Has been an ordained Presbyterian Minister for 40
years, serving diverse congregations in Newfoundland, Canada; San Antonio,
Texas; Lexington, KY; and Spartanburg, South Carolina. Dr. Renwick is a graduate
of St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, where he studied Applied Mathematics.
He received his M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D.
from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. David’s wife Currie is a Media
Specialist in the DC Public Schools. They have three adult children and five
His conviction led to more
than a spiritual journey
The Rev. Dr. David Renwick was an exchange student in the United States when he
was “challenged to answer God’s call.”
Renwick, the grandson and great-grandson of Presbyterian ministers, admits the
decision to follow his calling was a frightening one.
It has since been a journey of great joy -- one that began in an old iron
ore-mining town in Canada and led to Spartanburg, where Renwick recently was
named senior minister of First Presbyterian Church.
In 1974, Renwick came to the United States to attend Gordon-Conwell Theological
Seminary in Boston and pursue a relationship with Currie Overby, a student he
met while she studied in Scotland.
Currie and Renwick married the following year. They have three children: Lalla,
25, Charles, 23, and Mairi, 20.
Renwick was born in Malaysia in March 1952 to Scottish parents.
“It was a British colony. My father was in the Department of Agriculture. He was
a veterinarian and my mother was a nurse,” he said.
The family lived there until Renwick was 5. They returned to Scotland after
Malaysia gained independence in 1957.
Getting over a fear
Renwick’s spiritual conviction to enter the ministry began to weigh on him
during his second year at St. Andrews University, where he was pursuing a
bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics.
“I intended to teach math,” he said. “I loved math. From 10 or 12 on, it was my
Reading, on the other hand, was difficult for him.
“I was scared to death of this whole thing,” Renwick said about entering the
ministry. “I could not speak in public through my teenage years; it was the most
fearful thing in my whole life.”
Renwick not only feared public speaking. He dreaded the prospect of being in an
environment that would require him to “have to read, read, read and write.”
“I fought that for a long time,” he said.
But his decision to pursue the ministry ultimately was influenced by people he
met and an “inner conviction that God wanted me to do something else.”
An influential meeting
Renwick worshipped at First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, N.Y., while an
exchange student in the U.S. in 1971. It was there that he met Dr. Herbert
Mekeel, a minister who would have a profound effect on his life.
Mekeel “had the gift of challenging you to think about what God wanted you to do
with your life,” he said.
“After my junior year, with the influence of Dr. Mekeel, I spent a summer in a
church in Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It was during that summer that I
sensed God’s call.”
Renwick was 21 when he preached his first sermon to a friend.
“I was going to preach for a summer and I had never preached anywhere. So I
said, ‘You know, before I inflict this on a congregation, how is it?’
“His feedback was, ‘Don’t rub your hands like this,’ ” Renwick said, rubbing his
palms together as if praying.
Renwick has since ministered to five congregations, including First Presbyterian
Church of Spartanburg, and earned a doctorate of philosophy from Union
Before coming to Spartanburg, Renwick was minister at Second Presbyterian Church
in Lexington, Ky., serving there from 1994 to 2006.
Renwick spends his time out of the pulpit playing tennis and golf.
“I am a very fortunate person because I’m doing what I love to do,” he said.
“What I discovered in accepting God’s call is that God knew better than I where
my greatest joy would lie.”
Kim Kimzey, author of this article, can be reached
at 562-7264 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A sermon by Dr. David A. Renwick for Christmas in audio format
A NOTE FROM DR. RENWICK
Finding Home and Citizenship
Through Jesus, people of every ethnicity (both Jews and Gentiles) have access in
one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but
you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built
upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as
the cornerstone. Ephesians 2:18-20
It was the early 1990’s, following a visit to family in Scotland, that I was in
London, rushing to catch the train to Gatwick Airport. There was a moment of
panic as I fumbled for my passport and Green Card, and suddenly realized the
precariousness of my position. If I lost either my passport or my card I would
be stranded. That is, the British would be in no rush to issue me a new passport
– after all, I was not trying to “get home to Britain,” and the American Embassy
would be in no rush to help someone who was not a citizen but a mere “resident
alien” who’d carelessly lost his card. I felt homeless – but not just that. At
that same moment something became crystal clear. I realized that at some point
in the recent past, married to an American and with three children, after five
years in Canada and twelve in the United States, my home had shifted; that the
home I needed to be in was no longer on the eastern side of the Atlantic, but on
The moment of panic passed by, and I returned “home” safely with passport and
green card in hand (mmm . . let me tell you sometime about another scary moment
– when my wallet fell out of my pocket and was chewed up by a lawn mower – while
my Green Card in the wallet miraculously survived!!). So -- the moment passed
by, but in time I came to see the life-changing impact of that single thought:
where’s the home that I need to be able to enter? This was the first step toward
the decision to become a United States citizen – the assurance of access to a
place to call home.
The next steps took almost a decade, not because of any bureaucratic confusion
(plenty of that in obtaining the Green Card!), but because of the seriousness of
the oath of naturalization, and especially the opening lines. Here’s the full
"I hereby declare, on oath,
that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity
to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have
heretofore been a subject or citizen;
that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of
America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on
behalf of the United States when required by the law;
that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United
States when required by the law;
that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when
required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental
reservation or purpose of evasion;
so help me God."
If you are in the military or a member of congress, or perhaps in some other
government role, you will have taken a similar oath, and for many years I had
been willing to affirm the last four statements without reservation. But the
first statement tore at my heart. The oath involved not only an affirmation
about the future, but a renunciation of the past: of all that had shaped me.
This was not easy. It took time. But then, on August 4, 2000, I took my stand
with about 50 other immigrants from around the world before a federal judge
(Jennifer Coffman, an elder in my congregation in Lexington, Kentucky) and
affirmed the oath – all of it – with joy and gratitude, and in good conscience.
At that moment, a new life, with a new home began.
And then another realization. As Deuteronomy reminds us, we are all immigrants;
we are all resident aliens in search of a home. All of us are longing for true
citizenship and a place with people to belong to. Both now, and for eternity.
The importance and the difficulty of the “oath of naturalization” – whether for
the United States or for the Kingdom of God is similar in both cases – requiring
not only promises to embrace the new, but a willingness to leave and renounce
In the Book of Joshua, the book after our Sunday sermon book, Deuteronomy, the
new leader, Joshua, sets the scene plainly for God’s people:
LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND: Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the
River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve
the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers
served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land
COMMIT TO GOD’S FUTURE: But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
And the prophet Elijah forces the issue by asking How long will you go limping
between two opinions? If the Lord is god, follow him! If another god (Baal) is
god, follow him! (1 Kings 18:21)
What better time than July 4th weekend to think seriously about our past and
future, our citizenship and home…Time to renew our vows on both fronts?
So glad to be your pastor,