Richard Jeffrey Alberta, longtime pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brighton, Mich., died July 29 following a heart attack. He was 71.
Alberta was Pastor of Cornerstone EPC from 1992 until his retirement in December 2018. He also served as chaplain at the Woodland Village assisted living community in Brighton, where he provided comfort and companionship to its residents.
Under Alberta’s leadership, Cornerstone grew from about 350 members to more than 2,000, and hosted the 23rd (2003) and 29th (2009) EPC General Assemblies. He previously served as Associate Pastor for Ward Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Livonia, Mich., from 1988 to 1992. He also served churches in Oklahoma, New York, and Massachusetts during his 40-year ministry career.
Born in Passaic, N.J., he was the fourth of five children to Frank Alberta, a Sicilian immigrant and restauranteur, and Betty Tillack. While playing football for Mahwah High School in Mahwah, N.J., he met a spunky cheerleader named Donna Pastor.
Following an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps, Alberta studied finance, pre-law, and political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He and Donna, who was also attending Rutgers, married in 1969 and graduated in 1970. Yet he was an avowed atheist, having abandoned Christianity in the 1960s in response to Vietnam War and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
By 1977, he was enjoying a successful career, a happy marriage, and their first son (born that year). In a 2018 interview, Alberta said that at the time, he was struggling with depression and anxiety, but agreed to attend a church service with his niece where he found unexpected comfort in the gospel message.
Both he and Donna accepted Christ in the succeeding months, and he sensed a call to become a minister to strengthen and support the faith of others. They soon moved to Massachusetts, where he received a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982. He later earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa.
He is survived by his wife, Donna; son Christopher; son and daughter-in-law Jonathan and Kristi; son and daughter-in-law Brian and Stephanie; son and daughter-in-law Tim and Sweta; 11 grandchildren; a sister, Betty Lynn; and three brothers: Frank, Ted, and Jack.
A memorial service will be held on August 2 at Cornerstone EPC in Brighton. At the family’s request, memorial donations can be made to the Livingston County Right to Life or the Pregnancy Help Clinic in Brighton.
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