Kind. Nurturing. Encouraging. Mentor.
These were some of the words most used by current and former Wilshire members in remembering former associate pastor Preston Bright, who died Sept. 6 at age 85. Preston served on staff from 1990 to 2005 and was named associate pastor emeritus upon his retirement. He is survived by his wife and ministry partner, Mary Lynne, and their son, John Paul Bright.
Wilshire member Leigh Ann Brown wrote on Facebook, “Preston is the reason I got really involved at Wilshire. He was funny and nurturing and kind and loved to find people a place to serve.” Senior Pastor Emeritus George Mason said, “Preston was my dear colleague and partner in ministry. He never sought the spotlight and always desired to make others shine in their service. He led our staff, guided us with a steady hand, and left us better in every way.”
Preston came to Wilshire after 17 years as pastor at Fort Worth’s Western Hills Baptist Church. “It was good timing in my life,” he said in a 2011 I Am Wilshire profile. “I wanted to zero in on some gifts and skills and not be so much of a generalist.” Preston’s chief responsibilities at Wilshire were pastoral care and staff supervision. “I saw myself as wanting to free George to do what only the senior pastor could do,” Preston said.
While at Wilshire, Preston helped launch Stephen Ministry (later serving as a Stephen Minister himself), was instrumental in introducing parish nursing, served as staff liaison to Wilshire Adventurers and was involved in the early days of the pastoral residency program. Nurturing couples, especially in the early years of marriage, was a shared passion of Preston and Mary Lynne. For many years they led Wilshire’s Marriage Enrichment group, a precursor of today’s Marriage Connections. Preston taught Bright Fellowship, a Sunday School class that bore his name, while on staff and for years after retiring.
John Preston Bright was born Nov. 11, 1937, in Trent, Texas, near Abilene. When he was 3, his family moved to Fort Worth. He attended Baylor University, graduating with a sociology degree in 1960. He then earned a bachelor of divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Early in his career he served churches in Gatesville and Merit. Preston was a high school junior when he first met Mary Lynne. The couple began dating in 1960 and married in 1962.
Preston called a clinical pastoral education program at Texas Medical Center in Houston a turning point in his life: “It opened my mind and ears to the finer points of pastoral care.” After stints at First Baptist Church in Austin and a church in Illinois, Preston returned to Fort Worth to lead Western Hills. He completed a doctor of ministry degree at Southwestern Seminary in 1977 and taught pastoral care classes there as adjunct faculty for 10 years.
George Mason said, “I am eternally grateful for Preston’s partnership, and I know he has already heard the words every minister longs for: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’”