Although they serve with us for only two years, our resident ministers remain very much a part of our church family as they continue their ministries throughout the country (and beyond). This fall we were delighted to welcome Evans McGowan (2011-2013) back to serve as Coordinator of Campus Ministries at First Pres; and we have been pleased to have Deborah Knott Forger (2007-09) and her family in our midst, as she completed her Ph.D. at Michigan and went on to become a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies. Our latest returnee is Matt Nickel (2009-11). Matt, currently Associate Pastor at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Louisville, KY, moves back to our neighborhood to become Pastor of Detroit’s beautiful and historic Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church.
We recently spoke with Matt and asked him to share his thoughts about his new call and the role of the resident ministry program in his development as a pastor. Here are his remarks, lightly edited for length and consistency:
Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church extended me a call in October, and I joyfully accepted. Jefferson Avenue is traditional in character as it seeks to live out ministries characterized by imagination, intelligence and love. It is a church committed to its neighborhood; its members value diversity and desire to bear witness to God's love, as they "seek to serve Christ in the midst of Detroit." I am looking forward to the ministry I will share with them as their pastor.
This call is also a return to a community that I have called home. For generations, my family lived in the city of Detroit. Growing up in Grosse Pointe alongside my family's relationship to Detroit meant that I was confronted with questions about equality, diversity, justice, poverty and privilege. When I was a Resident Minister, my experience and enthusiasm for Detroit found kindred spirits in the Mission Committee at First Pres. Alongside a team of church members, we planned a weekend of service in the city at Cass Community Social Services, and many church members joined the project.
My experiences as a resident minister were the foundation for my life as a pastor. The practices I learned in working with staff and church members at First Presbyterian have guided me as I teach, lead worship, support in pastoral care, share in mission, and guide the administrative life of the church. I continue to be grateful for the gifts I received from the Residency program and thankful for the relationships there that forms so much of who I am as a pastor.
January 7th will be my first Sunday in worship with Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church. When that day comes, we will be partners in ministry again through the Presbytery of Detroit. Different cities, different congregations, though we are still one church. I hope our journeys make us to cross paths again soon. Anticipating that day, I give thanks for the blessing that FPC has been for me.
Thank you, Matt, and welcome back to Detroit Presbytery! In your pastoral journey, you are a great example of the way graduates of the Resident Ministry program enrich the ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and serve God’s people far and near.