David Poling, 1928-2022: Presbyterian minister and author left a lasting impact - Albuquerque Journal

David Poling, 1928-2022: Presbyterian minister and author left a lasting impact

The Rev. Dr. David Poling, who died in July, served as pastor of Albuquerque’s First Presbyterian Church from 1975 to 1989. (Courtesy of the Poling family)

Gary Weaver’s first impression of the Rev. Dr. David Poling was “This guy is really cool.”

Weaver, now a retired Presbyterian minister living in Pueblo West, Colorado, met Poling, pastor of Albuquerque’s First Presbyterian Church for 14 years, in the early ’70s during a meeting of Presbyterian leaders in Coolidge, Arizona.

“He was one of the presenters and keynote speakers,” Weaver said. “He had this leather jacket, he wore boots and he was strikingly handsome.”

In 1975, when Poling became pastor of Albuquerque’s First Presbyterian, he recruited Weaver to serve as associate pastor of youth and adult education.

“I was there from 1975 to 1980,” Weaver said. “I was very impressed with (Poling’s) sermons. He was a great storyteller. He put together sermons like he put together the books he wrote. They were engaging, compelling, interesting. Our two Sunday services were packed, people sitting on the edge of their seats.

“He would put a lot of local history in his sermons – like Billy the Kid and others from Southwest lore – but he would turn them into very poignant points.”

A Zoom memorial service for Poling, who was 93 when he died in Rio Rancho on July 26, is scheduled for Friday.

Survivors include his wife, Ann Reid Poling; their children, John D. Poling, Lesley A. Poling Kempes, Andrew P. Poling and Charles C. Poling; a brother, John C. Poling; and eight grandchildren.

Family of ministers

Poling was born in 1928 in Belmar, New Jersey. He attended the College of Wooster in Ohio and Yale Divinity School and served Presbyterian congregations in New York, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

His family included at least 16 ministers, but he admitted it was difficult to keep count. His grandfather and grandmother Poling were ministers, so was his father, both his brothers, an uncle and his cousin Clark Poling.

Clark Poling was one of the Four Chaplains of World War II fame – two Protestants, a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest who gave their life jackets to others and died on the SS Dorchester, a U.S. transport ship torpedoed by a German submarine in the North Atlantic in February 1943.

David Poling wrote “Sea of Glory,” a novel based on the Four Chaplains’ story. One reason he wrote the novel, he told the Journal in 2018, is that “courage and heroism become contagious.”

Poling wrote more than a dozen books, including one about evangelist Billy Graham and another about theologian, musician and medical missionary Albert Schweitzer. He got involved in the world of New York publishing in 1964 when he became editor and publisher of Christian Herald Magazine, a position that enabled him to travel throughout the world. Later, after leaving the magazine job, he wrote a weekly, nationally syndicated column about faith and ethics.

While working with the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe in ecumenical and interreligious affairs, Albuquerque attorney Robert Singer got to know Poling well.

“We did some ecumenical work together, had a number of discussions and I read all his books, including the one about Billy Graham,” Singer said. “He would call on the phone to discuss current events that might have a spiritual dimension. His mind was always very active and working on deep subjects.

“He knew people all over the world who admired him. But he was humble, thoughtful and compassionate and a joy to be around because of that.”

Straight shooter

Jim Zanios was a member of Albuquerque’s First Presbyterian when he met Poling and the two remained friends until Poling’s death.

“He was the kind of guy who looked you in the eye, a straight shooter,” Zanios said. “We’d have long talks, spiritual things, friendship things, the books he was writing. He was very intellectual, very attuned to history and he mixed that in with biblical issues.

“Our relationship was built on love and respect. If you ever wanted to be like anybody, it would be David Poling.”

Linda Roberts-Baca, pastor at Albuquerque’s Rio Grande Presbyterian Church, had known Poling since she was 14.

“My family were long-time members at First Presbyterian,” she said. “My mom had six kids, and we’d always sit near the front of the church. Dr. Poling has been an important part of my faith journey. He encouraged me to go to Princeton Theological Seminary, we exchanged letters while I was in the seminary, he supported and endorsed my candidacy for ministry in the church. He officiated at my wedding. He has prayed for me through my life.”

She said the words that best define Poling are faithfulness, friendship, prayerfulness and watchfulness.

“He wanted to protect his flock, preach and teach,” she said.

Empowering mentor

“He did not deliberately teach me anything,” Weaver said. “He empowered me to pull my gifts out of myself. He treated me as a co-pastor. He had me preach about every six weeks. He had a leadership style to him that had me taking mental notes.

“I learned from him both as a pastor and a person. I really looked up to him.”

Home » ABQnews Seeker » David Poling, 1928-2022: Presbyterian minister and author left a lasting impact


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
NMSU coach 'apologetic' about deadly shooting
ABQnews Seeker
Takes responsibility; no comment on discipline Takes responsibility; no comment on discipline
2
State sues tobacco companies over settlement payments
ABQnews Seeker
Complaint notes that NM has lost ... Complaint notes that NM has lost out on more than $84M in the past 14 years
3
Could EV charging stations become targets?
ABQnews Seeker
Sandia researchers sound alarm on potential ... Sandia researchers sound alarm on potential cyberattacks
4
Saint Mary's to challenge unbeaten Lobos in a way ...
ABQnews Seeker
The unbeaten Lobos get tested Wednesday ... The unbeaten Lobos get tested Wednesday against a Saint Mary's team that takes away what UNM has been doing so well.
5
It's how we roll
ABQnews Seeker
Iconic figure has returned to his ... Iconic figure has returned to his perch along the north side of Interstate 40
6
UNM's Anderson School of Management names new interim dean
ABQnews Seeker
Current Dean Mitzi Montoya is departing ... Current Dean Mitzi Montoya is departing for a University of Utah job.
7
Holiday Wish Program is looking for sponsors
ABQnews Seeker
Families with limited resources and extensive ... Families with limited resources and extensive needs get help
8
Man accused of shooting at police drone, officers
ABQnews Seeker
Auto theft investigation led to chase, ... Auto theft investigation led to chase, shots fired
9
Old Town Boys Club faces another allegation of sexual ...
ABQnews Seeker
Four lawsuits filed against organization Four lawsuits filed against organization