This year marks a milestone for Jacksonville Presbyterian Church as Pastor Larry Jung celebrated 30 years leading the church.
Before making their way to Jacksonville, Larry and his wife Sally grew-up on the Monterey Peninsula. The couple met while attending Monterey Peninsula College. Larry was a Physical Education major and Sally was a nursing major. They transferred to separate colleges: Larry to Santa Barbara’s Westmont College while Sally attended Biola University in La Mirada. Although Larry originally had thoughts of becoming a swimming coach at the high school or college level, he says God had other plans for him. In 1976, at age 23, Larry entered Pasadena’s Fuller Theological Seminary where he spent 3 years earning a Master’s Degree in Theology. He later returned to Fuller and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Larry and Sally married in 1975 and in 1979 moved to Sacramento where Larry served as an ordained minister on the staff of a large Presbyterian church, working mostly with junior high school through college-age youth. In addition to working with youth groups, he presided over and officiated at scores of weddings and funerals. The Jung’s added to their family in Sacramento, ultimately having three children. Today, their three children are 36, 33 and 27 years-old. The Jung’s are also proud grandparents of three grandsons. Their oldest child, Matthew serves as a Captain in the US Army. He and his family live in Springfield, Virginia and he teaches ROTC at Georgetown University. Christina, 33, is a registered dietician, is married and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Courtney, their youngest child, is married and lives in San Diego. She earned her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and is currently seeking licensure with the state of California.
In 1983, Larry and Sally received word that the Presbyterian Church in Brookings, Oregon was searching for a new minister. Larry interviewed with the Brookings church—its pulpit committee then invited him to preach in a “neutral pulpit,” which turned-out to be Jacksonville. On a beautiful October day with the trees in full, fall splendor, Larry arrived in Jacksonville to preach. The Jacksonville congregation was about to experience the retirement of Pastor Mel Kessinger and some of the congregation invited Larry to apply for their vacant position. Although he’d never heard of Jacksonville, 14 months later, Larry Jung took the reins of Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, ministering and preaching at the Historic 1881 Presbyterian Church on California Street.
Looking back, Larry notes that the Jacksonville community appeared much “older” when he first arrived, lacking the number of younger families living here today. Indeed, of the current 650 adherents comprising today’s church, 150 are children and youth, a testament to the number of young families living in the area. For their first 19 years living in the Rogue Valley, Larry and Sally lived in east Medford, where they raised their 3 children. Sally continues to work at Rogue Regional Hospital in the Short Stay Unit, where she’s worked ever-since moving here. In 2004, with their grown children living on their own, Larry and Sally relocated to Jacksonville where they’ve lived since.
When asked, Larry says the main purpose of Jacksonville Presbyterian is “Connecting people with God, each other and ministry.” Ultimately, Larry strives to build a strong sense of community, a value embraced by the entire Jacksonville community, as well. Today, Jacksonville Presbyterian operates from its campus on Singler Lane, although church services are occasionally held at the 1881 Historic Church, also owned and maintained by the local congregation. Reflecting back on his career accomplishments, Larry admits that building the new church was a major ahievement. Despite some degree of community protest, the church congregation banded together in 2004 under his leadership, raised funds, supplied labor and ultimately constructed the 8900 square-foot multipurpose building, a 2400 square-foot administration building, and a 6800 square-foot barn which includes 7 classrooms. Today, the church also serves as the “go to” sheltering place for the entire community in the event of a natural or other disaster, operated under the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Emergency Operations Center programs. With its state-of-the art kitchen located in the Multipurpose building, hundreds of meals can be served while hundreds of residents can be sheltered in-place, should the need arise. Working in concert with the city and CERT, it enables the church to serve the community in a much-needed albeit, nonreligious manner.
The congregation also has full responsibility for maintaining the original 1881 church on California Street. Built with funds raised by the congregation and a sizeable sum donated by pioneer banker Cornelius Beekman, today’s historic preservation costs run upwards of $20,000 annually. Although some funds are offset by rental donations by Lumen Dei Church, which holds its Sunday services there, and other community groups, the major portion of preservation costs are funded by the congregation itself.
When looking forward ten years, Pastor Jung says that the church will continue its mission of being a place of hope and refuge and exerting a positive influence on the community. Although major schism’s have recently taken place within the greater, nationwide Presbyterian Church, Larry notes that his congregation has opted to follow a stricter, more conservative church dictate. Now age 61, Pastor Jung is comfortable discussing social issues and doesn’t shy away from addressing the role of women in the church, gay marriage, moral relativism, a decay in national moral values and other cultural shifts he’s witnessed in his 30 years of service to God and the community.
For now, it’s safe to say that the entire Jacksonville Community is better-off and that our future is brighter thanks to the dedication of men like Pastor Larry Jung.
The Review wishes to apologize for misspelling Pastor Larry Jung’s last name on the “Continued” titles and the photo caption in our July 2015 print issue.