November 24, 2020
Dear Members and Friends,
Your Pastor Nominating committee writes to share the very happy result of our search for a new pastor for The Presbyterian Church in Geneva. Our work began in the spring, and as of this writing, your PNC has prayed, read, talked, reflected and met 32 times, for many, many hours of careful deliberation and discernment. We have grown very close while Zooming, texting, emailing and listening carefully to each other and to God. We have talked with and interviewed pastoral candidates from far and wide.
Our candidate, Rev. Colin Pritchard, led our worship this Sunday, November 22, after which, in a separate meeting on Zoom, the PNC introduced the candidate to the congregation and presented the Terms of Call. Congregants had the opportunity to ask questions and hear from the candidate.
We’re pleased to announce that Rev. Colin Pritchard accepted the call to be the next pastor of The Presbyterian Church in Geneva, with a start date of February 1, 2021. Currently the Rev. Pritchard is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Victor, NY, where he has served as pastor and head of staff since October 2004. He was ordained in September 2000 and is currently moderator of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley.
Colin is married to Dina Strasser, an English as a New Language Teacher at the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District. Dina volunteers with the Finger Lakes Climate Solutions Accelerator. Colin and Dina have two children, Rebecca (17), a senior at Victor Senior High School and Ian (15), a sophomore. The beloved family dog is named “Chanah.”
The Rev. Pritchard comes heartily recommended by a wide array of church, presbytery, nonprofit and interfaith references. He has been cleared for our consideration by the Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery of Geneva.
Colin was not seeking a new call, but when he heard about our search in early summer, “my heart leapt and I took notice,” he said. Colin believes The Presbyterian Church in Geneva presents an extremely exciting pastoral opportunity. He applauds our commitment to mission and he and Dina are thrilled to consider moving to a community in a region they love. Geneva already feels like home: his family has a cottage on Seneca Lake near Dundee; Colin grew up in Rochester and Dina in Albany.
The Rev. Pritchard has a BA in psychology from Bates College (1995), Master of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School (2000), and a graduate certificate in Church Planting and Revitalization from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (2018). He has completed extensive continuing education in new church development, new worship communities, and has participated in songwriting and artist conferences. Prior to his call in Victor, he was the organizing pastor for the Gathering Presbyterian Church in Macedon (2002-04), the New Church Development Probe Pastor for the Presbytery of Geneva (2000-01) and Assistant Chaplain for the Protestant Chapel Community at the University of Rochester (1998-99).
The Rev. Pritchard has served the PCUSA as Minister Commissioner for Genesee Valley to the General Assembly, as a New Church Development Coach for six faith communities in five states, and as Early Ministry Institute Year Coordinator for Synod of the Northeast, and in many other ways. The list of his service to the larger church and our denomination goes on and on.
Colin is currently volunteer chaplain for the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department, Volunteer Musician/Chaplain for Serenity House (hospice) in Victor, and a leadership training day workshop and worship leader for the Presbytery of Genesee Valley. For many years he has served a variety of roles at Camp Whitman, from Chaplain, Program Committee, Confirmation Camp Coordinator and more. The Rev. Pritchard was actively involved with the beginning of Family Promise of Ontario County, and worked with his congregation to help create and support the Victor Farmington Food Cupboard, which now serves 600 families a month.
When we wrote our Ministry Information Form (MIF) – the document a PNC prepares to create a narrative picture of the ministry and mission of the congregation and its sense of call to seek qualified and suitable candidates – we labored carefully to select leadership competencies important for our church. Colin was a strong “match.” As noted in his Personal Information Form, Colin’s chief leadership traits, gifts and training include the MIF categories of Compassion, Preaching and Worship Leadership, Hopeful, Spiritual Maturity, Public Communicator, Advisor, Willing to Engage Conflict, Strategy and Vision, Bridge Builder and Flexibility (something we have all learned the hard way in 2020).
The Rev. Pritchard is familiar with our community, and “as a person raised and educated in the city of Rochester, I am energized by the potential of returning to a diverse and dynamic community such as Geneva.” He is aware of our community’s challenges, with “poverty, racial dynamics, hunger issues … and substance abuse. A healthy church is well positioned to have a significant impact for the wellbeing of God’s children here.”
In answering the PCUSA question about what ministry setting he believes God is calling him, Colin wrote: “I have a calling to serve in the leadership of a transformative and healing community that is committed to living the faith of its foundations; a place of wonder and delight in the holy, partnership and service in the world, generosity, advocacy and hope in its choices. This community will work with the holy spirit and partner with a pastor to:
- “Engage the world with the behaviors and vision of Jesus Christ.”
- “Find joy in the irresistible gift of divine love that makes itself known in places and ways we cannot control.”
- “Offer community to those people who are not already in it.”
- “Come alongside God’s children who are oppressed, neglected or forgotten.”
He adds: “In my diverse experiences as a chaplain at a university, a new church development pastor and coach, a law enforcement and hospice chaplain, and the pastor of a growing suburban church, I have been given a passion for people’s honest lives. Pretense and fear are unnecessary stumbling stones in a place of grace. When a faith community welcomes people as they are and demonstrates an alternative life of abundant value, purpose and care, then the Kingdom of God rises and all are better for it. I hope to be part of a diverse and compassionate community that is able to take profound, faithful, risky and hopeful next steps towards that rising.”
While interviewing the Rev. Pritchard, we learned more about his training, work and thought on how 21st Century churches are moving (or not) into the future. As all churches evolve along with society, Colin believes it is important “to go out into the world, to live in an engaged, full community, and to find a way of being in (the) community, to have a vision for what we can and want to be.” Colin believes our congregation is in a good position to move into the future: “a congregation not in crisis, but at a moment of great opportunity … a congregation that has a sense of urgency, but one that is not in an emergency.” About the future for The Presbyterian Church in Geneva, he asked the PNC, “how do we faithfully move next? How do we tap into what God is already doing?”
Colin and Dina want to let their children graduate from their current high school, which means the family would not physically move to Geneva until mid-2023. But if Colin is elected as our new pastor, he will simply commute to work in Geneva like millions of Americans do every day. (He has clocked it, 35 minutes door-to-door.) Colin has assured us that he and Dina, and the children as much as possible, will participate in the life and ministry of the church just as other pastors who have served us. Colin said he feels called to make Geneva his home and pastorate for many years to come.
There is much, much more we can share with you about the Rev. Colin Pritchard and why we feel so strongly that he is the right person, at this time, to serve as the next pastor for The Presbyterian Church in Geneva. Thank you for your faith and trust in our work in service to our church. It has been a long but rewarding experience. We look forward to Rev. Colin Pritchard and his family joining us in February.
In faith, your PNC
Sigrid Carle (chair), Henry Augustine, Ruth Benedict, Lisa Gage, Bill Lamb, Donna Newcomb, Dave Phillips, Ethan Powell and Andrea Robertson
—To listen to past worship services at First Presbyterian Victor, visit https://www.facebook.com/firstvictorpres/