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Hilltowns Archives The Altamont Enterprise, January 22, 2009
Westerlo celebrates Pastor Lyon for decades of tireless service
By Zach Simeone
WESTERLO This weekend, the First Baptist Church of Westerlo will honor a man who has served the community for more than 30 years.
Donald Lyon led his final service as pastor of the Westerlo church on Sunday, Jan. 4. He retired, in part, because of his age, Lyon said.
“Frankly, I’ll be 69 this year,” he laughed, “and I just think it’s time.”
A celebration of recognition will be held at the church on Saturday, Jan. 24, in his honor. There will be a lunch for members of the church from noon 3 p.m., followed by a reception from 3 to 5 p.m., open to friends, neighbors, and all else who wish to attend.
“He’s been our pastor for almost 30 years, and we just feel that his dedication to our community deserves recognition,” said Cliff Barber, a deacon at the church.
The Baptist church is a center for both religious and social life in Westerlo.
A pastor for 27 years, Lyon began his work there in October of 1974, but left in the early ’80s to head the Albany Bible Institute and Camp Pinnacle, a Christian camp and retreat center near Thacher Park.
He returned in 1990, but in 1991, a large portion of the First Baptist Church burned to the ground. In 1992, a new building was planned, and in 1993, the church was rebuilt. The gymnasium was the only part of the building that didn’t burn, so the new church was built around it.
Lyon was pastor of the newly built church until his retirement, just weeks ago. He led worship services on Wednesday night, as well as Sunday mornings and evenings.
Together with his friend Richard Umholtz, Lyon started the Helderberg Interfaith Community Safe Haven, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, and was involved in starting Christian Counseling Associates in Delmar.
“I wanted to start Christian Counseling Associates for a way of helping pastors counsel families in need,” Lyon said.
He is now working with the homeless at the Capital City Rescue Mission three days a week, where he is a counselor.
“There are 400 homeless every night in the streets of Albany, and our facility can take care of about 170 of them each night,” Lyon said. “Many of them have addictions, and I’m working to help people who want to deal with those addictions, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography those are the four big ones. These fellows have pretty much hit the bottom, and have lost everything: their homes, their family, their friends,” he said.
Lyon also has a radio show called The Light, a half-hour long Bible study, starting at 8 a.m. every Saturday morning. Listeners in the Albany area can tune in to 97.5 FM to hear The Light on WHAZ, a Christian radio station. He has used this show as a teaching tool for 10 years, and will continue to do so.
As the pastor works on elsewhere, his community will celebrate his service.
“You don’t often find pastors staying at churches for that long,” Barber said, “and we felt the need to honor him and his wife for their service to the Hilltowns.”
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