Pastor of First Presbyterian to step down after seven years in the community; has spent 38 years in ministry

On the heels of the church’s approval for the second mural in Woodburn, First Presbyterian Church pastor Rev. David Morelli announced he will retire at the end of June.

Morelli, who turned 65 last Tuesday, said he felt that this time, like at many points of his life, God was directing him.

“It seems God is always letting me know through circumstances when my work is done,” he said. “It’s time for someone else to step in.”by: INDEPENDENT FILE PHOTO - Rev. David Morelli

Morelli has been at the Woodburn church for seven years, coming here most recently from Dallas, where he still lives with his wife, Jackie, who teaches at Western Oregon University, and his 13-year-old daughter, Hannah.

Despite the distance from home, Morelli has managed to stay active in the community, joining Woodburn Kiwanis Club, serving on the Woodburn Boys & Girls Club board and helping kick-start Love INC (In the Name of Christ), a gap ministry nonprofit in partnership with other local churches. During his time in Woodburn, the church has planted a successful community garden, fashioned a labyrinth in the glade on the north side of the church property, housed Meals On Wheels and, for a time, the North Marion Adult Center, and has seen a remodel of the building, complete with a mural recently approved by the city.

“It’s a good time for me to leave because things that I’ve worked on are doing so well,” Morelli said, noting that none of it could have been done without the congregation that was welcoming and willing. “It all happened because of the culture of the church.”

His retired life will be spent enjoying time with his wife and daughter, traveling to visit his three sons and one grandson in Seattle and to sight-see — adding to the 49 states and 20 countries he’s already visited. He also hopes to continue his hobbies of stamp collecting and swimming, the latter of which has been his life passion.

“I was planning on going into swimming and diving (as a career),” Morelli said. “But the Lord had other plans. My parents were involved in church and when I was in college, I started preaching. The youth pastor said I ought to consider going into seminary. So one passion became a hobby and the other became a profession.”

Morelli’s first assignment out of Princeton Theology Seminary was with the Navajo Nation in Monument Valley, Utah.

“I always knew I wanted to be a missionary, so I thought I might as well work with different cultures in America as anywhere overseas,” he reasoned. “I learned a lot working with different cultures.”

In the following 38 years as a minister, he would go on to South Dakota, Sitka, Alaska, the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho, Dallas, and finally. Woodburn.

“I think my most rewarding churches have been in South Dakota and Woodburn,” he admitted. “They’re similar because they’re both agricultural areas. There’s something about ag communities. Sitka was the most exciting. There was always something new; with 280,000 tourists a year, it was like being on vacation all the time.”

Now, his final seven years in the ministry will be celebrated June 22. Following the 10:30 a.m. church service, there will be an 11:30 a.m. reception for anyone to attend and see Morelli off.

And until the church finds a replacement, the board will bring in a number of guest speakers, taking the hiring process slowly.

“I will miss it here,” Morelli said. “I’ve enjoyed my time in Woodburn. I love the challenge of the multi-cultural setting. I enjoy the way people interact. In Woodburn, they don’t run away from challenges but meet them and become a model for others in the community.”

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