FIRST INSTALLED PASTOR IN SEVEN YEARS
The Session of First Presbyterian Church is elated to announce the unanimous vote by the congregation on November 5, 2017 to elect Rev. Dr. Kenneth E. Hughes as the next installed pastor of Buffalo's oldest congregation.
Rev. Dr. Hughes was born on the West Side of Buffalo and spent his teen years in North Buffalo before serving a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy. Rev. Hughes graduated from Buffalo State College and entered graduate school at Niagara University, during which he was offered a position with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This led to a 25-year career with the CIA, serving in Washington, D.C. and a number of foreign locations. He was awarded the CIA Commendation Medal for a specific overseas assignment, and received the CIA Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal upon retiring.
Moving on from intelligence work, Rev. Hughes entered seminary at Yale Divinity School, from which he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree. His first call to a pastorate was at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, VA where he served from 2006-2010. Then he accepted another call as associate pastor of a large urban church, Decatur Presbyterian, near Atlanta. Finally, in 2014, Rev. Hughes returned closer to home to take up a pastorate at First Presbyterian Church of Springville, NY.
During his time in Decatur, Rev. Hughes earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. His doctoral project on poverty earned him the Telford Award at Columbia Seminary for academic work reflecting "exceptional ability for congregational leadership with an emphasis on social justice issues and vision for the Church."
"I believe God has prepared me for a leadership role in a time when the church is troubled by numerical decline and uncertainty about the future. Into this atmosphere I bring a deep and unshaken conﬁdence in the power of worship, teaching, and the presence of God and Christ in the life of the church," Rev. Hughes said.
After a seven-year interim period, the congregants of First Church are eager to welcome Rev. Hughes. The interim process began following the retirement of Rev. Dr. Geri Lyon, the church's first female pastor, in June 2010. Since then two interim pastors shepherded the congregants. Rev. Dr. Philip S. Gittings served from November 2010 until his unexpected death in February 2016. Rev. Gittings helped the church leadership make great strides in stabilizing finances pertaining to the large, aging building. Since August 2016, Rev. Elena Delgado, trained in transitional ministry, has continued the interim process and helped the congregation grieve and heal after Rev. Gittings' death. She will serve out her pastorate through Advent and into the new year; her last Sunday will be January 7, 2018. Rev. Hughes' first day in the pulpit will be January 14, 2018.
Presbyterian polity differentiates interim and installed pastors. Interim ministers are contracted by the Session (a church's governing board) for a fixed period of time, with the goal to successfully lead the congregation from one installed pastorate to the next. An installed pastor is elected by the active membership of the congregation and the period is typically indefinite.
First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo is the oldest congregation in Buffalo, founded on February 2, 1812. It is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbytery of Western New York. The congregation consists of approximately 200 members. The church's architecturally significant building on Symphony Circle features Tiffany-designed stained glass windows and two impressive pipe organs. Creative use of space within the large structure has allowed the church to continue its long-standing history of serving refugee and immigrant populations through rentals to seven tenants, including Houghton College Buffalo. The distinctive 168-foot tall tower stands as a beacon of hope on the West Side of the city.