The Rev. Gerald S. (Jerry) Wise, a pastor, social activist and community organizer in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for more than 50 years, died Feb. 18 in Cape Coral, Fla.

Wise, who studied under seminal community organizer Saul Alinsky in Chicago, was among the founding members in 1960 of the Alinsky-organized Temporary Woodlawn Organization (TWO), which began as a “militant protest community organization” formed to fight the University of Chicago in its plan to convert a huge swath of Woodlawn into a green buffer separating the dormitories and the homes of professors and students from the rough, mostly black neighborhood adjacent to the university. TWO organized thousands of Woodlawn residents, who would have been displaced by the plan, which was eventually scrapped.

Later in the 1960s, Wise did gang ministry at First Presbyterian Church in Chicago with the legendary Rev. John R. Fry, who wrote the best-selling Locked-out Americans based on that experience. First Presbyterian became the headquarters of the Blackstone Rangers, rival gang of the Eastside Disciples. Wise and Fry eventually helped broker disarmament agreements that for a time greatly reduced gang violence in Chicago.

“I met Jerry when I served Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minn.,” noted the Rev. Phil Tom,, the PC(USA)’s former coordinator of urban ministry who now serves in the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C.  “He had also served at Dayton Avenue and left there to serve South Central Ministry, an urban ministry in South Central Minneapolis. Jerry was passionate about urban ministry, a good organizer and a great storyteller!  He will be missed.” 

In 1987, Wise returned to Chicago and First Presbyterian Church, where he served from 1987 until 2008. During his tenure, the church was instrumental in operating the oldest Head Start program in Chicago, as well as one of the largest food distribution centers and hot meals programs on the South Side of Chicago. Wise also founded Front Door Ministry, part of the Partners for Hope program ― a 1998 collaboration between the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Community Operations and faith-based communities to develop services for families moving from welfare to work.

Wise served on the board of directors of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Assocation from 1977-1987 and served as PHEWA’s president from 1981-1984. 

Jerry was an incredible minister; especially in the world of urban ministry. He helped train hundreds of urban ministers in his years in Chicago as pastor at First Presbyterian ,” said the Rev. Mark Wendorf, a longtime activist in PC(USA) social welfare ministries and former professor of urban ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary.

“He was a field education placement every year I was teaching at McCormick,” Wendorf added. “He was always available, even at a moment’s notice, to welcome one of my classes. He was always willing to charm the students with good knowledge and great stories. Few things in ministry were better than to sit around with Jerry and swap urban ministry stories; along with a stiff drink.”

Wendorf said that “Jerry always held my feet to the fire and reminded me constantly to teach skills and remember the poor and oppressed. I will be forever grateful for this wisdom.”

The PC(USA) will miss Jerry Wise because, Wendorf said, “He was always a standard bearer for justice and constantly a friend of the forgotten and homeless.”  

# # #

Historic Montreat Presbyterian Church ― on the campus of the Montreat Conference Center ― has called the Rev. Keith Andrew Grogg as its new pastor. 

For the past 14 years, Grogg has served Carolina Beach (N.C.) Presbyterian Church in Coastal Carolina Presbytery. He grew up in Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Ill.

After graduating from Indiana University in 1989, Grogg served as a PC(USA) mission volunteer in Bedford, England, before enrolling at McCormick Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1994 and has served all his pastorates in North Carolina.

Grogg is married to Vivian Hare. They have two children, John and Clara.

# # #

The Rev. Stewart A. Pollock, a Presbyterian minister and lawyer who served as chair of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), died unexpectedly March 5 in Monroeville, Pa. He was 59.

A native of Boston, Pollock graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1980 and subsequently from Syracuse University College of Law in 1994. He served pastorates in Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. A highly-regarded parliamentarian, he served as stated clerk of the presbyteries of Cayuga-Syracuse and Southern New England.

Pollock is survived by his parents, Dr. Donald and Elinor Pollock; two sisters: Donabeth Urick and Sally Zaengle; two brothers: Peter and Jim Pollock; dear friend Rachel Thorp; and many nieces and nephews.

# # #