From the Pulpit: At home in church

Sunday, December 20, 2009
Rev. Dan Johnson of Evangelical UC (Kit Doyle)

The Rev. Dan Johnson has been involved in church his entire life. He attended Christ Episcopal Church in Cape Girardeau during his high school and college days. Though he has left the area for studying or mission purposes, he seems to always return. "Pastor Dan" currently serves as the minister of Evangelical United Church of Christ in Cape Girardeau. He has been a pastor since March 2007, when he became the leader of Evangelical UCC. Johnson was visiting the congregation to see if they would sponsor him as a seminary student. "Instead, I became their licensed minister," he said.

How long have you been involved with a church? I have been involved in church all my life since I was baptized at Trinity Episcopal Church of Miami on Nov. 4, 1956. I was raised in the Episcopal Church and attended Christ Episcopal Church of Cape Girardeau during my high school and college years. I have also belonged to Unitarian and Presbyterian churches. As a child, I attended the ecumenical Protestant Chautauqua, the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly in Tennessee during summer vacation. We went to twilight prayers every night and had a Protestant minister from a different denomination every week.

How long have you been a member of the United Church of Christ faith? I became a member of Evangelical United Church of Christ and the UCC faith on Feb. 4, 2007.

What drew you to serve the church in a leadership role? In 1995, I was called by God to become a counselor and began my counselor education at Southeast Missouri State University. That education was interrupted for personal reasons, which led to my becoming an ordained deacon at First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis in 1999. During this period, I was also the spouse of an Eden seminary student who became a Presbyterian pastor. I was also a lay preacher, filling in for my pastor and my wife. After my divorce, I resumed my counselor training. While I was working at Kent Library, God called me to explore seeking a seminary education. It was during this exploration that I contacted Evangelical UCC. Unexpectedly, this led me to become that congregation's pastor!

Where are you from and when/why did you move to Cape Girardeau? I am a 1974 graduate of Jackson High School. My maternal grandfather was born on the family farm outside Jackson, where I currently live. I am an "army brat," born in Columbus, Ga., and raised on Army bases, including several in Germany.

Rev. Dan Johnson of Evangelical UC (Kit Doyle)

What do you think makes this church special? The people make this church very special. This congregation was founded in 1894 as a German evangelical congregation. The congregation has many wonderful traditions, including apple butter making and dumpling rolling. It is a loving, caring, multigenerational congregation. The congregation has encouraged and supported me tremendously. Our pastor emeritus, Ernie Jordan, has been a great help to me, and he remains an active member of the congregation.

What's your favorite verse and why? Psalm 118:22-23 "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

Jesus was rejected, but he is the cornerstone on which the whole universe stands. I felt rejected many times during my life, but there have been times when I have been a rock that others have relied on. Like Peter, I have sinned and failed, but Jesus has forgiven me, and in my own small way, Jesus has called me to "feed his sheep" at Evangelical UCC.

What programs have you done with EUCC that you are proud of and why? We are the host church of the ecumenical Jamaican Christian Medical Mission. This past spring I was privileged to travel to Jamaica and serve as a pharmacist assistant in our weeklong free clinic. I also had the great honor to preach a sermon at Cedar Valley Church, St. Mary's, Jamaica, a small rural church in the mountains of Jamaica. Jamaica has many needs and problems, but it is a land of beautiful hospitality and Jamaican Christians can teach us a lot about what it means to love God and follow Jesus.

I am also happy that I have the opportunity to visit church members in the hospital and our "friends at home" who are confined to nursing homes or their residence. Some of the most remarkable people I have ever met are so-called shut-ins. As I became a pastor, I was surprised to see that some pastors avoid doing this crucial ministry. This work can sometimes be a challenge, but it is deeply rewarding.

We have also been an active participation in the Downtown Council of Churches, including the Good Friday Cross Walk, the Easter Son Rise Service and the Community Thanksgiving Service. For small congregations, ecumenical ministry and mission programs are the future.

What's your favorite day of the week and why? Sunday. I love church! I have occasionally attended three services on a single Sunday. I enjoy hearing other preachers speak, and I really enjoy sitting in the pews with my fiancee, Michelle Schrock.

What's your favorite part of being a pastor? I am definitely a preaching pastor. I was taught public speaking at Jackson High School and Southeast -- thanks, Tom Harte -- and I love the challenge of extemporaneous speaking. I present the devotional reflection at Saint Francis Medical Center chapel on Monday mornings without using any written notes. The cycle of reading the appointed Scriptures, discussing them at the Monday noon lectionary group chaired by Father Bob Towner at the SEMO international center, reading commentaries throughout the week, and developing a sermon idea is the foundation of my week. To me, a large part of being a Christian means believing in the Bible as the authoritative word of God. Reading, studying, meditating, praying, talking about and living out the Bible (Old and New Testament) is one good definition of a Christian.

What else do you do besides serve as pastor? I am engaged to a wonderful woman, Michelle Schrock. We met on eHarmony, and we are currently planning our wedding next year in her hometown of Arthur, Ill. I am a dedicated participant in Healthpoint group fitness classes, especially the Body Pump group weight training class. You can find me at Healthpoint three to five days a week. I especially enjoy breaking up my day with the noon classes.

Do you have a prayer, psalm, or verse you would like to give our readers for the day? During this Advent season, we all need to prepare for the coming of Jesus the Christ. Use this season to clear away all the fears, doubts, and shames that separate you from God. God has promised that Christ is coming, and he will come. Make ready, so you can feel the joy that Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptizer, felt, when the Christ child, still in Mary's womb, came into her home. Luke 1:42-45

42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"

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