ZELIENOPLE — Calvin Presbyterian Church, 415 E. Grandview Ave., is seeking a new pastor for the first time in more than two decades.
The current pastor, the Rev. Graham Standish, is leaving his position to start a new role as the executive director of Samaritan Counseling Center.
“This Sunday is my last Sunday at Calvin Church,” he said. “I first came to the church at the end of January in 1996.”
Previously, Standish had worked as a therapist before becoming a pastor and came to Calvin Presbyterian looking to grow the church with a focus on spiritual growth.
“When I came to Calvin Church 20 years ago, I had a vision to make a church for people who considered themselves to be spiritual but not necessarily religious,” Standish said.
He has seen the church nearly double in size and extend its reach into the community and across the country.
“When I came, it had been declining for about 25 years, but we had great people,” Standish said. “Since then, we’ve doubled in size and have become a multigenerational congregation.”
Standish credits congregants with their passion for the community and desire to help those in need.
“It’s hard for me to praise this church enough,” he said. “It’s a church with a tremendous amount of compassion from a grass-roots level.”
The church’s outreach and focus on spiritual growth eventually drew the attention of evangelical scholars and authors.
“We’ve flown under the radar locally, while having people very aware of us internationally,” he said.
Numerous studies and books have included Calvin Presbyterian including Diana Bass’s “Christianity for the Rest of Us,” a popular book in Christian evangelical circles.
The church has also had visiting doctoral students interested in the members’ mindset and how the congregation has managed to grow at a time when many expect church attendance to be dropping.
“The church itself is an incredibly healthy church,” Standish said. “It’s a church that’s good at reaching people who’ve walked away from the church.”
The decision to step down was not an easy one.
“This is the most difficult decision of my life, easily,” Standish said. “I thought I’d retire from Calvin Church.”
But when the chance to come on as executive director of Samaritan Counseling Center came calling, Standish felt it was time to go.
“I just had the sense of this is what I should do,” he said. “It is an incredibly compassionate center that takes people with or without insurance.”
The center offers group, couples and individual therapy, as well as coaching and spiritual direction.
“Coaching is a growing field,” Standish said.
It’s about taking people who are relatively stable and helping them best navigate life. Spiritual direction is similar but centers more on the religious side of a person.
“It’s a discipline that has been in the church since Jesus’s time,” Standish said.
It primarily helps people connect with God and the ways in which he is working in their lives by helping them open up themselves to spiritual experiences.
“I was trained in it from a spiritual perspective, but I was trained to do it with people from other religious traditions as well,” Standish said.
He has worked with people from many different religions, as well as agnostics.
It also counsels pastors and others involved in ministries in dealing with the psychological and spiritual difficulties they face.
“That name ‘Samaritan’ comes from a story about someone who cares for those not cared for by others,” Standish said. “There aren’t many places I’d have considered going to. Samaritan Counseling Center is one.”
He begins on Nov. 1, after a trip to Israel.