New St. Andrew's pastor happy to be in Sewickley
The new pastor at St. Andrew's United Presbyterian Church said struggles in his own life now are helping him serve the small Sewickley congregation.
The Rev. John Dykstra, 46, who was hired in May after serving for 13 years as pastor at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Bridgeville, said his life certainly has had its ups and downs.
He has gone through a series of peaks and valleys with struggles and doubts - along with some "real genuine" moments with God, he said.
"I've been all over the roller coaster of faith. I've learned a lot about myself and learned I have a lot more growing and learning to do," he said.
Originally from New Jersey, where he felt the call from God while he was a high school senior, Dykstra of Scott Township said he went through a divorce and took a few years off from the ministry.
Before that, he said he had trouble with alcohol before he quit drinking 13 years ago.
He has two children, ages 18 and 14, who live in Bethel Park, and he now is in a serious relationship.
Dykstra, who once wanted to be a sportscaster for the New York Yankees, said he thinks what he has gone through in his life makes him more relatable and more approachable to the people in the church.
"What I can offer are individual relationships with folks so I can counsel them and help them get through different things. I want to connect with people who have had a lot of crises and struggles so they can know God is real and cares about them."
Earlier this year, Dykstra was asked to fill in, along with various other ministers, at St. Andrew's as the congregation searched for a full-time pastor.
"We found we had a mutual fondness for one another," he said.
"They are incredibly friendly and so welcoming. They really care about each other and make you feel at ease from the minute you walk in the door.
"They are genuine about their faith. In a small church like this, there are no divisions that you find in any congregation or organization. There are always disagreements and back biting, but everyone here is on the same page and in the same boat. This is the first time I've seen that in a church," he said.
And according to member Barb Brandt of Sewickley, the congregation likes him, too.
"He's very enthusiastic, and he's got a wonderful sense of humor. He speaks to all ages, and he is extremely compassionate and extremely good with the shut-ins and people who are ill," she said.
Brandt said last month he started an evening Bible study at the church, which hadn't been done in the past.
At Bethany, Dykstra was pastor for about 800 members. At St. Andrew's, the membership is about 50, he said - quite a difference.
"With a small congregation, you get to know people a lot faster, and there's more of a feeling of unity," he said.
"On the flip side, it's harder to generate new programs and activities that appeal to a wide variety of people."
As far as any new programs or plans, for right now, Dykstra said he still is getting the feel for the church, that hosts a Quaker Valley before and after-school program, and finding out about the congregation's strengths.
He also is getting a feel for the community to see what kinds of activities the young people and adults would like to see.
"If we do anything, we are going to do it together. It's not just going to be me as a crusader. This congregation has the potential to do neat things," he said.
"We want the church to have an environment where families feel welcomed and are excited about being here. We've talked about having a movie night or a family game night."
He said members are trying to expand and find programs that will attract new folks and do more for children and teens.
Dykstra, who graduated from Westminster College in New Wilmington, said he has worked with middle school and high school kids for 20 years and has spoken at various events about youths and mission-related topics.
At Bethany, Dykstra worked on increasing participating in the church's mission program. The first trip he organized was to a Native American reservation in South Dakota in 1997 with eight young people and two adults.
By the end of his time at Bethany, the program had built to 35 young people and eight adults who participated in mission trips all over the U.S.
"I would love to see this church get involved in missions. That's where people really discover their faith when they are involved in missions and service projects," he said.
However, at this point, he said, he has no grand plans.
"I just hope to be the best pastor I can be for these wonderful folks."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Would one big move kill Pirates’ future?
- Steelers offensive linemen looking to build on strong 2013 finish
- 2 sentenced for avoiding arrest after Steelers player was stabbed
- Coal, union rallies dot Pittsburgh landscape this week
- Pirates inquire about Red Sox LHP Lester
- 6 cited for trespassing on UPMC property at union rally
- Former walk-ons may lose scholarships under Penn State’s Franklin
- 5 Seconds of Summer announce 2015 tour
- Western Pa. commission pitches $4.7 billion wish list to state
- Rivers Casino sued by family of patron who died in car crash
- Pirates think Mercer’s defense deserves more credit