The Rev. Aaron Teter has a vision for the United Presbyterian Church in Ingram.
"I feel like we're supposed to be authentic, offer our gifts and be courageous as we go forward," he said.
He recently cast that vision during his first sermon at the church, where he was named head pastor April 1.
Rev. Teter, 35, of Kennedy previously served as an associate pastor of youth and family ministries in Mattituck on Long Island, N.Y., and, most recently as pastor and head of staff of an urban church in Kansas City, Mo.
"Each place is different and new and each face their own unique set of challenges and opportunities, but I feel like I've been prepared," he said.
He and his wife, Ayana, who is also an ordained Presbyterian pastor, moved to the area in mid-February after she accepted a position as an associate executive presbyter for the Pittsburgh Presbytery, headquartered on the North Side.
"It was a great opportunity and something that really matched what she is skilled and gifted in," he said. "We just thought it was the right thing to do, and I trusted something would turn up for me as well. I'm excited about starting and am thankful for the opportunity."
Rev. Teter said he's received a warm reception from the congregation, whose members he described as very friendly and welcoming.
"They seem to have a genuine interest in one another, and that's a good sign for a church family," he said.
The son of a Baptist minister, Rev. Teter literally grew up in the church as his family made their home in the living quarters of the Austin, Texas, Baptist church where his father, Winton, was pastor.
Rev. Teter said he fell away from church life and institutional religion during college but it wasn't long before he again felt the need to be part of a faith community. He was living in working and Austin at the time and began attending a local church headed by pastors he described as dynamic and engaging.
After they invited him to serve in various ministries within the church, including the youth group of which he was a member, Rev. Teter said he felt he was being called to make ministry his life.
He enrolled in seminary in Austin, where he met and married his wife.
Rev. Teter said the church should be courageous, especially in this changing time, and discern between those traditions that are valuable and provide stability and those that are cultural and not of the faith.
The church also should be a place where any child of God can offer the gift that has been given to them, he said.
"That's what I would like to be about as well, is helping others see what they can offer in this world and what they have that is unique to them that they can offer as a gift to service to other people," he said.
"It gives you purpose when you can do that."
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.