The Rev. Mark Phillips was born and raised in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. He spent his early years as a member of the Hungarian Reformed Church, where he was baptized and confirmed. From a very early age, Mark sensed a call to ministry and was active in church, school, and youth group activities.
Mark began studying organ in junior high school and continued those studies through college. While in high school and college, Mark served several churches in Pittsburgh, northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. as organist and choir director.
After attending Point Park College in Pittsburgh, Mark spent a year and a half at Carlow College as a major in liturgical music ministry. When the program was discontinued, he transferred to George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, from which he graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. During college, his field placements included working with social workers in a nursing home and hospital emergency room, and with the mentally challenged and developmentally disabled.
Mark earned his Master of Divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in May 1994. While at Pittsburgh Seminary, he served as a Student Assistant Minister at the Riverview Presbyterian Church. He was ordained by Pittsburgh Presbytery on July 31. The next day, he began his ministry at The First Presbyterian Church in Mineral Ridge (a suburb of Youngstown), where he served for 16 years. During that time, the church expanded its ministry beyond its walls to those in need. Meals were cooked and served at the Youngstown Rescue Mission, church members worked with Niles Community Services, and the church’s food pantry was enlarged. During his years in Ohio, Mark served on the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry and served for eight years as chair of the Committee on Preparation for Ministry. Eastminster Presbytery elected him as a Commissioner to the General Assembly in 2008.
In April of 2010, Mark was called to the pastor of the historic First Presbyterian Church, “The Old Whalers’ Church,” in Sag Harbor, New York. “The Old Whalers Church” is a national historic landmark home to many outside groups, including a large community food pantry and several chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous. During Mark’s ministry at Old Whaler’s, the church became a home for the Long Island GLBTQ Network’s Hampton Center. The church also instituted a summer concert series that attracted many to the church.
In 2015, Mark was called to Cherry Hill and began his ministry in Dearborn on June 1, following a long interim period for the church. Trust was built between the pastor and the people and other leaders. From the early months of his ministry, Mark has led an adult study class that met on Monday afternoons, which started with 5 members and now includes over 20 participants, both members and nonmembers, each week. The church has reached out beyond its own four walls to share ministry with those around the corner and around the world. A concert series was started in 2016 and continues to attract both local and national musicians. In addition to his ministry at Cherry Hill, Mark has served as chair of the Committee on Ministry and continues to serve on the committee. He was elected as a Commissioner to General in 2020, which was to meet in Baltimore. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Dearborn Symphony.
In 2021, Mark and partner Larry Cereso were married in a ceremony held at Cherry Hill Church. Larry is a native of Toledo, Ohio, and has lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Columbus, Ohio. He has been the Facilities Manager at Cherry Hill Church for almost three years. They share their home with their two cats, “Hoover” and “Russell.” Together they enjoy community events and activities, theater, and concerts.