Some people think that the divide between the church and the world is greater than ever. Whether true or not, three pastors in small-town Shenango Presbytery in Pennsylvania have seized the opportunity to serve their communities through local politics and have found this to be a valuable part of the ministry to which they are called – and a blessing to their churches.
Rev. Nathan Leslie of Bessemer Presbyterian Church currently serves as mayor of Bessemer. “For me, elected office has been about manifesting the principles of the Kingdom of God in my approach to policies, procedures and people. It has put me in contact with a broader cross-section of the community, and by listening and being supportive, it has opened doors for opportunities to simultaneously provide pastoral care to residents, other elected officials, and employees (including our police department). I also have found the leadership of the Bessemer Church to be supportive because it gives them a greater avenue to fulfill their mission to love and build-up the community around them.”
Rev. Dr. Sean Hall of Hillside Presbyterian Church currently serves as Vice-President on the Greenville Town Council. “When we moved in, the town was labeled ‘economically distressed’ by the state. I know we live in the rust belt, but when people are surrounded by rust and peeling paint day in and day out, they grow to internalize a message of hopelessness. But we are a Resurrection people, dedicated to new life in the midst of decay. So I view my work in the community as primarily eschatological, joining in and bearing witness to God’s work of renewing the world.”
Finally, Rev. Augie Hurst of Lebanon Presbyterian Church was recently appointed to serve on the Grove City School Board during a contentious time. “Upon applying for the position, I highlighted my experience as a Presbyterian Pastor over the past 20 years, which has afforded me the opportunity to work with many types of individuals with differing perspectives, to manage groups and resolve conflicts in a respectful and dignified manner. I am certain that this type of experience was an influencing factor in my appointment. As such, this is just one way in which I am able to live out my faith in the community that I reside, serving as a minster of peace and reconciliation.”
Through their work in their churches and in their communities, these pastors are taking seriously their call to love their neighbors and work for the reconciliation of the world.