Denny’s Story 2016-10-29T15:10:44-04:00

Denny’s Story

Great grandfather, John Prutow (1851-1922), emigrated from Prussia in 1868 and settled on a farm outside of Imlay City, MI, north of Detroit.  Grandfather, John James Prutow (1885-1970) grew up on the family farm.  Descendants of Jennie, an older sister of grandfather John, continue to operate the farm, located on Prutow Road, and now a Michigan Centennial Farm. Grandfather John married Mabel McLaughlin and had two sons, James John Prutow (1910-1975), my uncle, and John William Prutow (1918-1978), my father.  My father married Inez Mayberry (1918-1999).  The Mayberry’s trace their lineage through Massachusetts and Maine back to Ireland.  Mom and Dad had three sons, Dennis James (1939), Gary Lee (1951), and David Jay (1954).

Mom and Dad lived in Cleveland, Ohio, where they welcomed me into their family.  Dad served in the Navy in the Pacific during WWII.  My childhood memories include air-raid sirens and practice blackouts, the flag with a single star indicating a serviceman in the household displayed in our front window, neighborhood polio quarantines, walking to Sunday School, and the white lines in the isles of the street cars to separate the races.


From Left to Right: Old Joe, the horse; Grandfather John Prutow; Great Aunt Jennie; Great-Grandfather John Prutow (circa 1905).

Dad obtained a new job during my elementary school years and we moved to Newport, Kentucky. Memories include hikes in nearby woods, biking to school, school band, Boy Scouts, and involvement in an Evangelical Congregational Christian Church. Still not a Christian, I regularly walked to church, often by myself, was baptized, sang in the choir, was involved in the youth group, and was interviewed by the church board to receive scouting’s God and Country Award. My high school years in Newport began in 1954, the year of Brown vs. the Board of Education.

The family moved to Medford Lakes in central New Jersey before my junior year in high school where I worked summers as a lifeguard. Much to my mother’s chagrin and my father’s delight, I abandoned school band and played football. One of my good friends got me into weight lifting. I also attended Medford Lakes Community Church. When my weight lifting buddy obtained an appointment to the Military Academy at West Point, I sought to follow suit. Not getting an appointment, I attended the University of Delaware for a year and was a math major but also failed freshman English.


Denny in Boy Scouts

The next year, I received the appointment I sought and entered West Point the summer of 1959. To my shame, I once again failed freshman English. Since my math and physics grades were high, the academy retained me. As a first year plebe, I played football to get on the training tables and away from mealtime hazing. I also played rugby, was team captain my senior year, and graduated in 1963. During this period, attendance at chapel was mandatory. One of my fond memories was marching to chapel to the band playing popular hymn tunes.

Denny as a First Year Cadet, “Plebe”


Denny at Graduation and His Mother, Inez


Denny as a 2nd Lieutenant in Korea


The 1962 USMA Rugby Club, Denny is Center Right

After graduation, I had a serious falling out with my father and requested the Army to send me to South Korea. I was assigned to Headquarters Company of 141st Signal Battalion at 1st Cavalry Division headquarters located north of Seoul and just south of the demilitarized zone. Once there, my practice of chapel attendance continued. The Division Chaplain, Dudley Boyd, even asked me to participate in chapel services. During an office visit, Chaplain Boyd, asked me, “Have you ever accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” Thinking it would not be wise to lie to the chaplain, I responded, “No.” He led me through a simple gospel presentation showing me various Scripture texts including John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-10. We prayed and my life was changed. My first sermon was in a chapel there in Korea. Almost immediately God gave me a sense of call to attend seminary. Being from southern California, Chaplain Boyd recommended that I attend Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. Charles Fuller was still alive, and hearing him preach the gospel on the radio confirmed my choice of Fuller Seminary.

In God’s providence, there was an Army program allowing officers excess leave to attend seminary and enter the Army chaplaincy. After being accepted to seminary and into this program, I was off to Fuller. My professors included Geoffrey Bromiley, Everett Harrison, George Ladd, and David Hubbard. In the mean time, Erma Jean Orr also headed for Fuller to complete a master’s degree in Christian Education. We met and were married in 1967, after she graduated and before my senior year.

Upon graduation, my ordination in 1968, and a transfer into the Chaplain’s Corp, we were off to Fort Bragg to serve as Group Chaplain for 6th Special Forces Group. A tour in Vietnam followed where I would serve as Battalion Chaplain for the 2/47 Infantry in the 9th Division stationed on a firebase south of Saigon on the north edge of the Mekong River delta. My arrival was on Tet (January 30) of 1969. One of my memories is flying into Cambodia to meet with our troops on missions there. Officially, we had no troops in Cambodia. We lost a child that year during the sixth month of Erma’s pregnancy.


Denny and Erma Private Wedding Reception


Chaplain Denny


Chaplain Denny in Vietnam


Chaplain Denny Ministering to Troops in Cambodia

Once back home, we determined to leave the Army and seek the Lord for pastoral ministry. In the interim, we moved to Dallas, Texas. After working at minimum wage in a printing plant for a time, I obtained employment as a safety engineer with Traveler’s Insurance Company. Gail, our oldest daughter, was born in 1971. During this period, we began worshipping with a Christian Reformed Mission and became members of First Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa. The ministers of Classis Pella were of immense help and encouragement in our pilgrimage into the Reformed faith.

Finally, in 1974, Erma’s former pastor, Bruce Brawdy, contacted us to see if I might be interested in pastoring the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Bruce had been in the United Presbyterian Church in Caney, Kansas. Many members of his congregation were converted under his ministry. When the confession of 1967 was passed, he left the denomination. When members of his congregation followed him, Bruce began the OPC in Caney, Kansas and subsequently began a mission in Bartlesville, OK, a few miles south of Caney. In God’s providence, we were called into the OPC and served the Bartlesville congregation until 1982. Denise Kay was born in 1974 and Kristi Lynn was born in 1975. We learned the trauma of church discipline in this congregation, accompanied by decline, and then both the challenge and gratification of seeing renewal and growth through outreach and evangelism. During this time, I had the privilege of moderating Presbytery, chairing the Home Missions Committee and the Candidates and Credentials Committee, and serving on the GA Home Mission Board and Chaplain’s Commission.


Pastor Denny, Elder John Wilkey, Deacon Kilgore


Sangre de Cristo Class


Teaching at RPTS


Professor Emeritus

In 1982, when Erma’s father passed away, we determined to move to Meade, Kansas to help with a family business, the Moon Mist Motel. Our family renewed association with the Minneola Reformed Presbyterian Church, the church of Erma’s childhood. I was also able to develop Westminster Evangelistic Ministries. This ministry provided weekly devotional columns to almost 800 subscribing newspapers and sent a monthly expository newsletter, In Response, to churches in the OPC and RPCNA. Erma homeschooled our children, working together with Gay Graham, wife of Pastor Ron Graham, and together they used the basement of the church building.

In 1985, we moved to Hutchinson, Kansas where our children attended Central Christian School and I continued work on Westminster Evangelistic Ministries. Erma taught at Central Christian in 1986 and began to teach Christian Education at Sterling College in 1987. It was also my privilege to serve on the Central Christian School Board and as chairman of that board. Sterling Reformed Presbyterian Church lost her pastor in 1986. This vacancy led to opportunities to preach in Sterling and in 1987 to regularly supply the Sterling pulpit. This extended ‘candidating period’ resulted in a request to consider a call. Of course Presbytery required me to study the distinctives of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. This study resulted in my concurrence with the church’s distinctive doctrines. Presbytery installed me as Sterling’s pastor in July of 1988.

By God’s grace, the congregation experienced renewal and growth and Westminster Evangelistic Ministries progressed. It was also my privilege to moderate Presbytery, to chair both the Candidates and Credentials Committee and the Home Missions Committee, and to serve Synod on the Seminary Board of Trustees. For a period of time, while we were in Sterling, a deacon, Quentin Kilgore, was Sterling’s mayor, an elder, John Wilkey, was president of Sterling’s school board, and I was president of the local Chamber of Commerce. It was my privilege to be the conference speaker at White Lake twice, at Covfamikoi twice, and at Horn Creek once. Pastor Paul McCracken introduced me to Sangre de Cristo Seminary and I was asked to teach summer courses there. Excursions to Sangre de Cristo were an important part of family life for several summers and helped pave the way for future ministry. In 1995 and with the church’s approval, I began a Doctor of Ministry program at RTS in Orlando, FL. R. C. Sproul was one of my professors. God was again gracious and I received my degree in 1998. When the church grew to the place of supporting an associate pastor, we purchased and remodeled a home and planned to remain in Sterling.

Before we were able to move into our new home, Jerry O’Neill visited and asked me about teaching at RPTS. Synod subsequently elected me as Professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology and my work for the Seminary began in 2001. During that first year, Erma completed a contract at Sterling College. I lived on the third floor of the Seminary immersed in class preparations. The Lord privileged me to teach Pentateuch, Writings, Prophets, Hermeneutics, Doctrine of Last Things, Covenant Theology, Pre-Marital Counseling, Christian Education, Ministry of Worship, Care and Administration of the Local Church, Introduction to Preaching, and separate practicums on Preaching Old Testament Narratives, New Testament Narratives, Psalms, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament, Prophetic and Apocalyptic Literature, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. My work also called me to teach classes for the D.Min. Program, to act as Dean of Faculty, and to produce three books, two of which are current class texts. I was elected moderator of Synod in 2008. For several years it was a treat to have students in our home on a weekly basis for meals and fellowship. During my tenure, I’ve learned far more than I have taught. In 2013, I had the privilege of being the Seminary commencement speaker and the Seminary Board designated me Professor Emeritus of Homiletics. It was honor to serve on the RPTS faculty. To God is the glory.

In June of 2013, Erma and I had the joy of attending my fiftieth class reunion at West Point. It was my privilege to speak at the memorial service remembering our fallen classmates. Erma and I continue to live in Pittsburgh, PA. We have the joy three grown daughters and seven grandchildren. “Surely God is good to Israel” (Psalm 73:1).

Speaking at the Protestant Chapel, West Point


The Grandchildren (Left to Right): Zeah Ryherd, Luca Cirignano, Zoe Ryherd, Mia Cirignano, Zachary Prutow, Matteo Cirignano, Isa Prutow; Children (Left to Right): Kristi Prutow Cirignano, Russ Ryherd, Denise Prutow Ryherd, Denny and Erma, Gail Prutow.