Pastor Emeritus


Michael Rives Alford was born in Oxford, North Carolina, on 23 August 1938. He graduated in 1960 from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering. After a period of employment with the General Electric Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio, he came to work in the nuclear engineering department at Alco Products in Schenectady, NY. While employed at Alco he also attended graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.

As a young professional in Schenectady, Mr. Alford was involved in young adult ministry at First Presbyterian Church and served as an aide for area Bible Clubs. He joined First Presbyterian Church on 26 June 1960. He met and on 10 March 1962 married his wife, Mrs. Diana Jennings Alford, at First Presbyterian Church in a ceremony conducted by the senior Minister Dr. Herbert S. Mekeel. Mrs. Alford was a 1961 graduate of the Ellis Hospital School of Nursing.

While attending First Presbyterian Church and participating in its young adult ministry Mr. Alford came under the strong influence of Dr. Mekeel. As a result of Dr. Mekeel’s influence he was one of many men called into ministry at that time. Mr. Alford subsequently attended Gordon Divinity School (later to become Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) and graduated in the class of 1964. Prior to his ordination he spent a summer as a counselor at Camp Pattersonville and Mrs. Alford served as the camp nurse. In the summer of 1964 he served as Director of the camp and Mrs. Alford served once again as camp nurse, this time in the company of their three-month-old son Andrew.

After attending graduate school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where he was ordained in 1965, Rev. Alford took on the ministry of church planting and led three missions into church status in: Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Billerica, Massachusetts; and Nashua, New Hampshire.

While in Nashua Mr. Alford was an involved community leader, serving on the board of directors of the Boys Club, the Community Action Program, and the housing committee of the Chamber of Commerce. In honor of his service there, Mr. Alford was presented with a key to the city by Nashua’s mayor.

In August 1974 Rev. Alford was called to First Presbyterian Church to serve as an assistant minister to Dr. Herbert Mekeel. In 1976 he was installed as Associate minister, and following Dr. Mekeel’s retirement in 1979, Rev. Alford was called, elected and installed in early 1980 as the church’s twentieth Senior Minister.

When Mr. Alford came to First Presbyterian Church it was just beginning a difficult move away from its prior denomination, the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA). This was a challenging and unsettling period in the history of the church. Rev. Alford provided valuable leadership during this decade-long time of struggle and transition. His fortitude and spiritual example were used in a remarkable way to see the church through a long and tiresome ordeal. He subsequently led the church into membership in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1989.

Mr. Alford served on the board of the Schenectady Christian School since its small beginning with twenty-nine students, meeting in the Turnbull House, when it opened its doors on 8 September 1976. For a time in the school’s early history he served as interim administrator, and served on the board for the better part of two decades.

Other areas of ministry for Mr. Alford have included serving on missions trips to India and Ecuador, serving on the Board of Administration of the National Association of Evangelicals, treasurer of the New York state Association of Evangelicals, president and secretary of the Hudson-Mohawk Evangelical Fellowship, the Board of Directors of Camp Pattersonville, the Board of the Children’s Shelter, and a committee of the Red Cross.

During his years as senior minister at First Presbyterian Church both the congregation and the staff grew under his gracious and inspired leadership. Through the years many men were blessed by his mentoring. The church grew to where in 1991 a second Sunday morning service was instituted: and early service was established with a more contemporary Christian music style. The 11:00 service continued with traditional hymns and sacred music.

In 1999 Rev. Alford announced a two year plan to retire from his long and fruitful twenty-seven-year ministry at First Presbyterian Church, twenty two years as senior minister. He retired at the end of 2001 and was named Minister Emeritus of First Presbyterian Church. He is the only minister of the church to have served as assistant, associate, and senior minister.

Rev. Alford’s wife Diana was a true partner in ministry at First Presbyterian Church. In addition to mother and nurturing their three children, Andrew, Peter and Mary, she was a faithful prayer warrior, an inspiring elementary Sunday School teacher, a ladies Bible teacher, a women’s mentor, and a nurse at Schenectady Christian School. She went home to the Lord on 17 May 2005, beloved and mourned by all who knew her.

While Rev. Alford, who usually goes by Mr. Alford, may have retired from the active staff at First Presbyterian Church, he continues to vigorously serve his calling by preaching in some pulpit and nearly every Sunday. It is now a rare and welcome privilege to enjoy his company at a regular Sunday service in his home church. His ministry at First Presbyterian has been one of enlightened spiritual leadership, devoted calling, grounded preaching, uncompromising integrity and adherence to Scripture, and a humble, loving and compassionate spirit that remains the essence of his personality. He is loved and admired by all who know him.

(This biography was taken from Sure Foundation: A 250-Year History of First Presbyterian Church Schenectady, New York, 1760-2010. Copies of this book can be purchased from the Church Office.) 

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