Years of experience with minorities of practically every description has given the Rev. Russell W. Durler a depth of understanding and a breadth of knowledge few clerics possess.
The Rev. Durler, pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Kaysville, spent five years as pastor of a multiracial congregation in Detroit's inner city and 15 years as pastor of three Indian Presbyterian churches in Arizona.A Utahn for the past five years, the Rev. Durler said he is used to dealing with practically all other religious denominations and enjoys interacting with people of other religious persuasions.
"If I have learned anything, it is that all people are the same inside. They just live in different circumstances.
"Poor people are not poor because they want to be or because they are not smart enough to be rich. They are, most often, victims of political and economic manipulation. It is a common mistake to think that because a person is rich or successful he is blessed and worth more as a person.
`Poor are rich in spirit'
"The poor are generally rich in spirit and experiences, not sheltered or ignorant of the ways of the world, but wise. Their faith runs deep. They are strong in adversity. Poor people, minorities and the oppressed have taught me a great deal about the real meaning of life, what friendship means and what love is all about."
When the Rev. Durler came to Kaysville Feb. 1, 1985, his congregation consisted of about 30 people who had formed themselves into a committee. Within less than two weeks, he held his first church services at the Layton Community Church.
Three months later, the Rev. Durler's growing congregation moved the church into a small business and light industrial complex at 550 N. Main St., Kaysville. In the past five years, the church has expanded into three of the complex's business units and now has a congregation of 130 adults.
"We are already planning to move again. We share our building now with the Ogden Korean Presbyterian Church, but even with only our own congregation we are crowded.
"We expect to move into our own building that we will construct in Fruit Heights, on a 4.25-acre site at Highway 89 and Old Mountain Road.
"The site is an alfalfa hay field right now, but we expect to break ground next spring and have our new church finished by the fall of 1991."
Rev. Durler said the new church will have at least 6,000 square feet of floor space plus a basement and will be constructed so it can be expanded easily another 6,000 square feet or more.
"The design is similar to a church I built many years ago in Michigan. Its sanctuary will have a chancel on the west side of the building with large glass windows on each side so the congregation can look out and see the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island. It is a magnificent view."
Plans for new building
He said the building plan will be finalized this fall, and a fund drive will be held this winter. "We were given the land by the Presbytery of Utah and we expect our new church will cost between $250,000 and $300,000.
The Rev. Durler said his church holds Sunday school and Bible class for adults at 9 a.m. each Sunday. Youths will begin attending Sunday school in the fall. Worship services are held each Sunday at 10:15 a.m.
"We are all looking forward to our Church Family Camp at Beaver Creek Campground in the Uintas the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August."
The Presbyterian minister grew up in Flint, Mich., graduated from Flint Northern High School in 1950 and spent two years in the Army during the Korean War.
After the war, he earned a degree in psychology and sociology from Alma College in Alma, Mich., and graduated from the Western Theological Seminary, now called the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, in Pittsburgh, in 1959. He is currently working toward a doctorate in systematic theology at the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, Calif.
He became associate pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Mount Clemens, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, in 1969.
Ministry in the inner city
He spent seven years as pastor of the Countryside Presbyterian Church, Saginaw, Mich., and then was called to Detroit's inner city where he became pastor of the Highland Park Presbyterian Church.
"I arrived in Detroit's multiracial inner city about three weeks before the Detroit riots broke out in 1966. Things were never dull from then on."
In 1977, the Rev. Durler was called to the Salt River Larger Parish in and around Scottsdale, Ariz., where he was pastor of three churches with three Indian tribes and three languages, the Pima, Maricopa and Yavapai and Mohave Apache.
He served the Indians there 15 years before coming to Utah and his Salt River Parish became a model nationally for a Native American ministry.
The Rev. Durler and his wife, Barbara, a third-grade teacher at Hill Field Elementary School, have four grown children and five grandchildren.