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First Presbyterian in Jeannette awaits a new pastor

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 8:58 p.m.
Maria Tyger | The Jeannette Spirit
The Rev. John Rickloff is interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Jeannette.

The Rev. John Rickloff has been the interim pastor of the First Presbyterian Church for almost two years, but possibly, by the beginning of 2014, he can begin to enjoy a much-earned and anticipated retirement.

Enjoying his dual-profession as a licensed social worker in Pennsylvania as well as earning a degree from the Pittsburgh Theological Society, Rickloff has found the ability to not only cross psychological and theological lines, but denominational lines, as well.

He's been a pastor for 23 years in the Pittsburgh area with several Presbyterian churches, as well as serving as a youth minister.

After he felt the calling to ministry in high school, he enrolled in classes at Grove City College because it offered a pre-theological major. From there, he entered Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and then earned a master's degree in social work through the University of Pittsburgh.

The techniques he learned, both in his theological and counseling studies, assists him in multiple ways; he is able to reach through denominational lines as well as work in a faith-based contact telephone ministry that offered crisis intervention mental health services.

This independent, nonprofit, ecumenical service relied upon volunteers from across Christian faiths. He's also served as the Pastoral Care Director at Southwood Psychiatric Hospital.

He describes himself as “always a minister,” with training in the professional field.

His knowledge of systems therapy — a type of therapy that recognizes individuals not as islands unto themselves, but as people in relationships, such as families and members of larger, important groups — is a means to reach out to those who do not share in the Presbyterian faith.

He became an associate member of the Sisters of Mercy, a Roman Catholic community of women who vow to serve those who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education. As an associate member, he was named the spiritual director of hospice.

He and his wife, Gretchen, were married on Aug. 16, 1969.

“The day of Woodstock and John and Gretchen got married,” he said, with a laugh.

Gretchen Rickloff is a retired teacher and they share two daughters.

Heidi is 40 years old and is a teacher in the Shaler School District.

Sarah, 36, works in the marketing department for American Eagle Outfitters.

The Rickloffs have two grandchildren who are entering kindergarten and second grades.

While Rickloff fulfills his pastoral duties and awaits his retirement, his congregation is busy with the search for a new leader. An elected committee of 10, which includes two elders and a deacon specific to the Jeannette Presbyterian Church, are engaging in interviews with potential new pastors, some of whom are flown in from other states.

After the initial meeting with the committee of 10, the candidate is introduced to the church during a Sunday service with his or her family. After this introduction, the entire congregation votes. If the vote is less than 90 percent in agreement, the search continues. If it is more than 90 percent, the Presbytery is phoned and the candidate is accepted.

The congregation is not alone in independent in this search either; the Presbytery has established support by representatives available for consultation either over the phone or in person.

In the meantime, Rickloff stresses the need for people of all faiths to “make Sabbath time.” When the Sabbath was established, it meant to stop working. Even though ministers work on Sundays, everyone “needs to set time aside. Turn off your phones and the internet, and stop working,” he said.

If anyone would like to enjoy Sunday, to rest and make Sabbath time holy again, join the First Presbyterian Church during times of worship.

Sunday school begins at 9:30 a.m. and Sunday worship begins at 10:45. Fridays are dedicated to AA.and Al-Anon meetings at 8 p.m.

As many Jeannette residents know, the preschool, headed by Jackie Oskin, is open in the church basement.

Come and see how celebrating the Sabbath at the First Presbyterian Church, on Fourth Street in Jeannette, can make a difference in the oncoming week.

Maria Tyger is a contributing writer.