Forest Home Chapel
Sunday, July 25, 2021
United Methodist Church, Ithaca New York

Chapel Ministers

Brief Highlights of the
Ministers at Forest Home Chapel

Chapel Pastors 1911–present: Download list

Over the past 50 years, 22 part-time pastors have been assigned to the Chapel by the Central New York United Methodist Conference (now the Finger Lakes District of the Upper New York Area). In the 1960s and early 1970s, several retirees served half-time, and as many did not live nearby, their stipend plus the Parsonage was a double benefit to them, as the Chapel benefitted from their presence. The Reverend Roy Smyres was one of these appointees. He first served the Chapel while a graduate student at Cornell and spent many years as a missionary in Africa before bringing his experiences back to Ithaca.

In 1976, Kent Phillips-Huyck, a Dutch Reform pastor, became our half-time minister while his wife was associate pastor at the American Baptist church in Ithaca. They were a relatively young couple, and it was Kent who encouraged us to expand into supporting a full-time appointment.

The Reverend John Annas and Lenore Weathrly Bayus at their wedding on December 17, 2007. Rev Annas was Forest Home Chapel pastor from 1970–1976. Rev. Annas passed away April 7, 2013. Read an UNY article about him here; obituary here.

Two First Charges

In 1979, The Reverend Bob Hill was appointed as a full-time pastor to this, his first charge after seminary. He and Forest Home Chapel learned and grew together. From 1981 to 1984, The Reverend Tom Wolfe also served full-time, another first assignment after seminary during which time the Chapel thrived and was on the brink of offering two services per Sunday. Both Bob and Tom were much loved and missed as they were moved on to larger churches. Bob (The Reverend Dr. Robert Allan Hill) was officially installed as Dean of Marsh Chapel and Boston University Chaplain on Sunday, March 4, 2007. The Reverend Tom Wolfe moved on to the positions of first, Dean of Hendricks Chapel, and then Vice President of Syracuse University. Both have returned as guest ministers as we celebrated various mile-stones in the Chapel’s history.

After these strong years, the Chapel’s fortunes waxed and waned. The chapel had shrunk to a half-time pastor by the time Michael Chitewere, a seminary student from Zimbabwe, was appointed in 1987. The congregation was enthusiastic about supporting him and his family, but Michael had little training for the ministry and in January 1989, was moved to a more appropriate charge with a senior minister to mentor him.

In spring 1989 The Reverend Steve Kish was appointed half-time. Steve was ill, and his illness created uncertainty about his availability. But the congregation learned to handle his unpredictable absences, filling in with numerous laity sermons and services. A kidney transplant kept him in the hospital for over 50 days, and it was ultimately not successful and to our great sadness, he died in October 1995. A small congregation of 30 benefited greatly from Steve’s brilliant sermons as our lay leaders grew in strength and leadership skills. He blessed us, and we hope we helped him and his family. Visiting ministers served during 1995-96, including The Reverend Paul Pitkin who also met clients of the Family Counseling Ministry ( in the Chapel office before he retired. The Reverend Wayne Gustafson held this post until 2020.


Left: The Rev. Wayne Gustafson; right: the cover of Wayne's book. Read more about Wayne's ministry and his book: download article


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A Period of Quarter-time Appointments

From 1995 until 2008, appointments were quarter-time and included Roger J. Smith, then a student at Rochester-Colgate, and retirees from other conferences such as The Reverend Fred Brooks, who, ably supported by his wife Alice, served the Chapel for five years. The Reverend Robert (Bob) Johnson came out of retirement following 20 years as Director of Cornell United Religious Work at Cornell University, and served the Chapel for two more years. His excellent sermons were captured (in word if not in delivery!) in his small gem of a book, Defending the Hope Within Us, published by the Chapel in June, 2006. The Reverend Laura Bartels Felleman, from the Nebraska Conference, was with us in 2006-7, followed by the exuberant presence of retiree The Reverend Fred Kelsey, in 2007-2008. Roger, Fred, Bob, and Laura each brought their own strengths to the Chapel.

Left: Reverend Robert (Bob) Johnson; right: Rev. Dr. Fred S. Kelsey

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Resuming Half-time Appointments

But recognizing that a quarter-time appointment limited the Chapel’s ministry, congregants stretched to fund a half-time pastor in 2008 just in time to welcome The Reverend Marilyn B. Stevens during whose tenure we advanced, both physically and spiritually.

Neil Stevens and The Rev. Marilyn B. Stevens

Most recently, on July 1, 2011, The Reverend Rebecca W. Dolch joined us after serving a nearby conference as District Superintendent for 5 years, and more recently, after 16 years at St. Paul’s United Church. Led by Reverend Dolch, we look forward to growth and joy!

The Rev. Rebecca W. Dolch