Riding to a higher calling: The Rev. Rodger Kiepe says physical balance helps one's spiritual balance

Sunday, May 9, 2010
The Rev. Rodger Kiepe is pastor of Abbey Road Christian Church in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The Rev. Rodger Kiepe of Abbey Road Christian Church is not your typical pastor, but he is OK with that. In his free time, Kiepe likes to train and show Tennessee walking horses with his youngest son, Isaac. He also likes to ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He and his wife, Mindy, spend a few weeks a year touring the country on his Harley. He also enjoys fishing until the water is warm enough, then he switches gears to water skiing. Kiepe said there is a method to his actions. Most of the pastor's hobbies involve things that require balance. He has a theory that physical balance helps one remain centered and balanced in the spirit.

How long have you been involved with a church? I was born into a family that attended church regularly and held various leadership positions, so I have been involved most of my life, except in my late teens and 20s when I became disillusioned with the institutional church and sought meaning for my life elsewhere.

How long have you been a member of your faith? I have always been Christian, even when I didn't really consider myself so. The teachings of Jesus have always been my moral compass.

What drew you to serve the church in a leadership role? I have had many interests and vocations, but I have always been drawn back to ministry. It is in ministry that I find the most peace, meaning and fulfillment in life. As a minister, one is invited to participate in the lives of others in ways unlike any other vocation that I am aware of.

What education/background/studies did you go through to become a pastor? I began ministry in the Independent Christian Church and received a bachelor's degree from St. Louis Christian College in 1978. While attending college, I served a congregation south of Fredericktown, Mo., and completed two units of clinical pastoral education at Farmington State Hospital. During that time I realized that the Independent Christian Church was not a good fit for me, and I accepted an academic scholarship to attend Phillips Graduate Seminary in Oklahoma, which is a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) institution. Disciples, as we are typically called, are more liberal and approach biblical studies in a more scholarly fashion. We are committed to social justice issues and concerned that the church be faithful to the teachings of Jesus rather than right-wing or left-wing political agenda. Though, as a pastor, I usually find myself siding with the left.

I did not graduate from Phillips but after completing one year of studies there returned to St. Louis and was eventually graduated from Eden Theological Seminary with a master of divinity degree. Eden is a United Church of Christ institution, and I hold partnership standing in the United Church of Christ.

How many years have you served as a pastor? I have served as the pastor of a congregation for about 20 years but have also been on staff at the regional level of our denomination for 10 years.

When did you become the pastor at Abbey Road Christian Church? I have been at Abbey Road Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) since April Fools' Day 2004. I am not sure what if any significance there is for that starting date.

Where are you from and when/why did you move to Cape Girardeau/Jackson area? These are two separate questions for me. I accepted a position as the interim area minister of the Southeast Gateway Area of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 2002. When that ministry concluded, I accepted the position here at Cape Girardeau, but I did not move here. My wife, Mindy, is also ordained clergy and serves as a hospice chaplain in Farmington, Mo. We live outside Farmington on a horse farm near the farm that I grew up on.

Were you involved with Abbey Road Christian Church before becoming the pastor? Abbey Road is part of the Southeast Gateway Area, so I worked with them as area minister but had also visited here on numerous occasions and have always been impressed with their friendliness, openness and understanding of the Gospel.

What do you think makes this church special? This congregation truly is the most liberal alternative that I am aware of for Christians in the area. Those who have been put off by fundamentalism frequently find a home here. We welcome those who because of their sexual orientations or understandings of faith that may not fit with "orthodoxy" have been rejected by other congregations. We encourage questions and critique in matters of faith and strive to live in community and covenant with each other while holding a wide range of diverse opinions.

What's your favorite verse and why? My favorite verses of the Bible are found in several places and are in both the New and Old Testaments. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (see Deut. 6.5, Lev. 19.18, Mt. 22.37-39 and parallels.) These are my favorite because if we had nothing else to follow as Christians, Jews, Muslims and other persons of faith, this would be enough.

What program have you done with Abbey Road Christian Church that you are proud of and why? One of the most interesting events that we have had here was the dialogue that we had with the Muslim community. We spent several weeks sharing our faith, making friends, eating and visiting together. It is in this kind of interfaith dialogue that I find hope for peace and understanding.

What events does your church have coming up? There are two ongoing ministries that we invite the public to take advantage of. First is our computer lab where we offer basic and advanced computer classes at no charge for anyone who signs up. Please call the office for a class schedule, 335-3422. Secondly, we invite the public to come at any time and walk our labyrinth. The labyrinth is a tool of walking meditation that is intended to provide a time for prayer and reflection. It requires no special skills. The path leads to the center and back out again and can be a metaphor for our path to the center of the soul. "We are not human beings on a spiritual path, but spiritual beings on a human path," Dr. Laurne Artress.

What's your favorite day of the week and why? I don't have a favorite day of the week. It depends upon what is happening on any day whether it is a favorite or not.

What's your favorite part of being a pastor? It is hard to narrow down what is the favorite part. I find meaning and satisfaction in so many aspects of it. But I suppose it is those times when I see a person growing and maturing in the faith and making a positive impact in the world.

What else do you do besides serve as pastor? As I already mentioned, I have the farm and horses which require several hours a week. I like to operate heavy equipment and recently completed an eight-acre lake with a 50-year-old D7 Caterpillar dozer that I bought and managed to keep running during the two year project. But the thing that I enjoy most is being Papa to my two grandsons, Logan, 4, and Layton, 3, who live nearby with my oldest son Lance and his wife, Christy.

Do you have a prayer, psalm or verse you would like to give our readers for the day? May God bless you and keep you. May God's face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God look upon you with kindness and give you peace.

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