Called to serve — McCaulley embarks on new path

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Pastor Don McCaulley said his wife, Brenda, “is such a blessing to me.” McCaulley was called to serve the Water Street Evangelical Church this spring, where Brenda teaches a Sunday school class for adult women.

When he was a boy, Don McCaulley would sit in church and listen to the preacher, hoping someday to be in the pulpit himself.

Through the years, he has done that by being bivocational. Now, in retirement from his medical career, McCaulley is able to continue his lifelong commitment to serve God and the needs of a church full time. Having ended his more than 25-year career as a nurse for UPMC Altoona in 2018, he was called to serve as pastor of Water Street Evangelical Church this spring.

The church is in an area once known as Shaffersville, near the border of Blair and Huntingdon counties and just off Route 22. The congregation had been without a pastor for almost a year when McCaulley was installed in April. During the gap, guest pastors and speakers filled the pulpit, including McCaulley, who preached there during the winter months.

Before accepting the call to the Water Street church, McCaulley oversaw a home church in Bellwood for about five or six years. He had previously been ordained at Bride of Christ Church in Bellwood, a church founded by his father. McCaulley served as pastor there from 2004-12 while working full time at the hospital.

McCaulley said his two careers worked together. He explained that his skills as a nurse were a comfort to people and served their physical needs and his skills as a pastor served their spiritual needs.

“I always knew I wanted to preach,” he said, adding that his nursing career sometimes led him to divine moments.

After learning he was also a pastor, patients would sometimes ask him to pray for them. He said that he never volunteered to pray for anyone, but he had the freedom to do so at someone’s request.

“It wasn’t in my job description, but no one ever bothered me. I wasn’t in pastoral care. I was a nurse.”

It was a hospital patient and her spouse who put him back on track for completing biblical studies McCaulley had pursued earlier. From 1976-79, McCaulley attended the Altoona Bible Institute part time. He was employed by the railroad then and changes in work shifts made scheduling classes difficult.

In 1980, he decided to attend school to become a licensed practical nurse and later attended classes at Mount Aloysis College to become a registered nurse. His pursuits of an education, work and raising a family left little time to consider finishing his Bible classes.

When Darlene Hazlett, secretary for Altoona Bible Institute, was in the hospital for a procedure, she and her husband, John, met McCaulley. He was the nurse who removed her IV hook-up. At the time, John Hazlett was acting dean at Altoona Bible Institute, where he now serves as dean.

Darlene said she and John got to talking about their roles at the institute. It was then that McCaulley mentioned he was a former student. The Hazletts encouraged him to re-enroll and earn his certificate.

But instead of starting where he had left off, McCaulley decided to retake the classes he had successfully completed — about half of the requirements for graduation.

“It was an excellent choice,” said McCaulley, adding that he gained even more biblical knowledge. He attended part time for six years and graduated in 2015.

“He was an excellent student,” Darlene said. “He got top grades.”

McCaulley now serves as president of the school’s alumni association, and it was his affiliation with the school that led to his call at Water Street Evangelical Church. He was recommended to the church when its council approached the school about a graduate to fill its pulpit.

“The Lord opened the door at the right time,” McCaulley said. “It’s been wonderful.”

In addition to McCaulley, his wife, Brenda, has a role at the church. She attended Altoona Bible Institute alongside her husband and teaches a Sunday school class for adult women.

“She is such a blessing to me,” he said. “She has stepped up and is part of the ministry.”

“She is very dynamic and a good leader,” said Carol Anderson of Altoona, who has been a member of the church for 18 years.

“We enjoy him (Pastor McCaulley) and his wife,” she said. “They seek the Holy Spirit. That’s important to me.”

Anderson said he visits shut-ins and people in the hospital.

“He does everything you would want a pastor to do,” she said.

Church council member Barry Aungst said, “He is strictly biblical in his teaching and preaching. He uses references to the Old Testament and New Testament in his sermons.”

He went on to say that if a situation arises where somebody has questions on an issue, McCaulley uses the Bible as his guide and challenges the person to seek an answer in the Scriptures.

“If it is not in there, then it’s not true. That’s the way he is,” Aungst said.

“He wants to speak God’s word,” Anderson said. “We are enjoying him.”

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