Like First Presbyterian Church in Hastings, the Rev. Greg Allen-Pickett has a heart for and background in missionary work.
So when the 39-year-old husband and father interviewed with members of the church’s pastoral nominating committee last November for the vacant senior pastor position, the attraction was mutual.
“When I came here and learned that this church has been running a short-term mission trip every summer since 1969 with the Go and Serve program, I was just blown away,” the newly appointed pastor said. “I’m really excited to be joining a church that already has this really rich tradition of engaging in mission, both locally, in the U.S., and around the world. I hope to continue to facilitate that and help the church build and grow on that as we participate together in God’s mission.”
One of six pastors on staff during his most recent assignment at First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Allen-Pickett presided over his first service here March 12. He replaces the Rev. William Nottage-Tacey, who retired in November 2014.
The former pastor of Global Missions in Atlanta, Allen-Pickett’s background in missionary work includes a year spent living in Ecuador and four years as general manager of the Presbyterian Church’s World Mission program, overseeing global mission efforts of 180 mission workers serving in 40 countries around the world.
“Those experiences have helped me develop what we call a missiology sort of theology of mission and a heart for mission,” he said. “That’s certainly one of the things that I hope to bring to this church. Not that they don’t have it already — they’ve been doing the work for almost 150 years — but I hope to continue to bring my experiences to bear on that and help to grow that and continue to facilitate that work.
“It’s amazing to see the church’s vision and desire to serve their community. We have three feeding ministries housed in this annex building that used to be a middle school gym and shop class, and it’s this church’s heart for mission that led to that. These opportunities come along and this church is willing to jump on them and invest the resources and energy and love into making sure that God’s ministry is being done in this community.”
A native of Flagstaff, Arizona, Allen-Pickett attended college in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, where he met his wife, Jessica, while attending Pacific Lutheran University.
Married for 16 years, the couple has one child, Esther, a first-grader. Having resided in Colorado for more than a decade, their relocation to the Midwest brings them closer to family in Colorado, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Olympia, Washington, he said.
A classically trained musician who sings and plays piano and French horn, Allen-Pickett developed his bass voice singing in high school and college choirs. A regular performer in the church choir in Atlanta, he already has feeling right at home lending his voice to First Presbyterian’s contemporary Celebrate Band during Sunday services.
Among his objectives as pastor is fostering the church’s long-standing relationship with Hastings College, which church leaders founded in 1882.
Ongoing ties that bind the two include the church’s music program, which showcases several HC students in its choirs — including the Chancel Choir directed by former HC music department head Robin Koozer, and Handbell Choir directed by Byron Jensen, HC’s music department head.
“The crossover here is great,” Allen-Pickett said. “It leads to amazing music. You would not expect to find music like this in central Nebraska.
“My church in Atlanta had lots of resources and was very well known for its music program, but I honestly think this church could compete with such cathedral-type churches in terms of our music program.”
As lead pastor, Allen-Pickett looks forward to preaching a weekly sermon on the gospel message, a privilege left mostly to the lead pastor at his former church. He welcomes the opportunity to exhibit leadership and partake in the joys and sorrows of congregants in his care.
“I love to share the gospel message and invite people to be part of that story,” he said. “The other blessing pastors have is that they are called to be present with families in very intimate moments: the birth and baptism of a child, weddings, illnesses, hospital visits, deaths, and I consider that an incredible honor and privilege. My hope is that I can enter these spaces and point to the presence of God.”
Having familiarized himself with First Presbyterian’s lengthy history in Hastings, he is both humbled and inspired continue the work of those who came before him.
“I really feel blessed that this church has such a rich history,” Allen-Pickett said. “I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants who have come before me, faithful pastors who had a desire to see their church and community thrive. I feel really blessed to be part of that tradition and to hopefully carry on that tradition as leader of this church.”
John Huthmacher Jun 2, 2017