Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bakersfield Pastor Answers Call To Serve


Gregory Horn poses with daughter, Jessica, and wife, Katherine, at Jessica's 2008 graduation from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

Every church needs a pastor. But what if the need is greater somewhere else?

The congregation of Westminster Presbyterian Church has confronted that question for years. When Minister Gregory C. Horn, whose sense of patriotism, long-held admiration for the Navy and desire to help defend his country, was called to minister to the spiritual needs of Americans fighting overseas, his Bakersfield church had a unified response: Go. They need you.

Those years of sacrifice are being honored Sunday when Chief of Naval Chaplains, Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, will travel to Bakersfield to thank Horn's family and church members for the 22 years they have supported their pastor and for their continued support after he is promoted next month to rear admiral in ceremonies conducted at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He will become the Deputy Chief of Naval Chaplains (Reserve Matters) on Oct. 7 and discharge his new duties for three years, until his retirement in 2013.

When the newly minted Presbyterian minister became a U.S. Navy Reserve chaplain in 1988, the Pasadena native had just been named pastor at Westminster two years before.

Horn, who entered the Navy as a reserve lieutenant, knew it would be tricky to add two weeks of annual active military duty and monthly reserve drills to his already busy schedule, which included running a growing church and helping his wife, Katherine, raise their two young children -- daughter Jessica and son Evans.

But the balancing act became more than "tricky" after 2001, when terrorists attacked New York and the Pentagon on Sept. 11. It became a sacrifice for Horn, his family and the members of Westminster Presbyterian Church, who pulled together to support the U.S. military, including one of their own.

Horn's two-week annual military obligation stretched into months away from his family and church, as he was given increasing responsibilities and rose in rank. He was called to full-time military duty -- in response to the 2001 terrorists' attacks and again in 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq and he was named wing chaplain at the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar, near San Diego.

His responsibilities at Miramar included managing casualty assistance programs and supporting military families as the dead and injured returned from the Iraqi battle field. He somberly recalls the many military funerals he conducted during his nearly a year of active duty.

Horn, 57, who credits the support of his family and church members for his ability to serve America as a Navy chaplain, has been assigned diverse tours of duty aboard ships, at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, with a naval mobile construction battalion, submarine fleet, armored reconnaissance battalion, and various Marine regiments.

Horn expects his increased responsibilities will require him to be away from his Bakersfield church occasionally, but said church members and staff generously step forward and pick up his duties when he is gone.

Following Dad's example

Sunday also will be the time another member of the Horn family steps forward to serve. The pastor's 28-year-old daughter, Jessica, a graduate of West High School and California State University, Northridge, will be ordained a Presbyterian minister. Like her father, Jessica completed graduate studies at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

And on Oct. 7, when her father is named to his new command post at the Pentagon, the Rev. Jessica Horn will be by his side. Horn's first official act as a rear admiral will be to swear his daughter into the Navy as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the Chaplain Corps. Gregory Horn predicts it will be "a bright moment for Navy chaplain recruiting, Westminster Presbyterian and Bakersfield."

"Growing up as the daughter of a pastor, who is also a Navy chaplain, I have always dreamed that I, too, could pursue a career with such a positive influence on individuals and on our country as a whole," said Jessica Horn, who now works as a resource teacher in a Compton school district.

"I am especially energized by the opportunity to serve servicemen and servicewomen of diverse faith backgrounds," she said.

Horn's wife, Katherine, concedes merging family, church and Navy life has been "a roller coaster." The demands of a rear admiral's wife will likely greatly increase the length of her "to do" list, she joked.

Adm. Tidd is scheduled to speak at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Jessica Horn will be ordained at 1:30 p.m. The church is located at 2080 Stine Road.

This article written by Dianne Hardisty appeared first in The Bakersfield Californian on Sept. 18, 2010.

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