Peace United welcomes new pastor familiar with the community

Peace United Church in Monticello welcomed Pastor Frank Shepherd as their fulltime pastor on Nov. 1. Shepherd previously served as student pastor at Scotch Grove Presbyterian Church. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     After almost four and a half years as a student pastor at the Scotch Grove Presbyterian Church, Frank Shepherd has been hired to serve another local congregation as their full-time pastor.

     Peace United Church of Christ in Monticello has been without a pastor since the unfortunate passing of Mike Cleeton in November 2019.

     “Mike Cleeton has some big shoes to fill,” said Shepherd of keeping Cleeton’s memory alive within the church. “I hope to cherish his memory in this space and add my own flavor.”

     Shepherd started his new role with Peace United on Nov. 1. He served Scotch Grove “right up till the end.”

     Shepherd’s path to Peace United came about in a unique way, a way in which he said God led him to the place he was meant to be.

     Back in April, Shepherd assisted the family of Ernie Eiben in their search for the missing man near Hopkinton. Ernie’s brother, Wayne, attends church in Scotch Grove.

     Once Ernie was safely found, Wayne wrote a Letter to the Editor in the Express, showing his gratitude for Shepherd reaching out to the family in a time of need.

     After reading that letter, members of Peace United reached out for Shepherd’s contact information.

     “I’ve learned never to say no to a potential conversation,” said Shepherd.

     Living by the motto “if by the way be clear,” Shepherd was clearly called to serve Peace United after that incident.

     He interviewed for the pastor position in late September, and lead the worship service in front of the church’s congregation on Oct. 11.

     “I was the person they wanted,” he said.

     As if leading a new congregation isn’t hard enough, Shepherd is doing so in the midst of a pandemic.

     Every other pew inside the sanctuary is roped off to allow people to maintain social distancing. Masks are required, and people are asked to sit with members of their own household.

     Every worship service is live streamed to allow those at home to feel a part of the service.

     “Some of our members feel safer staying home,” noted Shepherd. “And that’s just fine. They’re able to follow along at home.”

     Shepherd completed his Master of Divinity in May of this year, graduating from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary (UDTS).

     “Most mainline denominations expect that level of degree with their pastor,” he said.

     Having served a Presbyterian church prior to a UCC church is not an issue for Shepherd or the congregation.

     “Each denomination has different requirements of their ministers,” he explained. “At the core, you have to look into the beliefs and views of the church.”

     Shepherd said it was an easy transition from one denomination to the next because both are fairly close in their values.

     It’ll be another one to three years before Shepherd becomes ordained within the UCC church as a whole. He does have the authority to serve Communion, and to perform baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.

     This new role for Shepherd is different than what he was doing as a student pastor in Scotch Grove. He serves a larger congregation, one that includes several youth and younger families in the community. He’s looking forward to working with the middle school and high school youth groups.

     “There’s a different energy when working with youth,” he said.

     Pastoral care is a big part of the job, serving those within the church.

     “Scotch Grove fostered my passion for the ministry,” praised Shepherd. “Pastoral care is about addressing the needs of the people, having a compassion for the people.”

     Shepherd said that same compassion is applied to people of all ages and backgrounds.

     With some members choosing to remain home on Sundays, Shepherd said in the midst of a pandemic, it’s hard to get to know everyone within the church family.

     He’s also an affectionate pastor, and has to refrain from hugging others and shaking hands.

     “But people have been very welcoming,” he said. “I feel comfortable here.”

     Once he gets more acquainted with Peace United, Shepherd hopes to help guide the church in their decision-making.

     “I want this to be a congregation that grows.”

     Shepherd is also quite familiar with the Monticello community serving Scotch Grove Church for so many years.

     “My hope is that when we’re back to a new normal and not limited anymore, I want to be a pastor for the community, a pastor you see about town,” he said. “I want to be involved and visible in the community, a pastor everyone can turn to.”

     Looking back on his time with Scotch Grove, Shepherd said that experience was a true blessing to him and his family. When he started there in July 2016, his son was just 2½ years old. Now, he’s 6.

     “They allowed me to experiment and try different things,” he said.

     For one, Shepherd is not the type of pastor who stands behind a pulpit and preaches to the congregation.

     “I preach from the center,” he said.

     He also uses technology within his services, and does not preach from a script.

     Peace United averages 20 to 30 people every Sunday. They are still holding in-person services until the church’s governing body decides to do otherwise.

     “COVID has caused us to look at new ways of doing things,” said Shepherd. “By streaming our services, we’re getting people who are not members watching. We’ve learned to adapt and broaden our reach in ministry, taking church to the people.”

     Shepherd said during tough times like this, it’s easy for people to lose sight of their faith and question God for what’s happening.

     “It’s important to stay strong in our faith,” he urged.

     Shepherd and his wife currently reside in Cascade with their two children: a son, 6, and a daughter who is a freshman in college. They eventually plan to move into a house owned by Peace United Church and become residents of Monticello.

     Shepherd’s office hours at Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

     Peace United is located at 410 E. Cherry St.


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