New pastor settles in at Sewickley Presbyterian

Russ Mowry and wife Jessica pose for a photo inside Sewickley Presbyterian Church Monday, July 1, 2013. Mowry recently was hired as the church's new Associate Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries.
Russ Mowry and wife Jessica pose for a photo inside Sewickley Presbyterian Church Monday, July 1, 2013. Mowry recently was hired as the church's new Associate Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries.
Photo by Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Rev. Russ Mowry's potential as a mathematician just wasn't adding up.

After spending four years earning a bachelor's degree in math from St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, his future plans ended up taking him down a path involving pulpits and pews instead of percentiles and prime numbers.

That road eventually led him to Sewickley Presbyterian Church, where he has worked as the new associate pastor for youth and family ministries for several months.

He replaces the Rev. Scott Hoffman, who accepted a job as senior pastor at Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church in Columbia, Md., after six years here.

Mowry said he had attended church his whole life, and in high school started asking himself, “Why are we here? What's existence?

“And, I began to look for the answers,” said Mowry, 31.

Mowry said he was good at math and figured he study it in college. But, he didn't like it very much.

After college, he found out his passion was in teaching and preaching. He soon accepted a position as youth intern at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin, staying for two years.

But, it wasn't until he went on a mission trip with youth that he realized ministry work was his future.

On the trip to Tijuana, Mexico — where he also got to know Jessica, a church volunteer who would become his wife — participants built seven houses in seven days.

He said he saw the lives of the people there change, and he saw the change in the students as they developed relationships with the people there and learned from them.

After than trip, Mowry earned his master's degree in divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey; worked at a church in Manhattan, N.Y.; and he and Jessica moved to Oakland, Calif., when he ran a ministry at Stanford University, and also helped develop a church there. He also led a youth ministry in Alameda, Calif., while Jessica worked on her medical residency in pediatrics.

Since coming to Sewickley, Mowry, about 30 teens and three other adults recently returned from a week-long mission trip to Sandy Hook, N.J., to help Superstorm Sandy victims.

“That's one of the things I love about this church — it's very ‘missional,'” Mowry said. “They are good at going out to help the community.”

He and Jessica said they are committed to working in the community in which they live to bring people together.

“It's not only serving somewhere for an hour and then coming back. You're working from the inside out instead of the outside in,” he said.

Some of the ways of doing that is by serving Center for Hope in Ambridge — by not only helping at the center, but mentoring some of the kids, inviting them to events and bringing them on mission trips; having a community garden; or offering classes on nutrition and resume-writing at the church, he said.

Mowry, who has worked in churches with memberships from 100 to 5,000, said he couldn't have written a better match for him and his family than Sewickley Presbyterian Church.

Temporary associate pastor Rev. Brenda Barnes said the Mowrys are great additions to the community.

“Their enthusiasm for being here is incredible testimony to how the Lord works,” she said.

The Rev. Kevin Long, senior pastor, agreed.

“We couldn't be more excited to have Russ join our family here. He is an outstanding young man who is not only solid in his faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, he is also passionate about connecting with youth and engaging them in a life of faith,” he said.

Jessica said the church reminds her and her husband of their church in Austin.

“So, we kind of feel like it's home but just in a different part of the country.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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