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As a Christian Education Intern, I was asked to develop a personal project for WPC. After some consideration, I decided to pursue an oral history project. I think this church’s history can best be preserved through the individual histories, memories, and perspectives of its members. In the global church, the PC(USA), and our own WPC, the church is in a moment of transition. We need to look both backwards and forwards in order to understand where we want to go. As I’ve learned through the study of the past, our future is contingent on our present decisions. I hope these interviews inspire dialogue of recollections of the past and opportunities for the future.
Rev. Dr. John Morgan is Pastor and Head of Staff of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church. I would like to thank him for being part of this project.
Can you take me through a quick timeline of your life?
I was born in Louisville, Kentucky while my father was at Louisville Theological Seminary. It was his middle year, so I was born there and lived there for a year until he graduated. Of course, then my life followed my dad’s path, where he had churches in Indiana, NJ, Bucks County, PA. I grew up mainly in Bucks County, PA and I spent most of my high school years there. I went to Grove City College in Western PA, one of our Presbyterian colleges. I enjoyed my time there; that’s where I met my wife, Ellen. We were both in Carousel rehearsals and met backstage. We get engaged my senior year, her junior year. Then I went to Princeton Theological Seminary from there; she joined me there a year later, and we got married. After seminary, my first church was in Caldwell, NJ. I was there for nine years as an associate pastor. My first solo call was in St. Paul Minnesota. I was a solo pastor there for five years with a church with around 300 members or so. I was there for fourteen years before I came here. My daughters were born in New Jersey, Erika and Grace. Erika is now 31 and Grace is 28.
How has life not gone according to plan?
When I was first in high school, I had this feeling that I did not want to go into ministry. I wanted to do anything else but. I had this idea that I wanted to be a pilot. I remember meeting an admiral in our church, and we talked about what I might need to do to get into a navy academy or flight school. I remember in high school my math skills tanked. I barely made it through trigonometry, and algebra was a struggle. I remember thinking, if I can’t do the math, I can’t be a pilot. I was wondering what I would do. I was working part time as a high school student, and I cleaned a factory. Three nights a week, I would clean desks, mop floors, clean toilets; those sorts of things. And it was a lot of alone time. I remember praying out loud and asking, what am I supposed to do with my life. I felt the Lord guiding me into my skill. I’m a good speaker and care for people, so I went to college knowing I wanted to go to seminary.
How would you like to see WPC change or grow?
Part of being a pastor is always thinking about vision and what’s the next thing to do. The third aspect of the welcoming congregations initiative is everyone engaged. The activity level at this church is high, and we have a lot of people with many different gifts. I would like to see more people engaged in ministry, existing or creating ministries of their own. With a large church like ours, there’s a lot of potential for people to do creative things together.
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