A newsmaker you should know: Minister honored for his work with older adults

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The Rev. Richard Morgan tells a good story.

A conversation with him is peppered with anecdotes about his experiences, and he brings his characters to life in such a way that it is no surprise he is the author of 15 books

A Presbyterian minister, he writes books about older adults and spirituality.

Rev. Morgan, 84, of North Huntingdon, has worked in the field of older adult ministry for more than 30 years. In recognition of his contributions, he was honored this month with the Legacy Achievement Award from the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network at its annual conference in Atlanta.

He was selected for the award for his ongoing contributions to the field of older adult ministry, said Jan McGilliard, network board member.

"The award is given to someone who has made significant contributions in this area and he exemplifies this. After all, he writes a book a year on the subject," Ms. McGilliard said.

Rev. Morgan recognized the needs of his senior congregation and expanded his ministry to include other seniors as well, Ms. McGilliard said.

"I'm not sure anyone has been as productive as him when it comes to older adult ministry," she said.

Although his grandfather and father were ministers, Rev. Morgan didn't think he would follow their path. After he graduated from high school at 16, he worked for a year in the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia and as a part-time sports writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He had planned to become a sports writer and majored in history at Davidson College with plans to continue his studies at Vanderbilt University to get a journalism degree.

"But it was expected that the oldest son in a British family would follow his father's career path. My grandfather, G. Campbell Morgan, was a well-known minister in England, and my father was a minister, so they expected me to be one," Rev. Morgan said.

After graduating from college, he worked as a sports writer for a year before going back to school at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Virginia.

"I was a pastor, then I taught. I really loved teaching and still get nostalgic when I think of those days," he said.

Rev. Morgan was a professor of religion at Peace College in Raleigh, N.C., and at Presbyterian College in South Carolina; professor of psychology at Mitchell Community College in North Carolina; director of counseling at Western Piedmont Community College, also in North Carolina; and a pastoral counselor. His last pastoral position was in 1981 at a small Presbyterian church in Lenoir, N.C.

"I was looking out over my congregation and realized the majority was [older than ] 70," he recalled.

In fact, 80 percent of his congregation consisted of seniors, yet they wanted a creative, innovative ministry.

"We began the 'Young at Hearts' ministry with opportunities for fellowship and service to the community," he said.

The ministry soon outgrew the church, and under Rev. Morgan's leadership, the Caldwell County Senior Center was built. In 1986, Rev. Morgan was recognized as Lenoir's Man of the Year for his contributions.

"That started my ministry with older adults, and I have been at it ever since," he said.

Rev. Morgan began working with the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network as the volunteer editor of its newsletter and as a leader of workshops on "Aging as a Spiritual Journey."

In 1991, the first of his 15 books was published. His latest book, co-authored with Jane Marie Thibault, a gerontology specialist, is "Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life" (2012; Upper Room Books).

"I have one last book that I am writing, 'When Death is Near: Conversations with the Dying,' " Rev. Morgan said.

He continues to serve older adults by volunteering with a local hospice and he writes a blog called "View from 90."

"It is a good way to continue my ministry. I can't imagine ever stopping," he said. "I don't call it retiring, I call it refiring."

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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