awarded to the graduating senior Master of Divinity student judged best by the faculty in homiletics and pastoral care and who shows promise for a future in pastoral ministry; and
  • The Thomas Jamison Scholarship, given every year to the member of the senior class who has the highest average at the beginning of his or her final term of study.

On June 30, 2019, the congregation of Sewickley Presbyterian Church voted to extend a call to Rebecca, and she began serving as Associate Pastor Elect on July 1. As the final step in her ordination process, Rebecca presented her statement of faith to the Pittsburgh Presbytery on September 19, and the way is now clear for her ordination and installation.

As a previous member of our church family and our church staff, Rebecca is a ministerial daughter of SPC, and we rejoice with her as she celebrates the beginning of her ministry as Minister of Word and Sacrament. We thank God for the blessing Rebecca has been to our congregation and for calling her into ministry. Please support her through your prayers and your presence at the service.

Dr. Tucker Ferda to Speak Sept. 18

Dr. Tucker S. Ferda
Dr. Tucker S. Ferda
Welcoming Dr. Tucker S. Ferda

On Wednesday, September 18, Dr. Tucker S. Ferda will speak during the Connections Dinner in the Parish Hall at 6:00 p.m. and will preach during the vespers service in the Chapel at 7:00 p.m.

Dr. Tucker S. Ferda began his position as visiting assistant professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (PTS) in 2017 after serving as a lecturer since 2013. He earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Pittsburgh, where he also served as teaching fellow. In 2015, he was named one of only three Society of Biblical Literature Regional Scholars, an award which “recognizes and promotes outstanding entry-level scholars.” Dr. Ferda has expertise in a wide range of areas in biblical studies, including the Gospels, the life of Jesus, the Old Testament in the New, the history of biblical interpretation, Hellenistic Jewish literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and biblical theology.

Explaining why Dr. Ferda is so appreciated as a professor, one of his recent students shared, “His profound knowledge of the subject matter makes his classes always informative, but, even more importantly, his deep faith and humility connect the subjects to our lives today in a powerful way.” His pupil continued, “Students often say that Tucker is one of the most pastoral people on campus, despite the fact he isn’t an ordained minister. His love and care for the students and seminary community is always deeply apparent.”

A member and deacon at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Tucker frequently leads studies and preaches at churches in the Pittsburgh area.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Ferda to Shadyside, and read more about Dr. Ferda on the PTS website. Also, consider joining us for a weekend of spiritual growth and fellowship during a fall retreat led by Dr. Ferda from October 25 through 26, 2019, at Crestfield Camp and Conference Center. Learn more about the retreat.

Introducing New Children’s Choir Program

The Choir School at Shadyside Presbyterian Church

“Psallam Spiritu et Mente” • “I Will Sing with the Spirit and with the Understanding Also”

The Shadyside Presbyterian Church children’s choir program has a new name and some exciting additions and changes. Beginning this fall, the Shadyside Presbyterian Choir School welcomes choristers as young as kindergarten age with a new curriculum, including in-depth music learning and Christian understanding.

Children begin in the training choir and progress through the Voice for Life program from the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM). Within this program, choristers are able to gain different colored ribbons and medals by working toward various assessed levels of music theory, vocal technique, and Christian understanding. You may notice choristers wearing these medals during worship. Please help us congratulate them for their accomplishments when you see them!

Shadysiders attend the Royal School of Church Music summer training course at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral and King’s College of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Shadysiders attend the Royal School of Church Music summer training course at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral and King’s College of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Once children enter third grade and have completed their initial training choir program, they can become an official “chorister” and participate fully in our Sunday worship services alongside our Chancel Choir. Now that a weekly Thursday night rehearsal has been added for the choristers, you can expect to see them leading music in worship more frequently.

Choristers will be invited to enjoy a week of music-making and fun next summer at the annual RSCM choir course held in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. This past summer, chorister Dhini Leach had the opportunity to attend the course along with children’s music director Stephen Donnelly and Reverend Kendra L. Buckwalter Smith. For choristers, the week consists of activities like swimming, movies, games, variety shows, and, of course, rehearsal. Dhini gives it an enthusiastic “two thumbs up!”

There is no fee or tuition, and enrollment is open to anyone regardless of religious affiliation. For more information about the Choir School and enrolling, please contact Mr. Stephen Donnelly.

Update from Mission Partner: Hurricane Dorian

Mission Update

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane on September 1, 2019, and stalled over the islands for 24 hours, causing loss of life and massive damage. Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s mission partner in the Bahamas, Caribbean Youth Network (CYN), has shared a second update with us.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support during this most difficult week. I know you have probably seen enough horrific pictures of the aftermath of the hurricane on the media to last a lifetime. Here is a brief update on what is happening:

This morning there is a mandatory evacuation of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, going on. We have heard the CDC needs to come in and clean up. Authorities have not been able to adequately find and clean up the deceased. Many people have already been evacuated from Abaco and Grand Bahama in the past few days by boat, helicopter, and cruise ships.

Nassau has become the hub for evacuees. Large facilities like the national basketball gym have been turned into shelters. Huge collections of relief supplies, food, clothing, etc. have taken place here and people are being cared for.

Yesterday, seventeen teens arrived from an orphanage in Grand Bahama. They are staying at the Ranfurly Home for Children, a group with which the Bahamas Youth Network (BYN) has a strong presence and ministry. Our leaders are involved in helping these traumatized kids get settled and feel loved.

Jude’s family was evacuated yesterday from Abaco, and they are living in our church for a time.

Our ministry partner in Freeport, Marvin Rolle, is alive and well. He is heavily involved in helping with relief efforts there and covets our prayers.

Please continue to pray for the authorities here. There are a lot of unanswered questions and disorganization. No one is clear about what lies ahead.

We are doing our best to help with needs involving teens. Please help us spread the word that donations given to our hurricane relief fund will enable us to do even more. Share this newsletter with a friend! Click here to contribute.

Thank you for your strong support and prayers! Keep them coming, and we will continue to update you as major developments occur.

Contributed by Dan Weightman, Executive Director of Caribbean Youth Network

Read the first update from CYN after Hurricane Dorian.

Welcoming Rev. Kendra Buckwalter Smith to Staff

Rev. Kendra L. Buckwalter Smith
Rev. Kendra L. Buckwalter Smith
Rev. Smith Joins Staff as Temporary Associate Pastor

Following Rev. John Magnuson’s departure in July 2019, the Human Resources (HR) Committee of the Session has been working diligently to discern how to proceed and to address immediate staffing needs. Our Youth Ministry responsibilities were identified as an early priority, and the HR Committee is especially excited to announce that the Reverend Kendra L. Buckwalter Smith has joined the church staff as Temporary Associate Pastor.

Our enthusiasm, of course, stems from the fact that Rev. Smith is no stranger to Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC). A ministerial daughter of our church family, she has attended worship and actively engaged in the life of this congregation since 2004, during her time as an undergraduate student. In 2017, Rev. Smith completed the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church (USA) under the care of the Session of SPC and was ordained in our Sanctuary. Throughout the year, she regularly supports our music in worship on Sunday mornings by singing with the Chancel Choir.

In assuming this new role, Rev. Smith expands her worship leadership to include non-musical elements of liturgy as she joins our clergy in the Chancel on a regular basis. In addition, parishioners will enjoy the opportunity to hear her preach more often as she enters the rotation of ministers who deliver the homily during our midweek vespers services.

Her primary responsibilities, though, include oversight of the Sunday morning Christian Education classes and curriculum for our students in grades six through twelve, as well as the afternoon Shadyside Presbyterian Youth Sundays (SPYS) program for youth in the same age ranges. This facet of her work has already begun unofficially. This summer, Kendra began building relationships with our youth as they worked alongside each other in North Carolina while participating in the Mars Hill mission experience. She also attended a summer choral training course with our children’s music director Stephen Donnelly and chorister Dhini Leach in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

The part-time nature of this position means that Rev. Smith will continue serving full-time as the Director of the Worship Program at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, strengthening our longtime partnership with the seminary. We give thanks to God that Rev. Smith has agreed to add the spiritual care of our youth and their families to the many ways in which she already shares her gifts in our community of faith. Please join us in welcoming Rev. Smith to our church staff!

Update from Mission Partner: Hurricane Dorian

Mission Update

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane on September 1, 2019, and stalled over the islands for 24 hours, causing loss of life and massive damage. Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s mission partner in the Bahamas, Caribbean Youth Network (CYN), shared the following update with us.

Dear CYN team,

Thank you for the many responses of encouragement you sent back to us with assurance of your prayers during Hurricane Dorian. Here is what we know so far:

In Nassau we did not have high winds, but we have had a good bit of flooding due to high rainfall. The university campus is under water, as are many low lying areas. We’ve also had long power outages.

Abaco has been devastated. Pictures and videos that circulate are heart-wrenching to see. An entire area called The Mud, which provided housing for over 5,000 people (mainly Haitians), was wiped out. We are hearing of five confirmed deaths. Many people are in shelters and grouping in the few homes that survived. The Swings have heard that their home lost half the roof and has three feet of water in it. Jude believes his family is safe only through seeing their names on a shelter list that is circulating. Communication is difficult.

Grand Bahama has had the hurricane over them nearly stationary all day today. It is forecast to start moving off to the north tomorrow afternoon. Our Young Life ministry partner, Marvin Rolle, has been sending updates saying that flooding is bad and wind damage is high, though not to the extent of Abaco yet.

The CYN does have a hurricane relief fund and any donations can be designated as such if you have a heart to get involved in helping Abaco and Grand Bahama. Click here to contribute. Let’s all keep praying as the storm rages on!

Thank you so much!

Contributed by Dan and Kelly Weightman, founders of Caribbean Youth Network

Update: Read a second update from the CYN after Hurricane Dorian.

Shadyside Introduces New “Digital Mosaic”

Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.
Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.
Artist Mark Bender Creates New Church Illustration

On April 4, 2018, the Communications Committee of Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) met with noted Chatham art professor and award-winning graphic artist Mark Bender to explore the idea of creating an inspiring illustration based on our SPC community of faith. Mark presented his work and on May 2, 2018, the committee agreed to move forward with a commission for him to create a new branding image that would inspire current members and provide exciting visual information to visitors and new members.

After attending a worship service and touring the exterior and interior of the church, Mark presented four illustrated concepts for the committee’s consideration on June 12, 2018. The committee selected the concept that combined unique architectural features of the building and sanctuary with illustrations representing SPC life and mission and asked Mark to fully develop the illustration as a new branding image.

The final illustration is clearly inspired by the visual centerpiece of our sanctuary, Rudolf Sheffler’s shimmering 1938 mosaic of the Transfigured Christ. It depicts our vibrant and inclusive community of faith, which enriches the life of all members and is open to any and all to join our mission of service to God and to the world.

The illustration has been presented to the ministerial staff and to the SPC Session, and both have endorsed its use as a new institutional image of the church. Due to its mosaic-like form, the artwork can be used for many graphic purposes, in part or as a whole, and allows for the possibility to incorporate additional vignettes in the future. The Communications Committee invites members to let us know your thoughts about this new “digital mosaic.” You can share your feedback by sending a message to info@shadysidepres.org.

SPC Communications Committee: Elder Jayne Adair Cox, chair; Elder John E. B. Baldridge; Elder Sara G. Brooke; Trustee H. Daniel Cessna; Elder Robert J. Ferguson; and Rev. Janice L. Murray

About the Artist

Mark Bender is a nationally-recognized illustrator who is currently an assistant professor of art at Chatham University. Mark is known for creating illustrations that give contemporary concepts an elegant and timeless motif. His illustrations have been featured frequently on the covers of Pittsburgh Quarterly. Mark also created the illustration which formed the basis for the Magee-Women’s Hospital 100th anniversary photo mosaic. His other clients include The Boston Globe, Carnegie Mellon University, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, the University of Pittsburgh, Heinz History Center, NPR, and the University of Chicago.

Mission Update: Mars Hill Experience 2019

Watch a Video of the 2019 Mars Hill Mission Experience

In Partnership with the Community Housing Coalition of Madison County

Thank you for your prayers as forty-one members of Shadyside Presbyterian Church traveled to North Carolina to participate in the mission experience in Mars Hill from July 7 through 13, 2019. To see a glimpse into the week-long experience of our mission team members as they assisted families with housing needs, built relationships with homeowners and with each other, and served Christ through their actions, please click on the image or follow this link.

The Mars Hill Mission Experience is an annual one-week intergenerational mission trip to the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina. In partnership with the Community Housing Coalition of Madison County, individuals and families from Shadyside Presbyterian and other churches join together to work on the homes of disadvantaged homeowners.

Learn more about the mission partnerships of Shadyside Presbyterian Church.