William Randolph Sengel, 88, who was pastor of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria from 1960 until he retired in 1986, died Oct. 17 at Westminster at Lake Ridge retirement community in Woodbridge.
He died of respiratory ailments, said his son S. Randolph Sengel.
Dr. Sengel was the first moderator, which is the equivalent of chairman, of the National Capital Union Presbytery, which includes Presbyterian churches from Northern Virginia, the District and its Maryland suburbs, and Baltimore.
During his 26 years at the Meeting House in Alexandria, he presided at more than 700 weddings, baptized 400 babies and conducted 200 funerals.
William Randolph Sengel was born in Fort Smith, Ark. During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Mediterranean. After the war, he graduated from Davidson College. In 194, he received a doctorate from Yale Divinity School.
He served Presbyterian congregations in Radford, Va., and Fulton, Mo., before being called to the Meeting House in Alexandria.
He helped bring about the union of the Northern and Southern branches of the Presbyterian Church USA in 1971. It was in the years before that union that he was moderator of the National Capital Union Presbytery.
Dr. Sengel had also served on the boards of the National Council of Churches and the Consultation on Church Union.
He wrote a book, “Can These Bones Live? Pastoral Reflections on the Old Presbyterian Meeting House of Alexandria: Virginia Through its First Two Hundred Years,” published in 1973.
In the Alexandria community, Dr. Sengel helped racially integrate the Alexandria library. In 1968, he was invited to offer a eulogy for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at T.C. Williams High School. He used that occasion to plead for the discontinuance of flying the Confederate flag on Alexandria street corners. After a debate lasting more than a year, the practice was discontinued.
After his retirement from the Meeting House, Dr. Sengel was interim pastor to several congregations and then served as chaplain at Westminster at Lake Ridge for 14 years, until 2007. He and his wife, the former Marian Stephens, moved from their Alexandria home to Westminster that same year.
Besides his wife of 68 years, of Westminster at Lake Ridge, survivors include three sons, S. Randolph Sengel of Alexandria, David Erwin Sengel of Boone, N.C., and Mark Ashmore Sengel of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
— Bart Barnes