I am deeply thankful to the Lord that David O’Leary was my first pastor, because the Lord used his life, family, and ministry to have a formative impact on mine.
David J. O’Leary was ordained to the gospel ministry on this date in 1982. A graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, David served as pastor of Covenant OPC in Reading, PA from 1982-2002, and as senior pastor of First OPC in Ipswich, MA from 2002-2012. In 2012, David stepped down from his call at First OPC due to the progression of Parkinson’s disease. He lives in Boston with his wife, Debbie.
In 1983, my parents, two young children in tow, joined the new mission work in Reading, PA. As the story goes, I was the first child that the newly ordained Pastor O’Leary baptized. Covenant OPC was an exciting work – vitally evangelistic from day one – and it grew quickly. Looking back now, I can see why: the Gospel was central to everything. David’s preaching was clear, passionate, organized, and, above all, Christ-centered – even to a young teenager like me! One fond memory I have is when Pastor O’Leary taught my high school Sunday school class on presuppositional apologetics – what a delight! I recall him pushing us to consider how we would defend the gospel and the distinctives of the reformed faith to newcomers. David and his family also exuded the joy of Christ. I remember their generous, open home every year after the Christmas Eve service. Oh, and David’s laugh – infectious! Here was a man who loved the Lord who first loved him. At the time I had no idea how truly blessed I was to sit under such a ministry.
Perhaps most fondly I remember David, his wife Debbie, and their four children Elizabeth, Kathryn, Bridget, and David as some of the best friends my parents and siblings have ever had. To this day David and his family exemplify to me the warm, winsome life and ministry that ought to characterize those who know the riches of God’s sovereign grace in Christ. During my early years in seminary and ministry, my wife and I always looked forward to hosting David and, at times, Debbie, when they were in the area for OPC committee meetings. On one occasion I ventured to ask David for the secret sauce of the ministry at Covenant OPC. Of course, he boasted in the grace of God! And he added: “Preach Christ clearly and love the people deeply.” What more is there to say? As the years pass, I’ve begun to appreciate the depths behind that simple statement, and I thank the Lord for the faithful ministry of my first pastor, the Rev. Dr. David J. O’Leary.
Today’s guest writer is the Rev. J. Mark Sallade, pastor of Calvary OPC, Glenside, PA.
Picture: David, Debbie, Kathryn and Elizabeth O'Leary in the mid-1980s.