Photo credit—Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
THE FAITHFUL MINISTRY OF REV. DR. MARY KITCHEN
By Kerry Michelle Dowdy
Elder/Children’s Ministry, East Butler Presbyterian Church
M.Div. Student, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Posted July 28, 2021
Rev. Dr. Mary Kitchen is a pastor, counselor, leader, mentor, and friend. She preached one of her favorite Bible Scriptures of Mary Magdalene from John 20 shortly before her retirement from East/North Butler Presbyterian Churches. In verses 16-18 we hear: “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (Which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” Rev. Mary marveled at how a woman was the first to proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ is alive! These verses inspired her to become a pastor. The March 26, 2019, Beaver-Butler Presbyterian meeting packet acknowledged that Rev. Mary “was one of the first women to be ordained as a solo pastor by Redstone Presbytery.”
In 40 years of faithful ministry, Rev. Dr. Mary Kitchen has many accomplishments that glorified God. She revealed to The Butler Eagle newspaper that she discovered Jesus was real in her 20s and became involved with a small church in Pittsburgh. God was nudging her and calling her to be a pastor, which led her to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. She earned her Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1980 and was ordained by Redstone Presbytery on December 7, 1980.
She returned to college at Loyola University in Maryland to learn pastoral counseling after her first church call. She was installed as pastor at the yoked churches of East and North Butler Presbyterian Churches on November 3, 1991. She returned to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary to complete her Doctor of Ministry in 2003.
Rev. Mary poses with members of East Butler Church during her retirement party.
She has served on Beaver-Butler Presbytery committees including the Collaboration, Fellowship and Youth Unit and the Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery. She served as Beaver-Butler Presbytery’s moderator in 2016. She was an integral part of the Walk to Emmaus weekend spiritual retreat program as a leader and pastor. This is where she met Allen whom she married in 2008 at North Butler with the reception at East Butler. She describes Allen as her co-pastor and that they are a team. Her children, Bren and Joanna, have grown up in the church and become delightful adults.
Members of North Butler Church celebrated Rev. Mary’s ministry at her retirement party.
Rev. Mary loves music just about as much as she loves God. She plays guitar, violin, and viola often times during worship with her husband who is the music director. Allen plays several music instruments as well. Vacation Bible School for the children is filled with music as Rev. Mary and Allen teach them songs: Jesus Loves Me and This Little Light of Mine. Both Mary and Allen brought the ‘bluegrass jam’ to East Butler Presbyterian that occurs on the first Sunday evening of the month. Several musicians of varying skill levels and from various places come together to play. Those of us that are not gifted with music come to listen and sing along. Every jam is concluded with the hymn Amazing Grace. Rev. Mary plays the violin in the A.C.T.S. (Acquiring Christ Through Song) orchestra that has concerts a few times a year.
Mary and Allen brought the joy of music to their ministry.
Photo credit—Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
East Butler Presbyterian Church annually has a bon fire, which will not be the same without Rev. Mary and Allen’s musical talent as we all sing along to their playing around the fire. Another church tradition is going to the home bound and nursing homes to sing Christmas carols. As we depart with our beloved church family members, we are typically singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas played on Allen’s mandolin. Mary’s love for music has inspired her to take music therapy classes at Slippery Rock University.
As Rev. Dr. Mary Kitchen transitions into retirement to her favorite place of Chautauqua, New York, she has touched many people proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ everywhere she goes. She would take a yearly learning journey to Chautauqua Institute and come back to church invigorated and envisioned by the Holy Spirit. She often talked about a beautiful tree on the campus of Chautauqua where she enjoyed sitting, reading the Bible, and praying. We were all heartbroken when she told us the tree was no longer there, possibly it had been reclaimed by nature during a storm. She also told us of the glorious stained-glass windows in the chapel at Chautauqua Institute. We all felt as if we were there with her.
Rev. Mary’s sermons and teachings are meaningful and practical for us. This is an excerpt from her devotional published in The Butler Eagle newspaper last year asking us: “who are we in this strange and dark world? Mary Magdalene may have asked this question after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Her Savior had been taken away, and the meaning of her life was gone. All seemed bleak and empty. But when Jesus appeared and spoke her name, everything changed in a moment. Jesus was alive. Her fear was gone. Nothing could ever again separate her from her Savior.”
God bless you, Rev. Dr. Mary Kitchen, for all your years of dedicated ministry and in your retirement. Peace be with you.