1. Tell us about yourself and your ministry setting.
My family and I moved to South Dakota from Raleigh, North Carolina in 2007. We were praying for a calling in which we would be within a day’s drive of my aging parents in Minnesota. But we also knew, from living earlier in Colorado, that we loved the West. Camping, hiking, and mountain biking are some of our favorite activities. Our prayers were answered when we learned of the position at Westminster Church in Rapid City.
It’s always been our hope to be part of a church that we’d want to join even if I weren’t the pastor. That has really been true for us at Westminster – not because it’s perfect, but we’ve fallen in love with the people, the vision, and the setting. Westminster is a vibrant congregation whose primary gifts are hospitality and outreach, which is terrific because we are located directly across the street from a Middle School, and next to a BIA hospital. Our vision has three inter-related parts, which are also our process for growth in discipleship: Elevate Jesus, Empower People, Embody Love.
For us, western South Dakota, and particularly the Black Hills, are a year-round recreational wonderland. Many people don’t realize what a treasure this part of the country is (outside of being the home of Mount Rushmore), but we have thoroughly enjoyed the people, the western vibe, the pace of life, and the beautiful mountainous terrain. Plus, we can be in Minneapolis in under nine hours, and Denver in under six.
2. What drew you to a call in SD?
Ministry in the congregation I was serving in Raleigh was great preparation for the position in Rapid City. But it was really a series of phone calls with the PNC chair that God used to confirm that this was the right call for us. At first, she wasn’t sure someone from a metro area would thrive in South Dakota, but it became clear that this part of the country, and the congregation, would be a great fit for us. We had loved lots of the things about North Carolina, but there were just as many pleasant surprises here in western South Dakota.
3. What has been your favorite part of it?
I’ve enjoyed many things about serving here, but by far the thing I enjoy most is the depth, over time, of knowing this congregational better and better, being invited into the stories of their lives, and seeing God’s work over time. This comes home to be powerfully when people come forward to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
4. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Anytime you work with people there are challenges and difficulties, as well as joy and progress. Probably the biggest challenge here has been transitioning into a different model of leadership, in which tasks of leadership take a back seat to being spiritual leaders for the congregation. It has, and continues to be, a multi-year project of education and vision-casting…with the conflict that can sometimes entail. But the result is the fruit of a congregation that truly shares the ministry and is more focused on a gospel vision than on self-justifying structures.
5. Why should others consider a call here?
Years ago when we moved from Colorado to New Jersey, we struggled at first to enjoy it because we were always comparing it to Colorado – which it is not! But when we decided to meet New Jersey on its own terms, we quickly grew to love it. The same is true of South Dakota. If you’re unfamiliar with this state, it might seem a bit foreign at first, but we’ve discovered that South Dakota is a great place to live! The people are sincere, the land is beautiful (even the oceans of prairie), and the quality of life is hard to beat. Plus, the people in the Presbytery of South Dakota have become some of my dearest friends.