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W.Va. minister: I've always had the calling

June 24, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. -- Wow! Where did those 43 years go?

That's probably what John W. Cushwa is thinking now that he has been honored for his long and faithful service to the Presbyterian Church in West Virginia.

"I was totally surprised," Cushwa said.

The honors included the awarding of an honorary doctor of divinity degree by the Eastern Panhandle Mission Community of the Presbytery of Shenandoah during a ceremony at Cushwa's current church, the historic Falling Waters Presbyterian Church in Hedgesville.

The resolution read by the Rev. Rufus T. Burton, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Martinsburg, W.Va., noted Cushwa's work as an elder at the Tuscarora church, commissioned lay pastor at the Kearneysville church, minister of word and sacrament of the Shenandoah Presbytery and then pastor at Falling Waters.

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One of the amazing things about Cushwa's accomplishments and tenure is that for many of those years, he also was a captain of industry in Martinsburg.

Cushwa owned and operated Martinsburg Printing during most of the years he also was involved in his ever-expanding spiritual journey.

"I was a lay pastor in Kearneysville in 1996 and 1997 while I was starting to take my religious courses," Cushwa said. Kearneysville is one of those small Presbyterian congregations that relies on lay pastors since they can't afford to hire full-time clergy.

For years, Cushwa was doing both - running a demanding business and serving his congregation. Eventually he "bit the bullet" and sold the printing business.

A 1965 graduate of Martinsburg High School, Cushwa first attended and graduated from Shepherd College. There he met his future wife, Jeanie, in a music appreciation class.

The couple has three sons and four grandchildren.

After some courses at West Virginia University, Cushwa entered Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. Although it is a Methodist school, Cushwa was able to adapt his studies to his Presbyterian needs.

"It was tough," Cushwa said. "I am dyslexic and reading Greek and Latin - upside down and backwards - was difficult."

Because of the distances and his other responsibilities, Cushwa often took his exams via his laptop computer. The school also was very accommodating in other ways, he said.

He finished up his studies and became a full-time minister in March 2006.

"Deep down, I always had the calling," Cushwa said.

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