Dr. David Rees, former senior pastor of The Church by the Sea, dies at 72

 

A memorial service will be held Feb. 1 for Dr. David Rees, the former senior pastor of The Church by the Sea.

 
David Rees
David Rees

mbrannigan@MiamiHerald.com

A memorial service for the Rev. Dr. David Rees is planned at The Church by the Sea in Bal Harbour, where he served as senior pastor for 25 years before retiring in 2008.

He died Dec. 14, 2013, at 72. The service will be 11 a.m. on Saturday Feb. 1.

“He was dear to many people in the congregation,’’ said the Rev. Robert Asinger, the current senior pastor of church, who arrived after his retirement and didn’t know him. “They felt like they wanted an avenue to give some reflection and to give thanks for his service to the church.’’

Linda Burrowes, who worked for years as Rees’s assistant at the church, said members have decided to play a piece of music Dr. Rees composed for the church’s 50th anniversary. “His love was music. We continue to this day to have an incredible choir,’’ she said.

Rees became senior pastor of the church in 1983, after the death of Dr. John Yenches. Rees started out in ministry in Wellesley, Mass., and then served at churches in Berkeley, Calif. and Shaker Heights, Ohio, before coming to South Florida.

Over a period of 38 years in ministry, Rees revealed a talent for writing sermons that resonated, drawing on current affairs and adding a pinch of humor. Under his leadership, the church had a weekly TV program on WSVN-7 that ran from 1991 to 2004.

“He wrote carefully crafted, masterful sermons,’’ said the Rev. Priscilla Felisky Whitehead, a long-time friend and colleague, whom Rees brought on board as a minister at the Bal Harbour church.

“Everyone has a favorite sermon. My favorite is about his dog that died,’’ said Burrowes.

Rees was actively involved in working with Miami’s homeless and served from its founding on the board of the Community Partnership for Homeless, later renamed the Chapman Partnership.

About two years after his retirement, Rees moved back to California to be close to his children. He and his wife Helen settled in Walnut Creek.

A memorial service was set for Sunday in California.

“He was really proud of how he helped The Church by the Sea to grow and to change with the times and his ability to get a long with people of all ages and backgrounds,’’ said his wife Helen.

In addition to his wife Helen, Rees is survived by two children, Sarah Carroll and Rebecca Ashton; three grandchildren, Lola Ashton, Oliver Ashton, and Dylan Carroll; a brother, Thomas Rees; a sister, Linda Beam; and several nieces and nephews.

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