Passing of the torch: Chambers succeeds Lester as clerk of session after following him on bench

PUNXSUTAWNEY — It was the end of an era at the Presbyterian Church in Punxsutawney, as the longtime clerk of the session, Guy Lester, passed the torch to his successor Doug Chambers on Sunday.

Lester, who had been the magisterial judge in Punxsutawney, has held the position of clerk of session for the Presbyterian Church for more than 20 years and has been a stabilizing force during times of transition, said the Rev. Brett Swanson, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Punxsutawney.

"Guy is a committed servant, which comes along once a generation for this kind of church," he said.

Swanson said Lester came off of session last year.

"This past Sunday, the church congregation officially recognized Lester's service by rededicating our meeting room in his name, where our session holds its meetings," Swanson said, adding that the congregation presented Lester with a plaque.

Swanson said Lester also represented the Punxsutawney congregation to the Presbyterian denomination.

"One day, after I was chosen as the pastor for the Punxsy church and began my new position, Guy came knocking on my office door, walked in and shut the door," he said.

"I was a little nervous, and then Guy told me that his job was to help me do mine," Swanson said.

He said Lester also assisted the former pastor — the Rev. Kent Holmes — through 19 years of service to the Punxsutawney congregation.

Ironically, Lester's successor as the clerk of session is Doug Chambers, who also succeeded Lester as the magisterial judge in Punxsy when he retired from the bench.

Lester said he was born in Punxsutawney in 1924 and joined the church in 1936 when he turned 12 years of age.

"That's the age you're permitted to join the church," Lester said, adding that he has held various offices and positions throughout his time at the church.

"I was the moderator for Kiskiminetas Presbytery, which oversees five counties, and moderator for Synod of the Trinity, which covers all of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and southeast Ohio," he said.

Lester said he had been the clerk of session since 1987.

"The clerk of session is the second in command. I was responsible for keeping all of the records and making sure that the church was functioning properly," Lester said, adding that if the pastor isn't there, the clerk is responsible for overseeing the congregation.

"If you're getting a new minister, you supply pastors to fill the pulpit and become the temporary moderator," he said.

Lester said there's a lot more to running a church than people may realize.

There's a lot of contact from the Presbytery and the local churches that is handled by the clerk of session, Lester said.

He also said he was responsible for making sure all of the committees within the church were functioning properly.
Chambers described Lester as devoted and a tireless worker.

"When I was younger, I always thought Guy owned the church, and we just rented it from him," Chambers said.

Chambers said that when he went on session and became an elder and trustee in 1978, he found out that Lester was another member of the congregation — albeit an extremely hard-working one.

He said Lester has been the clerk of session for most of the 35 years that he has been on the unicameral committee.

Chambers said that even when he was off the board, Lester approached him to be on the pastoral search committee, which hired both Holmes and Swanson.

"Guy has always been here; in fact, he has done so much work at this church, that there are going to be three or four of us taking over the duties that he has performed all these years," he said.

"We would like to thank you for all of these years of service to the Presbyterian Church of Punxsutawney, and (we hope you) enjoy your retirement," Chambers said.

Lester said he has a good fellow to follow in his footsteps.

"Doug followed me in the position as the magisterial judge. Hopefully, he'll get 35 years on the bench and then another 11 years as the senior active judge," Lester said. "Maybe Doug can catch up to me when I'm 98."

Swanson and Chambers presented Lester with two plaques — one to be erected in the church meeting room and one to display at his home.