Years ago, a friend of mine once challenged me: “Chris, if you had to state in a brief sentence the focus of your ministry, what would you say?” I’ve thought about that question, and after 15 years of serving as a Presbyterian pastor, my answer is: “To help people know that they are loved unconditionally by God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I have been blessed to have many people in my life share that same knowledge with me, helping me to know that I too am loved by God, no matter how often my imperfections become apparent for the whole world to see. Call me crazy, but I think people need to be reminded of that in this day and age, and it’s something that the church can offer.
As I’ve said, I’ve been blessed. I was born to very loving parents who brought me to be baptized at the First Presbyterian Church in Kingsville, Texas. My family moved from time to time, so I also lived in Connecticut, Missouri, and Pennsylvania before I graduated from high school. But we were always active in the church wherever we were living, and so I participated extensively in choir, Sunday School and youth fellowships. In that time, I was continually surrounded by an incredible “cloud of witnesses” who never failed to show me God’s love in Jesus Christ and so it’s no surprise that I started hearing a little voice in my head telling me that I might be a pastor someday.
Life hasn’t always been easy and there have certainly been times when I’ve questioned God’s love for me. I attended Colgate University in New York, a great school where not only did I receive a BA in Psychology, but also where I made some incredible friendships which remain to this day. That said, during college, I strayed from the church and this wandering continued into my post-college life. I was working hard to get ahead in the world – being a pastor was the last thing I wanted to be — and somewhere in there, in spite of the excitement of being a twenty-something and taking on the world, something was missing. I believed in Jesus, but in spite of all my activity, my spiritual health was stagnant. I needed to become active again in a supportive community of faith. I needed a church family. It was then that – and I believe this to be true – God opened a door for me and I found myself joining the Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA. I became more and more active over the years, still singing in the choir, but also volunteering with the youth ministry as well as Membership and Mission committees. This service continued after I moved to Houston and joined the St. Philip Presbyterian Church. It was there, when I turned thirty, that I felt ready to answer that call to be a pastor.
I moved back east and attended seminary at Princeton Theological Seminary. In addition to my coursework, I interned at the Madison Ave. Presbyterian Church in New York City and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston. I received my Masters of Divinity in May 2001 and since then, have served Presbyterian churches in Hopewell, NJ and Ivyland, PA and since 2011, Cranford. From those experiences, I have felt called to equip churches to serve as extended families in support of all of God’s children, providing a community where folks know they are loved and remembered, and a place they can call home as they grow in their discipleship to Jesus.
Sharing my life with me are my wife Ashley and our children Jamie, Tia and Andrew. My kids, like all children who come to FPCC – and there are a lot of them! – are shown love and guidance by so many caring Christian brothers and sisters. I could not ask for a more nurturing environment for my children! Ashley is a great wife and mom and has worked as a social worker and advocate for foster children, people affected by HIV/AIDS, and children challenged by autism. She is now serving as FPCC’s Youth Fellowship Coordinator and to that, she brings a passion for Bible study and mission work, having herself served in Kenya, Zambia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
So there’s a little information about me. I do look forward to the ministry that we’ll share together in the years ahead here in Cranford. It’s certainly an exciting time and there is much to do! Do not hesitate to give me a call or drop me a line any time you want to talk about life, God, our ministry… Until then, know that you are, indeed, so loved.