Portrait: Rev. George Syms

Portrait: Rev. George Syms

 

Pastor George Syms was born in the borough of Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, which is a suburb of southwest of Philadelphia.  The church of his childhood was the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA).  His family moved to New Jersey in 1959 and returned to PA in 1965. His family relocated to Hollywood, Florida, in 1968, and at that point he attended Faith Presbyterian Church (PCUS). The pastor, the Rev. Mr. Lee S. Feero, was  a thoroughly  Reformed man and committed to the Word of God and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

In 1971 he graduated from high school, and in the Fall of 1972 entered Miami-Dade Community College to begin training in broadcasting (Radio and TV).  Through the influence of a godly Sunday School teacher he began to do volunteer work at an evangelical radio station during the summer of ’72, in Miami, Fl (WMCU-FM). The station was an outreach of Miami Christian College, a Bible College that had been founded by fundamentalist Presbyterians in the 1940s.

Proximity and opportunity in God’s Providence found him enrolling for college there in the fall of 1972.  He worked as an announcer/operator for the station for the years 1972-1976. The college was basically Baptistic, dispensational, and Arminian theologically.  Surprisingly, it was in this context that he began to learn about the Reformed faith, and the PCUS pastor was encouraging him along the way.

In the Summer of 1973 an opportunity arose for Summer Missions in Liberia, West Africa, and through the support of family and the congregation to which he belonged, the trip to Monrovia was made. He worked with radio station ELWA which had been founded by several Wheaton College men in the early 1950’s and one of these men a professor in the college.  He reflects on this as probably one of the most exciting summers of his whole life. The Liberians were a warm and accepting people and there are many aspects of their culture and history that are extremely interesting. George celebrated his twentieth birthday that summer.

 

At some point in 1974 George met his future bride, Debbie, at the college, and they began attending the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Hialeah, FL, where the Rev. Mr. Roger Schmurr, a graduate of Westminster Seminary, was Pastor. George and Debbie were married in 1976 and immediately moved to Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, as he intended to attend Westminster Seminary. He served as an intern at Faith Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Pole Tavern, NJ, for the summer of ’76.

As providence would have it, he ended up attending the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church, in West Philadelphia, beginning in the Fall of 1977. This was the start of a rich period of study as well as fellowship of brethren that continues until this day. In those years he first met the Rev. Dr. Frank Walker, and his future wife Christine; the Rev. Mr. William Haddock, the Rev. Mr. Dennis Roe and his future wife Julie. His only contact with the RCUS prior to 1980 was in the late ‘70s on an occasion when he met the Rev. Mr. Paul Treick who was walking with student Randy Argall on the campus of Westminster Seminary. Mr. Syms was working at the time in the media department of WTS.

In the winter of 1980, while in the last semester at RES, Mr. Syms received a telephone call from the Rev. Mr. Herman Van Stedum, who then proceeded to examine him in the loci of theology. At the end of the conversation, he asked Mr. Syms if he would be interested in going to North Dakota for an interview and trial sermon as a candidate for the Peace and Kassel Reformed Charge (Upham/Lincoln Valley). He was interested, and the Revs. Paul Treick and Norman Hoeflinger visited the Syms in Philadelphia for some further interviewing on behalf of the Eureka Classis.

Mr. Syms took several flights from Philadelphia across the country to reach Minot, North Dakota. He was met by Rev. Van Stedum at the airport, and with the Van Stedum  family traveled the 50 miles or so to Upham on snow-covered gravel roads. This was a first. Having lived basically as a suburbanite along the East Coast, the wide open spaces and gravel roads were an entirely new experience. The churches called Mr. Syms, he accepted, and on December 23, 1980, the Syms family arrived with their four-month-old daughter Heather.  They were warmly welcomed by the congregation at the parsonage in Upham and on Sunday they met the Lincoln Valley congregation which was 80 miles south. Mr. Syms was licensed by the Eureka Classis at Herried, SD, in April of 1981, was ordained at Upham in August of that year. Having completed the undergraduate degree work in 1981 he also received a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications, and the Master of Divinity from Reformed Episcopal Seminary.

He has served as pastor of Peace Reformed Church (RCUS), Upham and Kassel Reformed Church (RCUS), Lincoln Valley, North Dakota; Home Missionary at Sovereign Grace Reformed Church (RCUS), Hollywood, Florida; Minot Reformed Church (RCUS), Minot, North Dakota; Chalmers Memorial ARP Church, Charlotte, North Carolina; Salem Reformed Church (RCUS), Ashley, North Dakota and Hosmer Reformed Church (RCUS), Hosmer, South Dakota; Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS), Sutton, Nebraska; Northland Reformed Church (RCUS), Kansas City, Missouri, Grace Reformed Church (RCUS), Mitchell, SD, and is currently the pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (RCUS) in Watertown, SD.

Fast forward to September 2011 and we find that Mr. Syms had entered retirement due to health issues. The kindness and generosity of the congregation he was serving at the time, Grace Reformed Church, in Mitchell, SD, was quite a blessing. Other churches also were extremely kind in sending funds to help with medical expenses due to several hospitalizations. The churches at Eureka, SD, Hope Reformed Sutton, NE, and Covenant Reformed, Watertown, SD, all sent substantial amounts to help with these bills.

This is also an opportunity to thank the Churches of Synod for the support my wife and I received during 15 months in retirement. The blessing of being able to live somewhat normally in the situation in which we found ourselves is truly appreciated. During this time of improved physical strength George supplied pulpits in MN, ND, NE, and SD. By January 4, 2013, Pastor Syms had been called by and installed in the Watertown charge, and officially came out of retirement. A very welcoming congregation received us and we are very glad to be here. While not a large congregation, the commitment to Christ and His church is very strong. The loving fellowship among the people is an encouragement to all of us, and we pray for the God’s blessing on our efforts in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.

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