In Memoriam: The Reverend Calvin C. Wilson

August 3, 1937 – May 9, 2024

Please remember in prayer the family and friends of the Reverend Calvin Coolidge Wilson, who passed from this life into the Church Triumphant on Thursday, May 9, 2024, at home in Maine, surrounded by family.
The Reverend Calvin Coolidge Wilson
The Reverend Calvin Coolidge Wilson

For fourteen years, the Reverend Calvin Coolidge Wilson served as a member of the pastoral staff of Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Called as Assistant Pastor on January 1, 1994, he retired from Shadyside as our Associate Pastor for Congregational Care on December 31, 2007.

In Liturgy: A Reflection on Shadyside Presbyterian Church, a history written for the occasion of our congregation’s 150th anniversary in 2016, Elder Timothy Engleman wrote of Rev. Wilson that he was “the abiding pastoral presence for a congregation not yet destined to calm sailing.” Elder Engleman further wrote that Rev. Wilson “may be described as the glue that kept the congregation connected through lows and highs over nearly a decade” of staff transitions and challenging situations. Elder Engleman fittingly described Rev. Wilson’s personality as “warm, literate, thoughtful, creative, spiritual, and witty,” and he also noted that Rev. Wilson “delighted in his identification as ‘a notorious thespian.’ ”

Immediately prior to his tenure at Shadyside, Rev. Wilson had completed a two-year interim pastorate at Bower Hill Community United Presbyterian Church in the South Hills. He previously served the First Presbyterian Church of Syracuse, New York; the Abington Presbyterian Church in the Philadelphia Presbytery; and the Gates Presbyterian Church of Rochester, New York. By the time Rev. Wilson retired from Shadyside in 2007, he had devoted forty-five years to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. In the years following his retirement, he served as Presbyterian minister-in-residence at First Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh.

Born and raised in Hudson Falls, New York, Calvin Wilson was educated at Bates College and at Colgate Rochester Divinity School. Rev. Wilson authored two fiction books: A Box of Crosses (2018) and an adult Christmas fantasy titled The Little Toy Soldier on the Covered Bridge (2001). He also wrote two full-length plays, A Breach of Confidence and As Heaven Intends; and numerous poems, including “Intrusion.”

In your prayers for the bereaved, please especially remember Cal’s family as they entrust Cal to God’s eternal care. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Slayton Wilson; children: Benjamin Chin, Emily Chin, Grant (and Lisa) Wilson, Andrea Wilson (and Frank Logano), and Laurel (and David) Michels; grandchildren: Brittany (and Jack) Schmalfeld, Chris (and Jenna) Wilson, Brooke Wilson, Miranda Adlam (and Matt Matricardi), George Adlam, Grant Adlam, Taylor (and Ben) Groat, David Michels, and Jessica Michels; and great-grandchildren: John Schmalfeld, Harper Schmalfeld, Ava Wilson, Ivy Wilson, Amelia Wilson, Maren Matricardi, and Benny Groat.

Please join us in giving thanks to God for Cal’s life of faith, which he lived in dedicated service to Christ. We at Shadyside Presbyterian Church are particularly grateful for the ministry of Rev. Wilson among us – for his love of and his service to our congregation, providing comfort and constancy throughout his pastorate. Shadyside’s affection and appreciation for Rev. Wilson abides even today, as we recall the hallmarks of his ministry: the elegance and depth of his prayers, the eloquence and erudition of his preaching, and the compassionate care of his pastoral presence.


A Requiem observance for Rev. Wilson will be held Saturday, May 18, 2024, at 4:00 p.m. at the Bower Hill Community Church, 70 Moffett Street, Mt. Lebanon, PA 15243. Beth writes, “Thankfully, his last gift is this memorial service he wrote for us, that his last words would be The Word; that our comfort might be the Great Comforter; that his love might be the God who is Love itself.”

In Memoriam: The Reverend Dr. F. Morgan Roberts

March 31, 1928 – April 18, 2024

Please remember in prayer the family and friends of the Reverend Dr. F. Morgan Roberts, who passed from this life into the Church Triumphant on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Sarasota, Florida.

For the past thirty years, the Reverend Dr. F. Morgan Roberts has been Pastor Emeritus of Shadyside Presbyterian Church, where he served as pastor from 1985 until his retirement in May 1994. A widely known preacher, Dr. Roberts served churches in New York, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Alabama. He also completed several interim pastorates in the years since his retirement.

Rev. Dr. F. Morgan Roberts
Rev. Dr. F. Morgan Roberts

Dr. Roberts authored Are There Horses in Heaven? and Other Thoughts (1996) and A Beautiful View: A Friendlier Christianity as a Way of Life (2018). In addition, he co-authored two books with John M. Mulder: 28 Hymns to Sing Before You Die (2014) and 28 Carols to Sing at Christmas (2015). A member of the Society of Biblical Literature, he contributed essays to several multi-volume scholarly works.

Dr. Roberts served the denomination as a member of its General Assembly Mission Council. In 1986, he was preacher to the 198th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Educated at Colgate University and Princeton Theological Seminary, he maintained an active interest in the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

In your prayers for the bereaved, please especially remember Morgan’s wife, Nora, and their families as they entrust Morgan to God’s eternal care. Please join us in giving thanks to God for Morgan’s life of faith, which he lived in dedicated service to Christ. We at Shadyside Presbyterian Church are particularly grateful for the ministry of Dr. Roberts among us, first shepherding our flock as our eighth pastor and then continuing to uphold a relationship of care and trust with our congregation for the three decades that followed his pastorate.


A memorial service will occur on Friday, June 14, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. at the Church of the Palms in Sarasota, Florida, where Dr. and Mrs. Roberts had been attending. Morgan’s mortal remains will rest in the memorial garden of the Church of the Palms.

Reflecting on the Pastorate of Dr. Barnes

A Reflection from Shadyside’s Resident Historian on the Pastorate of Our Tenth Senior Pastor
The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes
The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes

The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes is widely and accurately recognized as one of the best preachers in America. However, those who know him well understand the root of that inspired proclamation: a crucial part of his identity lies in being a pastor. That became clear when he graciously considered the clearly impractical idea of a shared ministry between Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Careful analysis showed that the seminary would require two-thirds of his time, and the church would require the other two-thirds of his time. He responded, quite pastorally, that the question is not how to make that work; rather, should it work? If the Holy Spirit is in the call, it will work.

Dr. Barnes recognized that his new congregation had, by 2003, come through a deeply disappointing pastorate, tempered by a long and healing interim pastorate. He urged the church to use its significant legacy as a sail rather than an anchor. He knew that worship — formal, reverential, Reformed worship — is the wellspring of all that Shadyside Church is and does. His refinements to that tradition of excellence helped renew the wellspring.

Dr. Barnes saw an opportunity — a need, really — to expand the church’s mission ministry; and discerned the will of Shadyside members to support that initiative. The congregation embraced the idea to elevate mission leadership to a pastoral position. The success bestowed on our mission work by the Holy Spirit has led us to renew and re-envision that pastoral leadership.

One of Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets was the genuine welcoming spirit of Shadyside Church. With church leaders, Dr. Barnes guided the congregation to a ministry theme of “Building Community.” One result was the reconfiguration and expansion of our historic buildings to become a more inviting place for fellowship and a more effective base for outreach. A side benefit emerged: the boost of confidence that blesses a congregation when it places faith in a Spirit-led effort.

How do inspired sermons flow out of the pastoral identity of Craig Barnes? When discussing the portfolio of a very busy pastorate, he insisted that he have time for congregational care. He explained that he could not preach to people unless he engaged them personally. In one of his books, Dr. Barnes portrayed the role of preaching pastor as being in the midst of the holy conversation between God’s Word and God’s people. He also once admitted to a friend that, next to his home study, Shadyside’s pulpit was his favorite piece of geography on Earth.

Each of his sermons found an anchor point in the grace of God. A few representative themes demonstrate that grounding:

  • We are not called to be saviors, especially of ourselves. Jesus was dying to be our Savior.
  • Our identity is not defined by our work or even our place in the church. Jesus wants to weave our life stories into His eternal Gospel.
  • We do well to hold God’s gifts in upturned hands to be used for the work of the Kingdom. It is impossible to receive new gifts when we grasp those we already have.
  • The concept of a distinctly individual Christian is a modern construct. For much of history, the Christian life was centered on community.
  • Craig Barnes came to us at Shadyside Church from a seminary. In 2012, the time came for us to release him — to return to a seminary. The lesson of his especially memorable sermon, about the story of David and Jonathan in the Book of Samuel, became very important to us. Life or death can separate us from one we hold dear. But, when the Holy Spirit is in our midst, even in separation, we always get to keep the love.

Now, Craig moves his ministry beyond the institutions of church and academy. Now, we get to reaffirm that love that has bound us in separation. Now, we celebrate that bond by welcoming Craig Barnes back into our community as our Pastor Emeritus.

Elder Timothy C. Engleman

Read the Announcement about Honoring Dr. Barnes as Pastor Emeritus

Honoring Rev. Dr. Craig Barnes as Pastor Emeritus

Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes and Rev. Austin Crenshaw Shelley
Above: Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes and Rev. Austin Crenshaw Shelley. Photograph taken by Stephen M. Donnelly.
“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
“For God is not unjust; He will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for His sake in serving the saints, as you still do.” (Hebrews 6:10)

It brings me great joy to share with you that the Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) has recently voted to confer the title of Pastor Emeritus upon the Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes, our tenth Senior Pastor and recently retired President of Princeton Theological Seminary. Traditionally, the honorific title of Pastor Emeritus is reserved for retired ministers whose faithful service to God in a particular congregation is recognized as distinctive. You may recall that the Reverend Dr. F. Morgan Roberts received this honor in 1994. As a sign of our congregation’s deep gratitude, this honor lifts up the relationship of care and trust that already exists between Shadyside, Dr. Barnes, and his family. Naming Dr. Barnes as Pastor Emeritus also expresses our profound thanks for his commitment to covenant community centered in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many of us who find our places in Shadyside’s sanctuary or connect to our livestream on Sunday mornings were members of SPC during Dr. Barnes’ pastorate from 2003 through 2012. Even those who, at that time, had not yet become a part of this faith community still benefit from the far reach of his ministry in the Church and in the academy. The Reverend Elizabeth Michael Ross and I studied as Master of Divinity students at Princeton Theological Seminary during Dr. Barnes’ service on its Board of Trustees. When I traveled with the seminary’s touring choir to Pittsburgh for the 2012 General Assembly of the PC(USA), Dr. Barnes met us at the door and welcomed us into the sanctuary, where he seemed to delight in our awe upon first setting eyes on the mosaic in the apse, the ornate carvings in the wood, and the grand Romanesque architecture quite unlike the sparse style of many of the Presbyterian churches we had visited on tour. During Dr. Barnes’ tenure as a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the Reverend Kendra Buckwalter Smith studied under his tutelage, and when he came to Princeton as its President, I, too, learned not only from his powerful preaching from the pulpit of the seminary chapel, but also from his faithful and wise leadership on campus and in the community. As he has answered the call of God upon his own life, Dr. Barnes has shaped a generation of leaders in the Church, perhaps especially here at Shadyside.

And so, upon the occasion of his retirement, please join us as we honor Dr. Barnes’ faithful service and give thanks for his pastoral heart, his poetic preaching, his discerning vision, his inspired teaching, and his gifted leadership. In the spring, we will invite Dr. Barnes into the pulpit, and Dawne and their family into their favorite spot in the fourth pew, as we worship God and celebrate together. Thanks be to God!

The Reverend Austin Crenshaw Shelley
Senior Pastor and Head of Staff

A Fond Farewell to a Very Sound Man

Saluting Steve Zelenko and Celebrating Six Decades of Sound Ministry
Steve M. Zelenko
Steve M. Zelenko

A soundman from the beginning, today Steve Zelenko looks far younger than his 87 years. He credits that to a daily dose of cod liver oil and a zinc supplement to keep his joints limber, body agile, and mind intact. Though a humble and private man, some among our flock know that Steve’s storied life goes well beyond recording thousands of worship services, concerts, weddings, and funerals at Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) beginning in the late 1950s.

When growing up in Groveton (Robinson Township), and spurred by reading Popular Mechanics, Steve was a creative builder, including a homemade speedboat that outran everything on the Ohio River. There was also a practical and enterprising dimension to his early youth during the hardscrabble years of the Great Depression. In addition to tending a garden, Steve raised rabbits — lots of rabbits, and once had as many as 184 for sale. He remains an avid gardener, and today the landscaping and flora surrounding his home reflect that passion.

Preparing the Way

It seems that everything along Steve’s path prepared him for the fascinating career in radio and television broadcasting that would follow. After graduating from Robinson Township High School (now Montour), he attended Allegheny Technical Institute, specializing in radio electronics, transmission, and reception. Drafted in 1953 during the Korean War, Uncle Sam immediately recognized Steve’s talent by assigning him to the Army Signal School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and afterward to The Presidio in San Francisco to maintain the single sideband and microwave transmissions of top secret communications between the continent, Honolulu, and Tokyo. Thereafter, Steve shipped-out from Fort Lewis in Seattle for Seoul to become the chief engineer of AFKN (Armed Forces Korean Network), which provided news and entertainment for the troops in the foxholes along the 38th parallel DMZ and Pacific area via shortwave radio.

The Shadyside Connection

Upon returning home in 1955, television was in its infancy. Already familiar with RCA’s newest technology from his time in the Army, over the next seven years Steve worked for WQED and WIIC (now WPXI) installing the transmitters and control rooms that put local TV broadcasting on the air. As a side business, he also started Image Recordings to do remote recording of musical programs. It was during this period (late 1950s) that Steve met Lorenzo “Larry” Malfatti (longtime SPC baritone soloist). Malfatti had been lured away from New York City by Russell Wichmann (SPC organist/choir director and chair of the music department at Chatham College) to direct the women’s choir at Chatham and sing in the church’s Chancel Choir. Malfatti engaged Steve to record the Chatham choir’s concerts and produce LPs as keepsakes. After meeting Wichmann through Malfatti, Steve also began recording the Shadyside choir’s afternoon and evening concerts in the sanctuary. Parenthetically, Malfatti served as best man in Steve’s October 1960 wedding to his late wife, Loretta. Another coincidence was that the Zelenkos lived directly across the street from the Wichmanns in Edgewood.

The Kuhlman Years

Steve’s engineering and recording ability attracted the attention of the world-renowned Pittsburgh-based evangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman. She hired Steve in 1958 to build her a studio (in the Carlton House hotel) and start recording what would become her sixty-station nationally-syndicated radio broadcasts and weekly television show I Believe in Miracles. For those who are not old enough to remember Kuhlman’s ministry, she was a powerful preacher who conducted worldwide healing crusades from the 1940s through the early 1970s. An international icon, Kuhlman lived in Fox Chapel. As a teenager, I heard her speak to an SRO audience at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church in the late 1960s. For several years following her untimely death at age 69 in 1976, Steve oversaw the rebroadcast of her radio and television programs by the Kathryn Kuhlman Foundation.

The Second Calling by Shadyside

As some of you may know, Shadyside’s Sunday morning worship service had been carried live by radio stations KDKA and KQV for many years, but eventually only rebroadcast late at night — 11:00 p.m. on Sundays. When carried on KDKA’s 50,000 clear-channel watt signal, the service could be heard by nearly all of Eastern North America, but the sound quality was often inferior. Picked up by two open and unbalanced microphones (located at the pulpit and lectern), the unmixed and un-equalized transmission was sent through a phone line, but the telephone call had to be initiated from the church. The heavily-unionized radio stations insisted that one of their own engineers be on site to do nothing more than simply flip that switch to enable the connection to their studios downtown. It wasn’t long before they requested that the church begin paying that cost. SPC Trustee Ben Fisher balked at that, and instead hired Steve (in 1982) to record the service and hand deliver the edited tapes to the stations ahead of their evening rebroadcasts. Since then, Steve has rarely missed a service over those thirty-eight years, and when he did, entrusted the job to his son, Stephen.

A Big, Heartfelt Thank You

I will miss Steve’s twinkling eyes, quick wit, and abiding devotion to the church over his many decades of faithful service. Moreover, as a choir member since 1967, I have witnessed Steve’s diligent and capable service up close. With much of today’s commercially-recorded, over-produced music sounding so antiseptic, I always appreciated what Steve delivered to the listener — the excitement of a live experience that captured the passion, realism, heart, and soul of the music, flaws and all. Once the COVID-19 restrictions are fully relaxed (hopefully by fall), we plan to acknowledge Steve’s long ministry during a Sunday service and hold a reception thereafter for all to express their gratitude directly.

Contributed by Lloyd F. Stamy Jr.

In Memoriam: The Reverend Dr. John E. Mehl

June 18, 1936 – April 25, 2021

Please remember in prayer the family and friends of the Reverend Dr. John E. Mehl, who passed from this life into the Church Triumphant on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at the age of eighty-four.

A retired member of Pittsburgh Presbytery, the Reverend Dr. John E. Mehl worked with several local congregations during his ministry, including ours, and directed the Doctor of Ministry Program at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary from 1985 until 2001.

Rev. Dr. John Mehl and Dr. Margaret Ross Mehl
Rev. Dr. John Mehl and Dr. Margaret Ross Mehl

John and his wife, Dr. Margaret A. Ross Mehl, have had a long association with Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC). Peggy has been a member of our church family for more than fifty-three years and also has been singing with the Chancel Choir for fifty-eight years. The Reverend Dr. Mehl served on the ministerial staff of SPC on two separate occasions: once as a Parish Associate from January 2002 through June 2004, and again as Interim Associate Pastor for Parish Life in 2008. Throughout these years of faithful service, he ministered to the needs of the congregation through preaching; leading adult Christian education studies; and assisting in congregational care, including visiting homebound and hospitalized members. A wise, gentle, and compassionate pastor, he walked alongside SPC through several leadership transitions, and we are grateful to have enjoyed our fellowship with him as a friend and member of our extended church family.

In addition to his work with the seminary and with churches in the Pittsburgh Presbytery, the Reverend Dr. Mehl taught undergraduate courses at Washington and Lee University and for nine years was the editor of the Kerygma Bible Study Program and the Thesis Cassette Study Program. A graduate of Dartmouth College, John also earned degrees from Pittsburgh and Union Theological Seminaries, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.

Please join us in giving thanks to God for John’s life of faith, which he lived in dedicated service to Christ. Please especially remember Peggy and the Mehl family as they entrust this wonderful man to God’s eternal care. An obituary is available online; you may read it by following this link.


A memorial service will occur on Saturday, May 22, at 2:00 p.m. at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 799 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania 15228. Family and friends will be received on Friday, May 21, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Laughlin Cremation and Funeral Tributes, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania 15216.

New Hymn by Dr. Dalles Selected as Winner

“In Christ the Church Is Ever One” Chosen as Fiftieth Anniversary Hymn by Christian Associates

The Reverend Dr. John A. DallesChristian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania has announced the winner in their search for a fiftieth anniversary hymn. We are delighted to share the news that the selected hymn, “In Christ the Church Is Ever One,” is one written by our very own Interim Senior Pastor, the Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles.

Christian Associates is comprised of twenty-eight church bodies representing 2,000 local congregations in Southwest Pennsylvania, and began fifty years ago at Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

The hymn selection committee judged about thirty entries from all over the United States, anonymously. The author’s identity was not disclosed to the committee until after the judging was completed.

The new hymn is scheduled to debut at the fiftieth anniversary celebration gala, which had to be postponed from its original May 2020 date. On a future date to be announced, the event will be held at – where else? – the church where it all began fifty years ago: Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

Congratulations, Dr. Dalles!

About Dr. Dalles’s Hymnwriting

Dr. Dalles is the author of numerous hymn texts, including “Come, O Spirit” and “God, Bless Your Church with Strength,” which are included in the 1990 Presbyterian Hymnal. His commissioned hymns include those for Presbyterian Heritage Sunday; Augsburg, Goshen, Maryville, Tusculum, Wilson and Knox (Toronto) Colleges; American University; Pittsburgh and Lancaster Seminaries; Peachtree Presbyterian Church; and the Lutheran World Federation. His works are catalogued at Oberlin College Library and represented by GIA Publications, Oxford University Press, and others. A life-member of the Hymn Society, Dr. Dalles has published three collections of hymns: Swift Currents and Still Waters (2000), We Turn To God (2010), and God Is the Singer’s Friend (2013). His hymns have twice received first place in the highly-regarded Macalester Plymouth Annual Hymn Competition, in 2012 and in 2013.

In Memoriam: The Reverend Dr. Beverly W. James

October 25, 1950 – January 23, 2020

Please remember in prayer the family and friends of the Reverend Dr. Beverly Wallis James, who passed from this life into the Church Triumphant on Thursday, January 23, 2020. A longtime friend of Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC), Dr. James was a wise and compassionate pastor who will be deeply missed.

The Reverend Dr. Beverly W. James served as Associate Minister to the Pittsburgh Presbytery, where she worked with more than sixty congregations in the East and South Branches of Pittsburgh Presbytery, including ours. A Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church for thirty-nine years, Beverly began her service as a Volunteer in Mission in Thailand teaching English as a second language five years before she entered the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (PTS).

Beverly’s longstanding connections with SPC were established during her seminary studies, when she interned among us. For nearly four years, she worked with the Reverend Dr. Robert Cleveland Holland and the Reverend Dr. George H. McConnel (affectionately known as “Sandy”) at SPC, where she carried out a particularly effective ministry with senior high youth. Beverly also spent one summer as the Chaplain at the Presbyterian House of the Chautauqua Institution under Shadyside’s sponsorship.

Dr. James fondly recalled preaching at SPC on the morning of Sunday, May 31, 1981 – the same day on which she was ordained in an afternoon service held at Dormont Presbyterian Church. She returned to SPC’s pulpit to proclaim God’s Word to our congregation many times in later years.

Throughout her ministry, Dr. James served many churches as interim pastor and demonstrated a strong commitment to assisting churches and pastors in times of transition. Indeed, she walked alongside SPC during several leadership transitions. In addition, she taught as adjunct faculty at PTS, the University of Pittsburgh, and La Roche College.

Beverly earned a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Communication from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Arts of Divinity from PTS, a Master of Arts in English from Carnegie Mellon University, and an A.B. in English from Brown University.

Her family will welcome friends on Sunday, January 26, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Schellhaas Funeral Home, Inc. (West View) 388 Center Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15229. A service of witness to the resurrection will be held on Monday, January 27, at 2:00 p.m. at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 799 Washington Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15228. (Those attending the service are asked to gather at the church.)

Please join us in giving thanks to God for Beverly’s life of faith, which she lived in dedicated service to Christ. An obituary is available online; you may read it by following this link.

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 States 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.

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.