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Long road leads Edgeworth woman to post at Westmoreland County church

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Rev. Becky Cartus of Edgeworth never could have guessed “in a million years,” where her dreams would lead her.

On the “pastoral path” for some time, Cartus, 56, said there was a time when she thought she would never reach her goals.

After earning her master of divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2006, Cartus had been unable to attain certification as a Presbyterian minister after numerous attempts over several years.

Now at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Smithton in Westmoreland County, Cartus said she believes God's plan for her all along was for her to work with a small congregation consisting of mostly members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and questioning (LGBTQ) population.

“They needed pastoral care, spiritual direction and outreach,” she said.

But, she said, she had to travel a long road before finding her calling.

A public school teacher and Christian educator for more than 20 years, Cartus said she reluctantly decided to put her ordination dream aside after she could not get certified.

With encouragement from her husband, John, and their two grown daughters, she began to seek other ways to serve.

In 2011, she and the Rev. Walt Pietschmann of Sewickley started the weekly Eighth Day Feast program formerly held in St. Andrews Church in Sewickley.

The event, for which she and Peitschmann hope to find another location soon, featured dinner, a mini-service, a theme, meditation and sharing.

At around that same time, Cartus began speaking periodically at Smithton, where a seminary friend was working as a part-time preacher. When he left, she began to get more involved.

In June this year, her dream came true.

A member of Association of Pittsburgh Priests, Call to Action — PA and Westmoreland County LGBTQ Interfaith Network, Cartus was ordained at St. Andrews Church through the Federation of Christian Ministries as a non-denominational minister.

She now serves Smithton as a stated supply minister, which means she will be employed for a certain period at time, and then members will determine if she will continue, she said.

After conducting lectures this year about social justice issues, she challenged the small congregation to choose a focus.

“We found that equality is the issue that all the other issues were tied into. We want to take a stand on equality for everyone whether you're gay, lesbian, straight, rich or poor, black or white or a woman or man. We want to get our voices heard out there,even though it is very conservative neighborhood,” she said.

Cartus has prepared another series of monthly service lectures, titled “Rainbow Rising: Riding the Wave of Equality,” to begin on Sunday and end in June 2014. Presentations will include a mix of lay-led, speaker-led and minister-led services.

Cartus plans to work with California University of Pennsylvania to broadcast the services on its television and radio stations, and she has written an essay about the series for several LGBQT-based magazines.

“We are so thrilled to have Becky with us,” said Patty Verostko, who with her husband belongs to the church. “She is just such a dynamo. She is so excited, and we are excited to have her. Her enthusiasm and motivation are contagious.”

Cartus said she loves working at the church.

“These are lovely people. They have a right to have faith, pastoral direction and someone to love them. We are all God's children,” she said.

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

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