Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

James Linn Jr. May 6, 1960 - July 21, 2013 Minister with Refined Sense of Justice, Humor

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

James Linn Jr. May 6, 1960 - July 21, 2013 Minister with Refined Sense of Justice, Humor

Article excerpt

James Linn Jr. was a 19-year-old facing cancer when he boarded a bus to see a movie and a detour stalled it in an alley where someone had written on a brick at bus window height: "Trust in God. Choose Jesus."

A Sunday school teacher from the age of 15, he took it as a sign and ultimately became the Rev. James Linn, pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Charleroi. He recovered from his teenage cancer, which was unrelated to the brain cancer that claimed his life Sunday, at the age of 53.

"He never understood how someone got up high enough to leave that message at eye level on that bus," said his wife, KellyLynn Linn. They had dated at McKeesport Area High School before college took them separate ways. Both weathered a divorce before they reunited 23 years later. They married in 2004.

He dropped journalism studies at Penn State University, earned a bachelor's in religious studies at Bethany College in West Virginia, then a ministerial degree at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. The Rev. Jack Sullivan Jr., minister of the Pennsylvania Region of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), was a classmate and friend.

Soon after they met, the future Rev. Linn, who loved music and sang tenor, gave him a cassette anthology of The Four Tops.

"I'm African-American, he's white, and I'd never known a white person who listened to the Motown scene. He knew the music. It showed the diversity of his life and how much he appreciated all that life had to offer," Rev. Sullivan said.

"He also had a great sense of justice. He wanted wrong things to be made right. He had a big heart. Whenever he knew a person was being trivialized or looked down upon unjustly, he was concerned about that."

Ordained in 1987, he served in West Virginia and Kentucky while often returning home to visit family and use the Pirates season tickets he had held since he was 18. He accepted the call to Charleroi in 1996.

He was known for improvised children's sermons, in which a child handed him an object and he devised a biblical message about it.

When handed a Pirates magnet, he spoke about faith.

"He said that the lesson of the Pirates is that you have to have faith, no matter how bad things get," Ms. …

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