Reverend Jon Carlisle retires after 41 years in the ministry

| July 10, 2018

COSHOCTON – Reverend Jon Carlisle from the Coshocton Presbyterian Church is retiring later this month. He and his wife, Sue, came to Coshocton in 2001. He said they were drawn to Coshocton for a number of reasons, including the beautiful area and community setting, and that the church had a strong, stable staff.

“We had been accustomed to and preferred a smaller town where everyone knows each other,” said Carlisle, “and that is exactly what we saw in Coshocton.”

The Coshocton Presbyterian Church’s pastoral search committee at that time was led by Jim Gauerke. The search committees are elected by the congregation to search for and nominate a new pastor. Once a candidate is selected, the congregation votes and it is then approved by the Presbytery.

“That was a good time to make a change in my career,” said Carlisle. “We looked over the opportunities and openings at several churches and sent out three letters on a Friday. I got a call from Jim Gauerke on the following Monday. That was in the fall of 2000. I came and preached a sermon in December of 2000 and the congregation voted.”

Carlisle was born in Watertown, NY near Canada. He began his ministry career 41 years ago in Waterloo, NY where he spent 10 years. He then moved to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania where he served for 13 years before moving to Coshocton in 2001.

“I do find it interesting that I have always been near a water setting, even here with Coshocton’s Three Rivers,” he said.

His father was the pastor at Stone Street Presbyterian Church in Watertown, NY, for 28 years.

“That’s where I grew up, was baptized, confirmed, married and ordained,” said Carlisle. “That’s also where I met my wife, Sue. We started dating as teenagers.”

Carlisle attended Colgate University and Princeton Seminary.

“My childhood dream was to attend West Point,” he said. “I began a preliminary application but my eyesight disqualified me from applying. I considered that letter from West Point to be the first sign that God wanted me to go into the ministry. My parents had four sons and none of us were planning to go into the ministry like our father, but three of us actually did, including my identical twin brother, David.”

Carlisle said his proudest moment at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church was sharing communion with Bishop Mano when he visited the church from Pakistan in the fall of 2010.

“This man had known Mother Teresa and worked in constant danger on the streets of Pakistan with both Muslims and Christians,” said Carlisle. “He was visiting our church as an International Peacemaker from the Presbyterian Church USA. Like Bishop Mano, I hope that our church models for the community that people of different political and social opinions can worship together because it’s all about Jesus and not about us.”

Another important moment for Carlisle at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church was when the church began the ‘Unbinding Your Heart’ spiritual growth program.

“In 2010, our session requested that the Presbytery General Presbyter and a lay pastor come in and help us discern our church’s future,” said Carlisle. “They found that our worship services and music programs were our greatest gifts and recommended that we begin the Unbinding series which includes prayer partners. Initially, about five dozen of our church members participated. Many of them are still meeting together and many continue to be leaders of our church. It was particularly life changing for me since I, as many other pastors, had never had a prayer partner.”

Carlisle says that most of the special memories for him at the church are about the people such as the children’s sermons and baptisms.

“I love to carry the newly-baptized babies around the church so that all the congregation can see them,” he said. “I also have great appreciation for the way people here are so willing to step up and help others. For example, our funeral lunches coordinator has been doing this for 30 years. Our church members have always been involved in the community and have been instrumental in helping to start local programs such as First Step, Habitat for Humanity Coshocton, Hopewell, Chestnut Crossing Ministry for Youth, and the community dinners. One of the other things that drew me to this church was the outreach done by the Coshocton Presbyterian Women, our deacons, the work of our mission committee, and our trustees who have graciously kept our church building maintained and offer hospitality of our building to organizations and community groups. They are following the words of Matthew 25 and serving the community.”

Prayer is a significant aspect in Carlisle’s life and ministry.

“The center focus for me at our church is the prayer group that meets every Thursday morning,” he said. “Some of my favorite prayer requests are those from the congregation during the worship service each week. For example, Colin Hayes always takes us internationally with his requests; Loren Fry asks us to pray for those who have not yet met Jesus; and Barbara Moore asks that we pray for our enemies.”

Carlisle said his greatest joy here has been leading the worship services and sermons.

“Some of my favorite services have been our Christmas Eve services, the Sundays when we worship on the Courtsquare, and Holy Humor Sundays – I got my sense of humor from my dad,” he said. “I also find joy in doing home visits and ministering to people at times of death and funeral services.

“I feel so fortunate to have worked with such an incredibly talented staff at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church who are all so well matched to their jobs. My regular meetings with Chuck Snyder and Alice Hoover to plan the music for the services were always sources of teamwork and great ideas; and without our office administrator, Tina Johnson, I would not have been able to be out of the office to do what I do best – home visits, hospital visits, care center visits, and visits to Windsorwood.”

Carlisle sees a strong future for the Coshocton Presbyterian Church even though there may also be challenges.

“When I began in the ministry years ago, worship was the center of the wheel in a Christian’s life,” he said. “Now, worship is not the center of their life. People are deciding among a number of good things and our struggle becomes ‘What does it mean to keep the Sabbath?’ Every person has to figure that out for themselves.”

While in Coshocton, Carlisle has been involved in the Coshocton Ministerial Association and on the First Step Board. He was active in the Presbytery as well.

“I greatly enjoyed the collegiality of the over 70 congregations in the Muskingum Valley Presbytery,” he said. “It’s a time of both service and support during the four Presbytery meetings that are held each year.”

Jon’s wife, Sue, worked at the Coshocton Hospital as an OB charge nurse until she retired in January 2014, after 43 years of nursing. This has allowed her to devote more time to family and her hobby of quilting. She was active in preparing the Lenten lunches at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church and assisted with other meals at the church including coordinating the roast beef fundraising dinners.

Jon and Sue have five grown children and 11 grandchildren – Laura who lives in Coshocton, Josh in North Carolina, Jeremy and Erin both in New Jersey, and Emily in New Albany. He and Sue are relocating to Blacklick, Ohio, which is near the New Albany area.  They look forward to traveling and spending more time with their grandchildren.

“I also plan to get involved and serve in the many opportunities through the Scioto Valley Presbytery,” he said, “and I may audit some classes at OSU on two of my interests – the Civil War and poetry.”

Carlisle’s last Sunday at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church is July 29 at 10 a.m. in the sanctuary with a light reception following from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. All are invited to attend and wish the Carlisles well. The Coshocton Presbyterian Church is located at 142 N. 4th Street, Coshocton. For more information, contact the church office at 740-622-0486.

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