Reunion Presbyterian Church welcomes new pastor
By A.J. Panian
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Reunion Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant recently welcomed a new pastor — the Rev. Sue Washburn.
Washburn, a Delmont native who prefers the title of “Pastor Sue”, aims to contribute a wealth of Biblical insight to connect with the church's members and benefit their lives, she said.
“(Reunion Presbyterian) has a terrific group of people, very loving and caring, and I'm excited to be part of their ministry,” Washburn said.
The pulpit at Reunion Presbyterian Church — part of the Redstone Presbytery — became vacant at the end of June when the church's lay pastor, the Rev. Paul Rankin, left to attend the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.
Rankin decided to follow a calling of God to attend the seminary school, said Liz Montgomery, a church elder who is also clerk of session, the church's governing body.
“Reunion is a small congregation of 62 friendly, caring members that can only afford a part-time minister,” she said.
Washburn's first Sunday at Reunion was Oct. 6, Montgomery said.
“Jesus told a parable that states, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it,” Montgomery said.
“Susan is one of those fine rare pearls who God so graciously sent to His congregation at Reunion, and she and her family have truly become part of our church family,” she said.
In 2012, Washburn graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where she earned a Master of Divinity degree.
She was ordained as a minister of the word and sacrament (Teaching Elder) on Sept. 29 of this year at her home church, Poke Run Presbyterian Church.
Washburn — a 1985 Greensburg-Salem High School graduate — also earned a degree in communications in 1989 from the University of Pittsburgh, and she has conducted freelance writing for Christian publications.
She also possesses what she considers to be a valuable sense of familiarity to the ever-evolving technologies of social media.
Such knowledge is typified by Washburn's friendship with the Rev. Jafali Asidi, who serves with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian — Blantyre Synod — in the southern region of the Republic of Malawi, a landlocked country in the continent's southeastern area.
Last fall, Asidi visited America as part of the Presbyterian Church's worldwide network, and he stayed with Washburn and her family during that time, while she was serving as a pastoral assistant at McKeesport Presbyterian Church.
Though Asidi and his fellow Malawians only have use of electricity for roughly two hours daily, Facebook allows Washburn to maintain regular contact with him, she said.
“One of the things I hope to do is bring skills as communicator not only to Mt. Pleasant, but to reach all of Presbyterian Church (USA),” Washburn said. “We need to be using the latest tools, the latest language, even, to reach out to our community.”
To earn a Master of Divinity degree, Washburn devoted 300 hours as chaplain in the ward for patients suffering from cancer at UPMC Presbyterian in Shadyside.
“That allowed me to see God at work in a large number of people, and it also showed me how interconnected our well-being is to our spiritual, emotional and our relational selves,” she said.
Washburn also points to her family lineage in church leadership, as both of her great-grandfathers, Percy Burtt and Oakley Washburn, were pastors, and her grandmother, Jane Washburn, was a huge influence and a member of session at Delmont Presbyterian Church.
Jim Moon, who serves on Reunion Presbyterian's pulpit committee, affirmed that one thing that made Washburn stand out was her skill at communicating her faith and her vision for the future of the church and Presbyterian Church USA.
“I think we're very fortunate to have her, I think we're looking forward to working with her and seeing what direction the church takes with her,” Moon said.
Washburn is married to Matthew Thornton, and the couple has two daughters: Sarah, 18; and Abigail, 15.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or email@example.com.
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