By Rubin E. Grant
The Rev. Kevin Long wasn’t thinking about leaving the Pittsburgh church he had pastored for almost 10 years to head South.
But he had made a commitment to listen to any church that called him about becoming its pastor and to listen to the Holy Spirit.
So when Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham called, Long listened.
Following an eight-month courtship, Long agreed to leave Sewickley Presbyterian Church, which is just 20 minutes northwest of Pittsburgh, to become the eighth pastor in the 105-year history of IPC.
Long will begin his role as IPC pastor and the head of staff on Aug. 1.
“It was a long process,” Long said during a phone interview from Pennsylvania. “I wasn’t looking to leave where I am. We have a wonderful church here, and I have deep friendships here, and I was very happy here.
“At first, I wasn’t real keen on the idea of coming to Birmingham. It’s such a different part of the country, very different from where we are, and Independent Presbyterian had some recent struggles, so coming in I knew it was going to be a big challenge.”
Plus, Long and his wife, Rebecca, had to consider three children, James, Jessica and Katelyn. Uprooting them was a big part of the decision since James will be a high school senior in the fall, and Jessica and Katelyn will be ninth and eighth graders, respectively.
Long spent considerable time in prayer and sought the wisdom of his family, friends and his mentors in ministry. Then, he traveled to Birmingham to visit IPC, an 1,800-member church that is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination and is in the Highland Park neighborhood.
“Over a period of months, I got to know the pastor nominating committee better, then I came to see the church and the people,” Long said. “The more time I spent with the people, I knew God was calling our family to become a part of the wonderful family of faith at IPC. We believe that God has great things in store for IPC.”
The IPC Pastor Nominating Committee unanimously approved Long in a vote in early May.
“God has clearly led the Pastor Nominating Committee to Kevin and his family, and him and his family to IPC and Birmingham,” said Teresa T. Pulliam, chairwoman of the committee. “God is very good and has certainly been in charge of this process from the beginning.
“We have spent much time with Kevin and Rebecca in Pittsburgh and in Birmingham in prayer and fellowship, and we have shared many meals, car rides and both light-hearted and serious conversations. They are a team in ministry and in marriage. We are thrilled and so joyful that Kevin and his family accepted our call, and we are excited to welcome the Long family to our church and to Birmingham. We have no doubt our congregation will embrace them both as well as their wonderful children.”
The Rev. Steve Goyer will continue serving as interim pastor at IPC through the end of July.
Roots Far From Alabama
Long grew up as the son of a Presbyterian minister. He was raised in Southern California and in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, just east of Pittsburgh.
He graduated from Wake Forest University, double majoring in biology and psychology. After pursuing a master’s degree in psychology at Old Dominion University, Kevin moved to New York City, where he worked for a number of years as a private tutor.
While attending the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Long met Rebecca, who had moved to the city to train with the Joffrey Ballet. He received his M.Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After graduating, he served as an associate pastor at Orchard Park Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis before becoming the pastor of the Sewickley Presbyterian Church in September of 2011.
Long will move to Birmingham in August and start settling in. He will begin preaching on the Sunday after Labor Day, Sept. 12. His children will attend school in the Mountain Brook system.
“It’s a new start and a new beginning,” Long said. “I’m leaving behind people who over time have become family. I feel a deep commitment and connection to them. It’s hard to leave, but we’re excited about coming to Birmingham and seeing what God has in store for us in Birmingham.”