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PROMINENT guest Pastors & composer coming to wpc

Eminent pastors from around the country will be featured speakers at WPC during the sabbatical of Senior Pastor Dr. Julia Wharff Piermont.

“Many congregations have discovered that sabbatical best practices include adding special activities for the congregation while the pastor is away,” Piermont said. “In this way the sabbatical is a time of heightened inspiration for both pastor and congregation.”

Beyond serving the congregation, the lineup gives the larger community an opportunity to hear these notable pastors in person. Anyone unable to attend in person may watch a livestream of the 10am worship service on the church’s YouTube channel. Worship service videos also are archived for on-demand viewing.

Rev. Dr. Linda A. Mercadante
May 15

Craig Courtney
May 22

Rev. Reginald “Reggie” Tuggle
June 5

Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes
June 26

Rev. Gregory G. Gibson
July 3

Rev. Dr. Richard B. Culp
July 17

May 15: Rev. Dr. Linda A. Mercadante

Dr. Linda A. Mercadante’s work focuses on the intersection of theology and culture. The author of five books and more than 100 articles, Mercadante explores themes including addiction recovery, faith and film, trauma, and the “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) movement.

Her book, “Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious,” has been featured on NBC’s The Today Show, in The New York Times, and in many other media outlets. The book was selected as among “The Best of the Best Spiritual Books of the Year” by Spirituality & Practice. She is a distinguished research professor, emerita, at Methodist Theological School in Ohio and an ordained Presbyterian minister. She earned a Ph.D. in theology from Princeton.

Mercadante lectures internationally and conducts seminars for a wide variety of audiences. Her spiritual autobiography, “Bloomfield Avenue: A Jewish-Catholic Jersey Girl's Spiritual Journey,” describes her religious journey from hybrid to atheist to SBNR to Christian theologian. She was named a Luce Scholar for her work examining the beliefs and practices of today’s SBNRs. She’s a former recipient of the coveted Henry Luce III Fellowship in Theology, awarded annually to only six scholars across the United States and Canada.

Mercandante will also teach a four-part series called The History of Religion and Politics in America that starts May 8 at 9am in Room 222 and on Zoom. 

May 22: Craig Courtney, Composer

A native of Indiana, Craig Courtney began playing the piano at the age of three and the cello at the age of eleven. He received a Bachelors and a Masters degree in piano performance at the University of Cincinnati, studying piano under Raymond Dudley and chamber music under Walter Levin of the LaSalle Quartet. During that time, he was a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda Honorary Music Society. Following a three-year stay in Milan, Italy, he was invited to join the music faculty of the famed Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, serving as piano teacher and accompanist for the woodwind and brass department.

It was during this six-year period, while serving in the music ministry of the Salzburg International Baptist Church, that Mr. Courtney began directing a church choir and composing sacred choral music, due to the unavailability of English language music. In 1985, his compositions came to the attention of John Ness Beck, through the publication of his octavo, Thy Will Be Done, initiating a close working relationship between the two men which continued until Mr. Beck’s death in 1987. In making plans for the ongoing of Beckenhorst Press, Mr. Beck appointed Craig Courtney to assume his responsibilities as staff composer and editor. At this point in time, Mr. Courtney’s published works include more than two hundred choral octavos, nine vocal collections, a piano solo collection and six extended works for choir and orchestra.

Compositionally, Mr. Courtney combines his training and background as a pianist, a cellist, a vocal coach, an accompanist and a choral director to create words that bear his unique style. He has been a frequent recipient of ASCAP achievement awards and his composition, Peace I Give to You, was awarded 1st place in the 2003 John Ness Beck Foundation competition. In demand throughout the country as a choral clinician and featured composer, Craig Courtney now resides in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, Susan.
Learn about the Craig Courtney Choral Celebration on Sunday May 22.

June 5: Rev. Reginald “Reggie” Tuggle

The Rev. Reginald “Reggie” Tuggle led the 40-member Memorial Presbyterian Church near New York City to grow into the largest African-American Presbyterian congregation in New York state, with more than 1,000 members. During his 38 years as pastor at the Roosevelt church, Tuggle supplemented his living with outside work, including 13 years as director of public affairs at Newsday and 15 years as vice president for marketing and communications for Nassau Community College. He is the author of the 2021 memoir, “A Journey Through Grace.”

During Tuggle’s time as pastor, Memorial Presbyterian founded and operated Memorial Economic Development Corp. and in 2000 opened the Roosevelt Children’s Academy, a charter school that today has more than 700 students.
Tuggle, a Denver native, earned a bachelor's degree from Bishop College, a master’s in divinity from Union Theological Seminary and did three years of post-graduate work at Yale University. He has held many positions on county and municipal boards and served as executive director of the Urban League of Long Island.

In addition to working as a consultant and life coach, Tuggle currently serves as interim pastor at Grier Heights Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. In 2019, with a Presbyterian pastor and a rabbi, he co-founded an organization called Restorative Justice to help Charlotte reduce gaps in opportunity and wealth stemming from a long history of discrimination and other injustices.
Join us for An Evening of Breaking Bread and Building Relationships
Bethany Presbyterian Church + Ramseyer Presbyterian Church + Worthington Presbyterian Church 
Saturday, June 4 at 6pm

June 26: Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes

Dr. M. Craig Barnes has served since 2013 as the seventh president of Princeton Theological Seminary. Before taking the position, Barnes was a chaired professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary while also serving as the pastor and head of staff of Shadyside Presbyterian Church. He previously served pastorates in Madison, Wisconsin, and at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. He is a frequent lecturer and preacher at conferences, academic gatherings and in congregations across the country.

The author of nine books, Barnes focuses on his deep commitment to the theological formation of pastors to lead the church in changing times. His publications include “Diary of a Pastor's Soul,” “The Pastor as Minor Poet,” “Searching for Home,” “Hustling God,” and “When God Interrupts.”

Barnes earned his master of divinity degree from Princeton Seminary in 1981 and his Ph.D. in church history from the University of Chicago in 1992.
Dr. Barnes will be teaching our Adult Education class in the Chapel.
 Join us as a beloved pastor, professor, and seminary president leads us in Bible study and conversation.

July 3: Rev. Gregory G. Gibson

While working as a pastor in Franklin, Rev. Gregory G. Gibson earned a law degree from the University of Dayton Law School. His work as a civil litigator trial attorney eventually occupied the larger share of his working life, but Gibson continued in active ministry – often in shorter-term pastoral positions, as well as in roles that melded his two calls. For instance, he served as legal counsel the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), as well as on the denomination’s Advisory Council on Church and Society.

A native of Westchester County in New York, Gibson has been a Presbyterian minister since his 1973 graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary. For more than a dozen years, he was a parish associate at College Hill Community Presbyterian Church in Dayton. In the 1960s, that church chose to become the first intentionally multicultural congregation in the denomination.

Upon retirement from his law practice, Gibson jumped back into full-time pastoral ministry, serving as interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Middletown, Ohio, for nearly two years. This tenure was followed a call to Dallas, Texas, to serve as interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church, one of the flagship congregations of Grace Presbytery.

In addition to his work in ministry and law, Gibson was an adjunct professor of law and medicine at the University of Dayton, where he continues to teach classes in wide-ranging subjects such as “Greatest Speeches in American History” to “Historical American Art.” He is an accomplished painter of landscapes and portraits, frequently receiving commissions for official portraits for U.S. and state judges.

July 17: Rev. Dr. Richard B. Culp

The son of a distinguished professor of theater, Dr. Richard B. Culp pretty much grew up on the stage. That experience later shaped his preaching prowess, incorporating a variety of approaches to lifting up the gospel from the pulpit. He has never moved far from his early theatrical leanings, writing and performing in liturgical comedy and drama, as well as lecturing on the connection between theater and theology.

In 2016, Culp was called as senior pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Denton, Texas – his childhood church home. Previously, he served as pastor for Presbyterian congregations in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, and in Troy.
A former NCAA soccer player, Culp continues his connection to that sport as a referee.

Culp graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and received a master’s of divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where he was awarded the Charles L. King Preaching award. In addition, he received the WP Newell Fellowship for continued studies, which he used to earn a doctor of ministry degree, also at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Culp has served as president of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Alumni Association Board and has been active in each of the presbyteries of his calls, serving in various leadership positions, including moderator and president of the trustees. He also has been a commissioner to two General Assemblies and has served various community organizations in Kentucky, Ohio and Texas.