Getting to Know Our Newest Members Who Came to Us “Retired”
By Sandra Hedrick
Each year we welcome several already retired members into our presbytery family. We would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to four of the most recent ones.
John E. White
John E. White, received into membership on May 17, 2022, moved to our presbytery from Princeton, New Jersey, to be close to family. Quite a few of our presbytery members know him as “Dean White” (including me) because he has served in that capacity at three seminaries: Pittsburgh, Columbia, and Princeton.
A fun fact is that John met his wife Alicia, a lifelong Presbyterian, in 2003 at the General Assembly held in Denver that year. Going back quite a few years before that wonderful event, John first became acquainted with Presbyterians when he attended and then became a summer staff member for ten years at Camp Crestview (now Camp Crestfield) in Slippery Rock, PA. It was the Executive Director of the camp who drove him to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, saying that he should attend and then become a pastor. Though he was determined to find a youth ministry call after graduation, John’s accepted a “short term” stint as interim director of admissions at PTS, which turned into eight years of service there in admissions and student relations.
John has pastored several congregations, including the historic Witherspoon St. Presbyterian Church in Princeton, NJ, one of the oldest African American churches in the PC(USA). Later John returned to seminary leadership in the roles of Vice President and Dean of Students (or Student Life) at Pittsburgh, Columbia, and Princeton (from which he retired).
John has always enjoyed serving the presbyteries where he has resided in many different ways. Now that John has adjusted to retired life, he is excited to have the opportunity to serve here, including some preaching and committee work and wherever else the Spirit may be calling him! He also enjoys enjoys reading, walking and both listening to music and singing.
John F. Kirkham
John F. Kirkham, received in April, 2022, moved from South Florida to the Middleburg area several years ago. Also a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, John served congregations in Ohio and Florida until retirement in 2009. He has also worked in medical vocations in health care institutions and has taught college-level courses in the fields of chemistry and toxicology.
Within a few minutes of getting to know John, you will soon learn of his passion for volunteering at Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center. His primary work there is “hands on” in cleaning, repairing, and building. He also helped with planning and leading the first Gala for the camp. John describes his role at Montgomery this way: “I just try to fit in the cracks wherever I fit.”
John and his wife Esther have two children and six grandchildren. Esther is a musician who has worked with congregations and is still the accompanist for the Jacksonville Masterworks Chorus. They worship at St. Giles Presbyterian Church.
Ann and Larry Graham-Johnson
Ann and Larry Graham-Johnson came to us from the Presbytery of Santa Fe and were received into membership late last year. The couple now share a part-time stated supply call at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church that began in February 2022. In addition to their work with the church, they enjoy new places and adventures, reading, walking in the park where they live, playing with their dog Abbie, making new friends, and discussing the lectionary together.
The daughter of a Presbyterian pastor, Ann was a psychotherapist at an adult day treatment center before she was called to ministry. She then obtained her M. Div. at Columbia Theological Seminary. She has pastored in eleven churches in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, and New Mexico, served as a hospital chaplain, and as Director of Disaster Recovery in Florida following Hurricane Charlie.
Larry grew up in a small town in Maine and became a Presbyterian at a church that shared a pastor with two others. He was drafted at the time of the Vietnam War and served in the Navy for eleven years. Upon his return, operated a medical specialties business for many years and attended the Palms and Springfield Presbyterian Churches in Jacksonville. It was at the Springfield church that he met and married Ann (who was serving as associate pastor at Community PC in Atlantic Beach at that time), became involved in Presbyterian disaster recovery work, and was called to seminary at McCormick. Since graduation, he has served churches in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona and New Mexico. He and Ann will have been married 30 years in June, and have four sons, three daughter-in-laws, and nine grandchildren.
Gratitude, Grace and Gifts
It is always a blessing to welcome an “already retired” teaching elder into presbytery membership. As these men and women share their lives with the Call Commission during their membership interview, we are reminded of the variety and richness of the experiences of a retired minister. Their enthusiasm for continuing to share their gifts stirs up the work of the Spirit in all of us. As Ann Graham-Johnson wrote in her “faith journey,” it was said that the great flutist, Pablo Casals, at the age of 96 had to be helped to the piano every day, where he practiced for hours. When asked why he bothered to do this, he replied, “Because I have something of overriding importance to do.” Ann wrote, “May this always be so for me.” And I add, “may this always be so for each and every one of us.”