Shared from the 4/1/2017 Albany Times Union eEdition


Couple responds to changing times


John Carl D’Annibale / Times Union Pastors Glenn and Miriam Leupold stand before the Sea of Galilee Tiffany stained-glass window at First Presbyterian Church of Albany on State Street, their third church together. During Lent, the church has a Taizestyle service at 6 p.m. Wednesday. This coming week for Albany’s First Friday, the church will present a 6 p.m. Music for Lent concert with The College of Saint Rose Madrigal Ensemble and Music for Flute and Horn with Patrice Malatestinic and James Haert. There also is a show of paintings by Kevin Bruce and Easter eggs from around the world.

Refreshments will be served.


Background: She grew up in Winchester, Va., and graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. He was born in Ohio, grew up in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. They met at Princeton Theological Seminary and later earned doctorates, hers from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., his from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. They live in Delmar and have two daughters, Margaret who studies stage management at the University of Rhode Island, and Elizabeth, a SUNY New Paltz fine arts major.

You’re co-pastors of First Presbyterian Church of Albany. What brought you here?

Miriam: We were in Dayton, Ohio, for 12 years, at Westminster Presbyterian Church and we were looking for a call.

Glenn: We wanted to be part of a progressive congregation interested in a clergy couple. The more we found out about First Pres, the more we felt God calling us here.

Miriam: Our first call was at First Presbyterian Church of Jamestown. Part of me always wanted to come back to New York. We’ll have been here in Albany for 11 years in August.

What led you to be a clergy couple?

Miriam: Women have been ordained in the Presbyterian Church for 60 years now, but I didn’t have any female role models as ministers around me until seminary. In college I felt some “divine nudgings,” a sense that God was calling me. I studied anthropology and archaeology, and my adviser was a Methodist minister who had retired from missionary work, got a Ph.D. and went back to Borneo to study the people he had worked with in ministry. He was supportive of me exploring my sense of call to ministry.

Glenn: In high school I had a strong interest in church. In college I got an English degree with a religious studies minor and was exploring ministry and seminary but not sure I wanted to be a pastor.

Miriam and I met in 1985 during the first week of orientation at Princeton. I was in line to greet the seminary president, and Miriam was right behind me. Both of us had our calls to ordained ministry strengthened in seminary. Realizing we might even do ministry together, we decided to work on weekends in a church together to see how that went. We found that our skills complemented each other.

Miriam: We both got doctorates after our master’s. My degree involved introducing spiritual practices to our congregation and beginning a labyrinth ministry. I was ordained in my home church before we moved to Scotland for a year.

Glenn: I was ordained at the church in Jamestown. My D. Min. degree focus was preaching, specifically the use of story-sermons.

What’s the division of labor in your pulpit?

Miriam: We share the preaching, worship planning and advocacy work. I work with finance, property and membership committees, supervise the staff and oversee the children’s ministry and Small Groups. Working two-thirds time gives each of us flexibility to be present more with our children and allows time for us as a couple away from the church. There are rooms at home where we don’t talk about church!

Glenn: I find myself the resident Bible scholar and theologian. I work with our mission program and deacons. I do hospital and home-bound visits and funerals. At a Sunday adult class I teach, we’ll discuss budgets as a moral document.

Miriam: One of our Small Groups read Debby Irving’s book “Waking Up White” and discussed the issues of racism.

Glenn: An adult education series, with a trained counselor, explored the new climate of distrust, even among fellow Christians. The question is: How do we talk to fellow Christians with whom we come to different conclusions? It’s not to just render one’s own view but to reach a place where the other person hears you and vice versa.

What does it mean to be a progressive congregation?

Miriam: So much of Jesus’ ministry was about acceptance and welcoming and reaching out to those who don’t have a voice.

Glenn: Being progressive Christians means inclusivity, welcoming anyone into our church who wants to be a follower of Christ. It’s not an either-or: advocacy and meet-basic-needs ministry versus a spiritual and personal relationship with Jesus.

Miriam: Folks in the congregation marched in Washington, New York and Albany, and we talked about it. We have a strong history of advocacy for living wages, hunger and housing programs and LGBTQ rights.

Glenn: : Thus our current focus, “Called by God to reduce the widening gap between rich and poor.” Our partnership with Giffen Elementary School is a progressive attribute.

How have you changed in past the decade?

Miriam: Part of it is in our preaching. In the midst of so much conflict and fear, when our country is so divided, we are responding to events around us. Not that we didn’t do that before, but it’s now in a more intentional way as we try to figure out how to live as Christians in changing times. Perhaps it’s also that a high level of trust within the congregation allows us to do this.

Glenn: In many ways our worship is traditional. We wear robes, a black Geneva gown, a stole the color of the season and a cross that’s from Scotland.

Miriam: The music and hymns are traditional. Our first service is mainly piano, the second with organ and choir. During Black History Month, most of the pieces were by African-American composers.

Glenn: We subscribe to the idea that the function of worship is to worship God. People up front are the prompters, helpers in the worship being done by the people. The audience is God to receive what we are doing.

Miriam: During this season of Lent, we are emphasizing spiritual practices so people can respond to the world around them from a foundation of faith. Some people may think tradition is stuffy, but there is joy in our worship service. Folks are glad to be worshiping together, as part of this faith community.

— Rob Brill

For an expanded version of this conversation, go to .

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