Keith Brown’s ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem began in September 1969, when he was named Pastor of Adult Education, under Senior Pastor Lloyd Ogilvie. When Rev. Ogilvie was called to the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California, as well as ministries in television and in the United States Senate, a nationwide pastoral search began to find his replacement. The Search Committee reviewed hundreds of potential candidates but also heard the voices of hundreds of members of the congregation calling attention to the special wisdom, humility, and maturity of Keith Brown’s preaching.
Initially, the Search Committee’s desire to add Keith Brown’s name as a candidate for Senior Pastor was adamantly refused by the young pastor, who pleaded that he lacked the required ability and experience for the position.
Finally, after much prayer and a unanimous decision by the Search Committee, Rev. Brown accepted the call and was installed as Senior Pastor in September 1972.
He has often told the story: “I was a wreck. My hands were shaking and my knees were knocking. But, I made a deal with God. I said ‘I will accept this call if You will surround me with people with enough talent, care, and love to help me succeed.’ And did He ever!”
In the next few years, an extraordinary staff including Thomas Tewell, Mary Faith Carson, David Dorst, Greg Funfgeld, Bonnie Agard, Dick Ferguson, and many others joined Rev. Brown and helped him oversee a period of remarkable growth and spiritual development at the church.
Rev. Brown’s ministry at FPCB spanned more than 30 years (1969-2000).
His pastoral leadership of the church–including a 9-year period when he shared co-pastorship with Rev. Gareth Icenogle–spanned 27 years, a tenure matched in the history of the church only by the service of Rev. James Robinson in the early 1900s.
His years of service to the church were distinguished by a deepened commitment to relational theology and koinonia, a concept of Christian fellowship that encourages honest, substantive relationships and a devotion to the spiritual growth of the community.
On June 24, 2018, in a special service at the church, Rev. Brown was named as FPCB’s first Pastor Emeritus, an honorary position reflecting the congregation’s deep love for him, and profound gratitude for his ministry, leadership and friendship.