Photo courtesy of Rev. Steve Werth
Rev. Steve Werth with his wife, Rev. Caitlin Werth, and two children.
By Alyse Horn
Celebrating the New Year means a fresh start, which is what Riverview United Presbyterian Church, 3505 Perrysville Avenue, got on January 2.
The Rev. Steve Werth took over as Reverend at the beginning of the year, and said he loves his new job.
“It’s an awesome congregation and an awesome community,” Werth said. “I’m really excited at the way Riverview is such a vital part of doing the work that needs [to be] done, and [they show] joy in all that they do.”
Werth said that looking for an open position with a congregation is a mutual search process, because both parties are looking for the right fit. When Werth saw Riverview United Presbyterian Church had an opening, he said it struck him as being a wonderful place to work because the church is “dedicated to serving God and people regardless of whom they are.”
With a grandfather who was a minister and a father who was an elder in a church, it would seem that Werth was destined to become involved with a church himself. On the contrary, Werth left his Presbyterian church around the age of 14 with no intention of going back.
“There was a catalyst moment when I said it wasn’t right for me,” Werth said. “My parents were brilliant, because they said ‘That’s okay, but you don’t have the option of doing or being nothing. While we’re in church, here are some books on comparative religions.’”
Werth started studying world religions, and by 16 he said he was really involved in social action groups in Toledo, Ohio, where Werth is from.
By the age of 18, Werth said he had gotten a feeling that God was leading him to do more.
“[That was the moment] I really realized the presence of God all around us.” Werth said. “It was transformative, and started me on the path toward ministry.”
Over the next few years, he became an elder at a Presbyterian church and wrote worship music, but still felt like God was leading him down a greater path.
“I really started to love the richness and beauty of the Presbyterian tradition, as well as the diversity of ways that it can be expressed,” Werth said.
Werth studied social work at Eastern Michigan University and ended up getting a position doing community mental health work, which Werth said was great because “I could help people in so many ways… but at the same time there was just this limitation.”
Werth said that he wasn’t able to help people with their spiritual needs, and that is what drove him to pursue a life spreading God’s word. Werth then attended graduate school at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and received his Master of Divinity and a Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry. He also served on two congregations in Ford City before coming to Pittsburgh to pursue his calling.
Matthew D. Gailey, vice president of the session at Riverview United Presbyterian Church, said Werth provides the energy and enthusiasm that the church needed.
“[Werth] is positive, uplifting, and makes the scriptures relatable to people’s lives,” Gailey said.
Werth said what makes the congregation at Riverview distinguishable is that it is made up of “people from all walks of life, race, disability and age. It’s beautiful; all of the things that [usually] divide us don’t divide us here.”
Everyone is welcome to attend Sunday service at Riverview United Presbyterian Church, and they are encouraged to help the church with its thrift store that is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, as well as the food bank it runs on Tuesdays. Werth said Tuesday’s are the busiest days of the week, when the thrift store and food bank are open at the same time.
Werth also take the time to visit the Allegheny County Jail to work on spiritual development with prisoners, which is one of the beat rewards for Werth.
“Working with those people… you see them in a moment in their life when everything is coming apart and sometimes people are really languishing in those moments,” Werth said. “There is this reality that we are never separated from the love of God, and I always stress that we all fall short at times, but we are all still called to live and work together.”
Werth said anyone who would like to meet him is more than welcome to visit him at the church or give him a call at (412) 321-7300.