Veteran Pastor Supplies Pulpit at Historic Church in Time of Transition

Atlanta, GA (August 23, 1998)-The preacher mounted the pulpit for the Sunday evening worship service. Behind him, high above the choir loft, is a stained glass portrayal of Christ.

The place is historic Westminster Presbyterian Church, where Peter Marshall was pastor before his tenure as Chaplain of the U. S. Senate. Founded in 1901, Westminster is located in an opulent area, and is home to many significant people. Among its elders is John White, member of the denominational Standing Judicial Commission and Moderator of the 1989 Assembly. Westminster Church was the site for the Convocation of Sessions in May 1973 and the momentous vote which led to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America; the twenty-fifth anniversary of that event was commemorated on June 7th with a special service featuring RE Jack Williamson, first Moderator of the PCA General Assembly, and Rev. Kennedy Smartt, who would be elected Moderator of this year's Assembly just a few weeks later.

For six years, Oliver Claasen had ministered the Word here. His recent resignation has left the pulpit vacant. For the last several weeks, retired PCA minister Todd Allen has been filling the pulpit, while the congregation searches for a new pastor.

During his tenure, Mr. Claasen had steadfastly advocated the Reformed faith. Reflecting his passion for missions and evangelism, several people from a variety of backgrounds-Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish-recently professed faith and joined the congregation.

Mr. Claasen's ministry had been characterized by exegetical sermons. A recent series featured an exposition of the Book of Revelation.

Mr. Allen's approach is the same. At this evening service, he expounds, verse by verse, Psalm 3.

The sermon is preceded by the public reading of the Word. The veteran pastor is careful to read the title of the psalm, and the "Selah's," as they also are part of the inspired account.

"Life is full of trouble," declares the preacher. "David had many, many troubles. . . . And so the sparks fly upward for David."

Mr. Allen notes that "the sins of public figures will be found out"; and recalls David's infamous sin with regard to Bathsheba and Uriah. He reminds the congregation: "There's a law of retribution in the universe. We never get by with anything."

But David's repentance and reconciliation with God means that he "could sleep at night." And his prayer for the Lord to "arise" and to "smite all my enemies upon the cheek bone" and to "break the teeth of the ungodly" was not only appropriate for King David; it is "a prayer you can use, if you're standing with the Lord."

Several dozen, casually attired, attended the vesper service in the classic sanctuary. The songs offered were "For God So Loved the World"; "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder"; "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"; and "All to Jesus I Surrender"-favorites of "traditional" Southern Presbyterians, sung to the accompaniment of a piano.