When the Rev. Jason Freyer described branching out from youth ministry to becoming pastor of his own congregation, he described the process as “kind of like match.com.”
“It was something I wasn’t looking for and it totally found me,” he said. “Laboratory Presbyterian gave me call. ‘Come out and interview,’ they said, and I absolutely fell head over heels in love with the place.
“The day I accepted the invitation,” he added, “was the day that COVID shut everything down.”
One might see the word “plague” rather than “pandemic” in the Bible, but the trials and tribulations of disease and how to overcome them are topics that appear in both the Old and New Testaments.
Freyer said his attitude is that one can come across something and treat it either as “an obstacle or an opportunity to see what the needs of the people are in this very different world than we had even six months ago. I’m excited by it, and I’m probably one of the few that are.”
To bid Freyer farewell, his previous congregation, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair, staged what was billed as a “reverse parade,” with the honoree seated, tossing candy at motorists and passengers, as carloads drove past to say their farewells.
“It wasn’t maybe the send-off I could have hoped for, but the best I could have asked for,” he said. “It’s been an adventure.”
Freyer, 37, said he doesn’t believe youth ministers “age out” of the assignment. He said “There’s no real age limit,” but there comes a time when a person prefers not to sleep on plywood bunk beds or bed down in a sleeping bag on a hard floor during retreats and mission trips.
The word is that he arrived for his job interview at Westminster on a bicycle and sporting tattoos. One version of this story even has him with purple hair.
He became Westminster’s sixth youth pastor in five years, but ended up sticking around much longer than his predecessors. He studied at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2016.
In his “Biking Viking” blog post, he described himself during his arrival at the seminary as “a young punk.”
Freyer regularly bicycled from his home in Bethel Park to Westminster, and he might try making the commute that way to Laboratory, which is in a South Strabane Township neighborhood also known as “Pancake.”
He and his wife, Sarah, are the parents of twin sons, Joshua and Julian. Joshua’s a Biblical name, and Julian’s namesake is both a musician in his own right and the offspring of the late Beatle John Lennon. In that vein, a Pittsburgh newspaper headline on a feature story described Freyer’s music ministry to high school youth in 2009 with the words, “Rock on.”
Laboratory Presbyterian, with about 80 members, is much smaller than his previous parish.
Interviewed last week, he preached his first regular sermon at Laboratory Presbyterian Aug. 9.
“This is Day One,” he said Aug. 6 as he began to learn “where the congregation is and where they’d like to grow. In terms of personal growth and spiritual growth, I’d like to settle in, see what folks need here and take it from there.”