For the past 30 years, the Rev. Marion "Marnie" Silbert has served as assistant pastor of Newlonsburg Presbyterian Church in Murrysville, making her the longest serving pastor in the church's 135-year history.
Along the way she has been instrumental in forming a vacation Bible school, art camp, lay ministry and program for mothers of preschoolers.
To honor her achievements, the church hosted a worship service and dinner in her honor Oct.28. During the service Rev. Silbert reaffirmed her ordination vows.
Rev. Silbert was ordained at the Sewickley Presbyterian Church on Nov. 14, 1982, and became assistant pastor at Newlonsburg on Nov. 28 that same year.
"Over the years, I've served with three [heads of staff, or pastors,] and two interim heads of staff, and they all had very different personalities," she said.
One of her first major accomplishments was the formation in 1983 of Trekkers, a vacation Bible school for sixth- and seventh-graders that begins each day with worship followed by an adventure trek that's connected to the Bible story of the day.
She also inaugurated the Stephen Ministry, a system for training lay people to provide one-on-one Christian care to people hurting from divorce or separation from loved ones. She also added the program Children and Worship, a way of providing young children between the ages of 4 and 8 with a worship service using a Montessori-based philosophy.
She mentored six members of the congregation, five women -- Dana Gold, Terry Hanna, Pat Frick, Norma Murphy and Norie Erickson -- along with Stacey Steck, who went on to become Presbyterian ministers.
To help stay-at-home mothers of preschoolers by providing a place where they can find friendship, community, resources and support, she introduced Mothers of Preschoolers -- called MOPS -- at the church.
Art Camp, another of her innovations, is a weeklong summer program for older elementary students.
Last year, students created a mural based on Claude Monet's "Water Lilies," which was exhibited at the church for a month.
Her latest project, the Music Academy, got its start when a number of music teachers in the area had no central place to teach. The academy now holds lessons in the Sunday school classrooms and has grown to nine teachers and more than 100 students..
"My mind is always thinking of the next thing to hatch, but there's nothing on the horizon at the moment," Rev. Silbert said. "However, I always have my ear to the ground to see what might be beneficial to the congregation and the community."
Once a week, she leads the 700-member congregation's worship service and preaches once a month.
She's also served the church on the regional level as member and chair of the Committee for the Preparation for the Ministry.
On the national level, she's graded exams given to ministerial candidates.
In January, she's going to serve on the general council of the Presbytery, an elected position that coordinates the mission of the presbytery on behalf of the entire body. She's also a member of the staff support task force, a position she will carry over into 2013.
"I continue to enjoy my ministry at Newlonsburg because of the transient nature of the congregation, which creates a continual freshness to my work," she said. "Despite the warts and bumps, I feel the congregation really seeks to be the Church of Jesus Christ, and it's a privilege to minister to them."
Newlonsburg member Suzanne Billings has worked with Rev. Silbert on many projects.
"She has a way of presenting the Word in new and thought provoking ways, whether it be a sermon, an adult education bible study, an eighth-grade confirmation class, or a kindergarten Sunday school lesson.
"She encourages church members to grow in their faith and become active participants in the life of the church.
"We have all been blessed by her faithful, dedicated ministry and look forward to more."
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: email@example.com