The History of the Dayton Presbyterian Church

In celebration of the church's 150th anniversary,

we are sharing our history in chapters, as written by our late church historian Doris Curran.

Rev. Dr. Kathy Nelson
1985 - 2007
Rev. Wendi L. Werner
2009- Present

Text in blue was written by Doris Curran, our late historian, during the early years of Rev. Nelson's tenure.  Text in black has been written by George Knigge, in conjunction with Rev. Nelson & Rev. Werner.

The Presbytery appointed a part time, interim pastor, Rev. Jeffrey Siker, who, at the time was living in Dayton and was doing advanced studies on his Doctorate to be our new pastor from October 31, 1984 to November 1, 1985.  Rev. Siker kept the church running smoothly while the pastor nominating committee was searching for a new pastor.  He led weekly adult church school classes and taught Bible  study groups as well as singing in the choir.

On November 1, 1985 the Rev. Kathy Nelson was called to be the pastor of our Dayton Church.  She got there by winning the hearts and minds of the congregation.  The Rev. Nelson radiates a genuine warmth that made the decision of the Pulpit Nominating Committee an easy one. She has the personality that will reach out to the community.  Committee Chairman, Herman Von Thun, said, “She’s a lovely person.”

The Rev. Nelson was born in the farming community of Fargo, North Dakota.  She grew up in a religious environment dominated by men.  Pastors were always male, and that seemed the natural order of thing “From childhood, I didn’t see being a pastor as a thing a woman would do.  I had to struggle through the sense that it might not be right for me to accept the call.  I didn’t become a pastor because I thought it ought to be open to women- for me it was the opposite. I’m in the ministry because I feel I have no choice.  I can do no other than serve Jesus Christ.”  She is one of about 1,000 female ministers ordained by the Presbyterian Church now.

Rev. Nelson graduated in 1976 with a B.A. in religion and philosophy from Jamestown College in North Dakota.  Upon graduation she worked at Jamestown for a year, a church relations director.  In 1977, she traveled east and resumed studies at Princeton Theological Seminary where she received her Master in Divinity in 1980.  She also served in Berwyn, Pennsylvania for 3 years as associate minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church.  When she left Berwyn, she took an administrative faculty position at Princeton Theological Seminary where she has been for the last two years before receiving her call to Dayton. Rev. Nelson gave her candidating sermon September 29, 1985 after which the congregation met and decided to call her as minister of our church.  The guest preacher at the installation ceremony which was held November 17, 1985, was the Reverend Dr. Conrad Massa, the Dean of Princeton Theological Seminary.  The service was moderated by the Rev. Suzanne Rudiselle of the Presbytery of New Brunswick. On June 2, 1986 Kathy Nelson graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with a Masters Degree in Clinical Pastoral Theology- a degree for persons in ministry wishing to strengthen their skills in pastoral care and counseling. ..... 

To read for about the history during Kathy Nelson's tenure, click here.

Rev. Susan Reisinger served the church as interim pastor from June 10, 2007 through August 30 of 2009. She led the church through a mission study, a spiritual discernment process which provided the congregation with an opportunity for self-reflection.  Following the study, the church was led to the Rev. Wendi L. Werner as its next pastor.  Rev. Werner was ordained in the PC(USA) in 2006, having completed her Master of Divinity at Drew Theological School.   Prior to Dayton, she had served in large, multi-staff congregations in educational ministries in north-central New Jersey and more locally at the First Presbyterian Church at Dutch Neck in Princeton Junction as Associate Pastor. Rev. Werner offered her candidacy sermon in August of 2009 that included a memorable children’s message which left many with happy, teary eyes. The congregation unquestionably knew she belonged at the Dayton Church. She was installed during an afternoon service in October of 2009. The church was excited to welcome Rev. Werner's entire family into its life, including her husband Noel (Director of Music as Nassau Church), and Sophie and Emily who were ages 6 and 2 when she began.

During the first 10 years of Rev. Werner’s tenure, the church undertook approximately half a million dollars in building expansion, restoration and renovation, without accruing debt.  These projects were made possible through the financial generosity of the congregation, including saints of the church no longer living who contributed to the church through planned, legacy giving. Smaller, but significant projects included the increase of lighting in the sanctuary with installation of new chandeliers which can be mechanically raised and lowered, installation of a commercial grade oven and gas range (made possible with a gift from Harold Errickson), installation of new commercial grade tile flooring in the kitchen, an upgrade of electricity in the kitchen, replacement of all furnaces in the church building, new roofing over fellowship hall and a host of other minor projects......

To read more about the church's history during Wendi Werner's tenure, click here.

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