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Middler student Alex Regets finds his dreams coming true sooner than he imagined.

I am someone who never expected to end up in ministry, but God does unexpected things.

I had started out in a pre-law program in college, but early on I felt the call to ministry, so I switched schools and finished my undergrad with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies.

For someone who never expected to end up in ministry, once I was called, I knew what I wanted: rural ministry. I entered seminary with a clear idea of where I wanted to end up. Right from the start, I would tell anyone who’d listen that when all was said and done, I wanted to be the pastor of a small church in the middle of nowhere. I also said that I’d love it if I could just stay there forever.

I wanted to go to the kind of church that often gets overlooked. The kind that gets viewed as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. And I always said that if this small, middle-of-nowhere church could be close to my hometown—well, that would be even better.

When it came time to start looking for a summer Internship after my second year at Western, I figured I’d look for a place that checked all those boxes. What I found was a small Presbyterian church in a rural town of about 4,000, averaging around 20 people each week in attendance, and it was only ten minutes from my hometown of Manteno, IL, the place where my family and my wife’s family still live.

It seemed like a great fit for my internship, but when I looked up the church, I noticed something interesting. They were currently without a pastor. I figured that was a plus, since it would help me get a sense for what the job is really like, but there was something else. Where the listing asked for required experience, this church didn’t say “First Ordained Call,” the way so many others do. Instead, it simply said none.

Suddenly, what started out as a possible landing spot for my summer internship looked like it had the potential to be something more!

After a handful of conversations with the elders of the church, we came to an agreement that I’d serve there for the summer, fulfilling my requirements for the 10-week internship, and if it seemed like a good fit for me and for them, they would make me an offer before it was over.

Well, it was a good fit.

So here I am, serving as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Peotone, Illinois, the sort of church I always said I wanted to work with!

I am finishing up my Master of Divinity degree by switching to Western’s distance learning program. It’s a little unorthodox, and it means jumping through some hoops with the Presbytery to make sure it’s all done “decently and in order,” but I am grateful for the opportunity.

It feels like a great fit in every way, and while my ordination will come a little slower, I’m already getting to experience what it’s like to pastor the church I have always dreamed of.

By Alex Regets

 

 

Timothy L. Brown

 

 

Dr. Timothy Brown

President and Henry Bast Professor of Preaching

 

Here at Western Theological Seminary we make a big deal out of our daily worship. It might surprise you to learn that we are one of the few seminaries left that still worships as a community every single day. We believe worship forms us over time in mysterious ways we can scarcely understand.

I want you to come with me to the two-story colonial home where Nancy and I live, just a few blocks south of the seminary. There we are having a dinner, hosting six of our best friends over the last 25 years. Come and get to know these good people; look into their faces, listen in on their conversations, and feel the texture of relationships that have kept us together through thick and thin since before Ronald Reagan was President. Just stand quietly in the corner of the dining room and take it all in, because it strikes me as a kind of living commentary on what worshipping the living God in a Reformed way can do for you.

Sitting directly across from me is Jack Smith (I won’t use any real names in this article). Jack and I graduated from college together and went off to different graduate schools. When I graduated from seminary with the right to be a minister of Word and Sacrament, Jack graduated with an MBA and what seemed to be a license to print money. He has become fabulously wealthy, not unlike many who made fortunes in the 80s and 90s. What singles Jack out is that somewhere along the line he stopped asking the question, “How much of my fortune should I give away to good causes?” and started asking, “How much of what God has given me do I have the right to keep?” If you asked where he learned to do this, he’ll tell you that it dawned on him after hearing—Sunday in and Sunday out!—“Let us return our tithes and offerings to the Lord!”

Sitting next to Nancy is Lynn. While giving birth to her third child—right in the very act of offering life—she was stricken with a debilitating stroke. The baby survived and so did she, but her life would never be the same. She would never change that baby’s diapers or dance with her husband again. At one point in the evening while we were discussing “the good old days at Christ Memorial Church,” Lynn said to me, “You know, Tim, my favorite moment in our worship services was always right at the beginning when you would lift your arms in the air and say, ‘Grace to you and peace in the name of the Lord Jesus!’ When I hear those words my heart almost stops and I know that while I may never understand why all of this happened to me, I do know that our gracious God does know and, frankly, that’s all I need.”

Sitting opposite of each other are the Holts and the Newhouses. Dr. Holt teaches at Hope College and had an Obama/Biden bumper sticker on his car a few presidential elections ago. Mr. Newhouse is a successful realtor in Holland, and he and his wife had TWO Bush/Cheney posters in their front yard during the same election. At one point the conversation turned to politics and heated up a little bit—and I thought, “Oh no! My party is going to tank!”—but then, mysteriously, the Holts and the Newhouses shifted effortlessly from American politics and their striking differences to their heavenly citizenship and the one thing that will join them together forever.

At the end of the night, Nancy read several Psalms from Eugene Peterson’s The Message and we all held hands and prayed—prayed for our kids and grandkids, prayed for one another, and prayed for our world. We ended with the Lord’s Prayer and tears!

It may not have been so clear to me that night, but it surely is now—we had all been mysteriously shaped and formed by the way we worship Sunday in and Sunday out, and because of that we were being shaped and formed for witness and work in the world.

That’s why we make a big fuss over daily worship here!