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Pastor marks 20 years at church

The theme might have looked Texan, but it really was leadership and the church's growth.

September 29, 2010
  • Pastor Gary Dennis of La Cañada Presbyterian Church recently celebrated 20 years as pastor of the church, photographed at the Prayer Garden on church grounds.
Pastor Gary Dennis of La Cañada Presbyterian Church… (Raul Roa, La Canada )

Although the Sept. 26 celebration of the Rev. Gary Dennis' 20 years as pastor of La Cañada Presbyterian Church was held in the Demarest Family Life Center on the church's campus in La Cañada, one couldn't help but wonder if wasn't really in Texas.

Those attending the celebration wore their best —their best cowboy boots, cowboy hats and jeans, that is. And what Texas-style celebration would be complete without country music and a family barbecue and country-style buffet, serving such delicacies as corn-on-the-cob, tri-tip and barbecued ribs?

The church's staff decided on a Texas theme for the celebration to pay homage to Dennis' former home in Austin, where he spent 14 years, beginning in 1976, as pastor of Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church, Dennis' last assignment before coming to La Cañada in 1990.

"It's a nice theme," said Dennis, with a smile.

Dennis grew up in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. His first assignment was as associate pastor for youth ministry at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, where he was ordained in 1972. He also served as associate pastor for youth ministry at Hollywood Presbyterian Church in 1973.

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Dennis would come to La Cañada Presbyterian to build upon the work of his predecessor, the Rev. Gary Demarest. And it is Demarest to whom Dennis gives credit to for the church's growth over the past 20 years.

"I don't know that there's anything that we've done in these last 20 years that wasn't an extension of the trajectory that my predecessor had started," said Dennis, speaking in the building named after the retired pastor. "All we've done is taken so many of the things that he began and we've just deepened them and expanded them. We stand on his shoulders."

According to Dennis, the church has been able to fulfill the dreams Demarest had as pastor, including updating the church's infrastructure and expanding the church's child care facilities. So in a way, Dennis said, Sunday's celebration was as much for Demarest as it was for him.

"We would not have been able to do the things that we've done if he hadn't set that trajectory," said Dennis.

Dennis adds that updating the church's infrastructure has been one of the biggest challenges for him as pastor.

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