FCPC Pastor Has Memorable Week


It was quite a week for Cliff Stewart, pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church who also wears a number of other hats.

First, he was honored by members of his church on Sunday, April 2, for his 30 years of service to the congregation. 

On Monday, April 3, he was referred to as “The Archbishop of Abilene” by the new senior pastor at First Baptist Church, Brandon Hudson. That annointing came on the opening day of the annual Holy Week Luncheon Series, which Stewart has spearheaded  for years.

Stewart declined Hudson’s title  of “archbishop,” preferring to call himself “Grand pooh-bah of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” his hometown.

Betty and Charlie Hukill enjoy a laugh with Cliff Stewart at a celebration April 2 marking Stewart’s 30 years as pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church. Photo by Loretta Fulton

All the joking was par for the course at a celebration involving Stewart. Known for his quick wit, sprinkled with groan-inducing puns, Stewart is equally comfortable dishing out the jokes and being on the receiving end. 

That’s why it was so appropriate that Carlo Sosa-Ortiz, director of children’s ministry at First Central, worked every jokester’s favorite day, April Fool’s, into his comments at the celebration on Sunday. He said the staff mistakenly thought Stewart’s hiring was effective April 1, 1993. Turns out it was March 1, 1993. No matter.

“We didn’t forget,”  Sosa-Ortiz said. “This was all just an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke!”

The setting for the celebration was perfect for Stewart, whose affection for ice cream is well known.  In fact,  Sosa-Ortiz said, the party was designed to show Stewart what his first day in heaven would look like–tables covered with tubs of ice cream in every flavor thus far created. 

Cliff Stewart, left, enjoys his special day April 2 when his 30 years of service was celebrated at First Central Presbyterian Church. Fred and Carolyn White and Carlo Sosa-Ortiz made comments during the celebration. Photo by Loretta Fulton

But the day wasn’t just for joking around.  Sosa-Ortiz thanked Stewart for his mentoring and for being his friend. 

“It has been such a privilege working with you and learning about all the fun quirks involved in church leadership,” he said.

A few of those tips include keeping meetings to no more than an hour, starting a worship service with a strong hymn, and a favorite saying, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” Stewart has made quite a mark on First Central Presbyterian Church over the past 30 years, Sosa-Ortiz said, and his presence in the church and in the city will be felt long after his service ends. 

“For 30 years, you have loved and nurtured the many people of First Central, and your personality is etched into every nook and cranny of this place,” he said. “I’m thankful that, even after you’re gone, this place will forever be marked by your love for God and your wit and humor.”

Loretta Fulton is editor of Spirit of Abilene


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