BY PATRICK LEONARD
Wyoming County Press Examiner
In retirement, people are often encouraged to find something that they love to do.
For Rev. Richard Wright, what he loves is the vocation he has been practicing for more than 50 years.
Wright is an ordained Presbyterian minister. Since his retirement in 2000, he has remained active in the Christian faith he loves, ministering and preaching at roughly 30 churches in the last 12 years.
On April 1 of this year he began serving the parishioners of the Tunkhannock Presbyterian Church on West Tioga St.
Due to certain financial restrictions, the church is not in a position to hire a full-time pastor. However, Wright is more than happy to serve in the interim.
“This is a wonderful church,” Wright said recently from his church office. “We have approximately 75 members. On most Sundays we have between 35 and 45 people in the church.”
Even though this is only a temporary, part-time assignment, Wright is not relaxing in his duties to his church.
“There are always challenges in every assignment, and I still have goals,” Wright said. “Mainly I want to strengthen the identity of our church. We are adding a new hymnal and this Sunday (July 22) we are celebrating our 178th anniversary.”
It is a tribute to Wright’s faith that he still has a passion for ministering to people after so many years of service to his church.
A native of Bethlehem, Wright is a 1953 graduate of Bethlehem High School.
He attended Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem and was ordained as a minster at the New Philadelphia Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1960, the same year he married his wife Barbara.
He served in Winston-Salem for a year-and-a-half before starting a Clinical Pastoral Education program in Rochester, Minn., where he ministered to patients at the Mayo Clinic.
After serving Moravian churches for 10 years, Wright transferred to the Presbyterian Church USA.
“There weren’t enough openings in the Moravian Church and I just needed a different challenge,” Wright said.
Wright does admit that all the moving that goes with being a minster is a difficult part of the lifestyle.
“It is very hard to leave your congregation,” Wright said. “Plus it was hard on my family. Altogether we moved nine times in 40 years. I remember once when we moved, my oldest daughter Donna had to leave behind her best friend. She was in first grade.”
Fortunately for Wright and his family he was appointed pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Blairstown, N.J., in 1972, where he stayed for 16 years. It was in Blairstown where his children grew up.
Wright completed his active ministry in Pennsylvania, and he and Barbara retired to Susquehanna County near the village of Jackson. The couple has four grown children along with eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Wright said that he does not know how long he will continue serving at the Tunkhannock Church. He noted that the drive from his home to church is 38 miles and there were concerns about what it might be like in inclement weather.
For now, however, Wright is excited to be leading the congregation every Sunday morning.
“My favorite thing about this ministry is preparing for Sunday worship,” Wright said, his voicing raising a few decibels with excitement. “I act as the leader of the congregation. I pick out all the hymns and scripture readings for the services so things tie together thematically.
“The purpose of a congregation is to gather together for worship,” Wright explained. “Our understanding of Scripture is to hear God’s word and respond. It is not about feeling good; it is a calling. I feel a sense of God calling me to this work.”
It is the work that Wright has been doing for his entire adult life. Luckily for the members of Tunkhannock Presbyterian, he is not ready to stop doing what he loves just yet.