Pastor looks forward to interaction in Franklin Park church
Heritage Presbyterian Church has only about 200 members. Brian Janssen expects nearly all of them to keep him busy.
“It is not a show-up-on-Sunday-and-be-absent-the-rest-of-week kind of church,” said Janssen, 30, who took over as pastor this week.
The Franklin Park church, which has been without a full-time pastor for more than a year, helps fund a sister church in Malawi in Africa. It is active in six local missions — including The Doorway, a Bellevue drug rehabilitation center, and the Light of Life Mission in the North Side, a shelter for homeless people.
This month, many of the church’s members are attending weekly Lenten soup and inspiration seminars.
“It is a good way to observe Lent. It is easy to forget Lent,” said Carolyn Briggs, a longtime church member who has attended the seminars for 10 years.
The son and grandson of Presbyterian ministers, Janssen grew up in Bucks County. He still is a rabid Phillies fan and attended last year’s victory parade in Philadelphia.
Janssen went to high school in Orange County, Calif., but came back to Pennsylvania go to Grove City College, where he was captain of the swim team. He earned a master’s degree in history from Duquesne University, and later attended Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J.
“I love Pittsburgh,” he said. “It has everything that a big city has without all the problems. I’m looking forward to returning.”
Heritage is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, the largest of four Presbyterian denominations in the United States. Located on Rochester Road, the church was founded in 1964.
Janssen most recently worked as an assistant pastor at Paxton Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, a church with about 400 members that was founded in 1732.
The Malawi church is the type of mission Janssen likes.
“It is simple but important for Americans to become aware of other Christians in the world. This church is very involved in local and global missions, and that’s what attracted me to it,” he said.
Janssen says religion, in recent years, has become too intertwined with national politics.
“And I don’t think you can break religion down according to the way the nation votes,” he said.
Janssen says he prefers smaller church in some ways, even as megachurches are flourishing.
“That’s because it’s harder for the members to hide,” he said.