MILLTOWN – The Rev. Richard Hayes Weyer – affectionally known as Pastor Rich by his congregation and the community – wanted no tears inside the hall of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ during his last mass.
But even he had a hard time containing his own tears as he presided over his last mass at St. Paul’s Church on June 30. He retired after 43 years in Christian ministry – 26 years at the helm of St. Paul’s on South Main Street in Milltown.
Pews were filled to the brim and the congregation – like they do every Sunday – sang gathering songs and hymns, extended hands for friendships and prayed for concerns. They listened intently as Weyer delivered his last sermon fittingly titled “It won’t be the same.”
Weyer said the congregation is what makes up the church.
“The church will not be the same without you,” he said, “without you filling the pews, without you offering your time, your talent, your presence and without you serving in the role of leadership.”
The pastor further said St. Paul’s would cease to be without a dedicated congregation.
“I trust when people say St. Paul’s will not be the same without you, it wasn’t because they thought things would get worse,” he said, which brought laughter from the congregants. “I trust you saying that because you are going to miss Diane and I, you are going to miss my craziness, my silliness, you are going to miss everything in my nature.”
As Weyer bid farewell, he encouraged and challenged his congregants to be “strong and courageous” as they work together to install a new pastor and lead the congregation into the future.
After the mass, congregants held a luncheon for Weyer and his family. More than 300 people were in attendance.
Weyer has been married to his high school sweetheart, Diane, since Aug. 12, 1972. Together they’ve raised two sons, Adam and Gregory. Their family has grown to include Adam’s wife Ashley and their sons Matthew and Daniel, and Gregory’s wife Sarah and their foster daughter, Jasmine.
Weyer’s journey starts at Central College in Pella, Iowa, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He went on to study at New Brunswick Theological Seminary where he earned a Master of Divinity Degree in practical theology. While in seminary, he served as a student pastor to two New Jersey churches, and as a chaplain to the Skillman School for Boys.
He was ordained on June 27, 1976, at the First Reformed Church in Union City — the same church in which he was baptized. He was installed as associate pastor of Parish Life and Church Growth at New Hackensack Reformed Church in Wappingers Falls, New York, on Oct. 3, 1976. His responsibilities included youth programs, education and evangelism.
On Sept. 23, 1979, Weyer was installed as pastor of the Huguenot Reformed Church in Staten Island, New York. His passion for youth ministry continued to grow as he led a vibrant youth group at that church. He was active in the community as well, acting as a chaplain to the Richmond Hospice and working with Project Hospitality, a homeless shelter and outreach program. He was a contributing editorial writer to the “Religiously Speaking” column in the Staten Island Advance newspaper. He received the DeWitt Clinton Masonic Award for Community Service from the Huguenot Lodge No. 381 in December 1992. He continued to serve faithfully at Huguenot until July 1993.
Finally, on Oct. 17, 1993, he was installed at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Milltown. Weyer led the congregation as an “enthusiastic and dynamic worship leader who welcomed children to the altar every Sunday for their own special sermon.”
During mass on June 30, the children plus some adults gathered at the altar and had a discussion about drones.
During his time at St. Paul’s, he led a vibrant Youth Group, welcoming youth from the congregation and the community. He fostered a relationship with Youth Works and led the youth on annual mission trips all over the United States and he taught Bible studies and Vacation Bible School.
Weyer was involved with the Men’s Group, counseled those in need, personally visited the sick and homebound, and encouraged and inspired members of the congregation to serve as well.
Within the community, he has served as a member of the Crisis Team for the Milltown and Spotswood school systems, ready to counsel families in the event of an emergency or disaster. He has read to the children of Parkview School, was instrumental in bringing Milltown churches together for interfaith observances of Ash Wednesday, National Day of Prayer, and Thanksgiving, served as president of Interfaith Network of Care, and has organized luncheons for seniors and Milltown teachers.
He has also received commendations from the New York City Police Department and the Milltown Police Department for assisting in the apprehension of suspects.
On July 4, Weyer served as grand marshal of the 4th of July Parade in Milltown. The Milltown 4th of July Committee selected Weyer as grand marshal in honor of his many years of service to this community.