The Rev. Richard Kinsey Avery, age 85, died on Sunday, March 15, 2020 in Santa Fe, NM. A resident of Santa Fe since his retirement in 2000, he previously served for forty years as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Port Jervis, New York. He was also a composer, collaborating with Donald Marsh on both words and music in the writing of more than 150 published carols, hymns and anthems such as “We Are the Church”; founding the publishing company Proclamation Productions with Donald Marsh in 1967. Hope Publishing Company, a large Christian publisher in Illinois, took over the sales of their works in later years. He and Donald Marsh also led conference and church assemblies in new forms of worship and music in virtually all 50 states, starting in the late 1960’s and continuing into the 21st century. These events include 30 years of summer seminars at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM.
In Port Jervis, a small city 70 miles northwest of NYC, Pastor Avery was a founder of a ministry to poor people called the Hope Center, and a member and chairman of the Board of Directors of Mercy Community Hospital. Under his pastoral leadership, the Presbyterian Church (FPCPJ) was a prominent center for creative forms of worship, music, and drama, providing many concerts and theatrical events for the community.
In Santa Fe, Richard Avery was a resident of the Plaza del Monte retirement community. He was also very involved in the life of the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, where he served as music leader. In 2003 he founded a small magazine, Santa Fe Theologians, and served as its editor and later as the manager of Santa Fe Theologian Institutes, public forums on contemporary issues. He was also a member of the World Affairs Forum, the Council on International Relations, the Santa Fe Symposium, and the Coro de Camara chorale ensemble.
Richard Avery was born in the Central Valley of California in 1934, the son of Chester and Rose Bradford Avery. He attended schools in the small town of Exeter, CA, where he and his family were active participants in the First Presbyterian Church. At the age of 14, at a Presbyterian youth conference, he decided to be a Christian minister and never turned from that decision. He attended the University of Redlands in southern California, where he was deeply influenced by participation in the University Choir and by daily life among a group of Christian friends, fellow students also struggling with the challenge of discipleship to Jesus in the modern world. Following his university graduation, Richard Avery attended Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
He is survived by close friends Clyde Tomlin, Cindy Piatt, Betty Collins, other friends and neighbors in Santa Fe and Port Jervis, New York; his nephew Brad Wilcox and wife Tricia, their son Sam Wilcox of Fresno, CA and son Kevin Dunn, his wife Taylor and daughter Kendahl of Woodland, CA; his niece Carol Wilcox Bazemore and her husband Ed Bazemore of Raleigh, NC.
In memory of Pastor Avery, contributions may be made to Ghost Ranch Conference Center in Abiquiu, NM, to the First Presbyterian Church of Port Jervis, NY, to Westminster Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, NM, or to Amnesty International.
In light of the current pandemic, a memorial service is pending.
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