October 17, 2002

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Angela Schenck—
New Presbyterian minister wants to ‘help people connect with God’

Rev. Angela Schenck

Almost 20 years ago, when she was a stay-at-home mom with two small children, Angela Schenck was asked to fill in for her vacationing minister. She’d never preached before, and felt nervous. But afterwards people asked Schenk if she’d ever considered joining the ministry, since, she was told, she had “a natural gift for sharing her faith.”

“The seed was planted,” said Schenck, now an ordained Presbyterian minister who began last month as the new minister for the First Presbyterian Church, taking over from interim minister Martha Kline.

Schenck, 48, brings to her new position enthusiasm for talking about her faith, and a desire to “help people connect with God, to find the way that God speaks to them.”

Her goal, she said, is to provide in the church a variety of opportunities forpeople to make that connection.

“Some people need a quiet, centering type of faith,” she said. “Others are attracted to a more high energy experience, while others want the traditional hymns. It’s a challenge to reach out to them all.”

Her Christian faith has been a bedrock in Schenck’s life as long as she can remember, starting with her childhood in Kettering, when her father read Bible stories to her each evening, and when she “felt the presence of God in nature,” in the creeks and trees behind her home.

When she was 15 that world was shaken, she said, when her only sibling, a sister 11 years older, was killed with her husband in a car accident. Although she felt angry and confused, Schenck found that overall the incident strengthened her faith, because she witnessed how her parents’ beliefs helped them through the tragic time.

She would like to help others find that source of comfort, said Schenck. If nonbelievers came to her, she would “tell them what I believe and what my faith has meant to me,” she said. “Then it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. We can plant seeds but God has to make them grow.”

The seed planted in Schenck 20 years ago became a desire to attend seminary, which she did a few years later at the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Seminary proved stimulating, she said.

“It was an intellectual experience which addressed a different side of my faith,” said Schenck, who believes that questioning is a natural part of the religious experience. “God doesn’t ask us to check our brains at the door.”

Following ordination, she served as pastor at the Elk Grove Presbyterian Church in suburban Chicago for 11 years, before she and her husband, Fred, a defense contractor, decided to move back to the Dayton area to be closer to family. At the time, she didn’t know how that decision would affect her work.

“I began seeking a new call to see what God had for me in this area,” she said. When she discovered the First Presbyterian Church in Yellow Springs, “It felt like home,” said Schenck, who recently moved with her husband — their children, Carolyn and Mike, are grown and out of the home — into the church manse on Whiteman Street. “I love it here. I love the diversity of the community and the congregation.”

The local Presbyterian church faces “many of the same challenges that all churches face,” said Schenck, including an aging congregation. “We need to figure out how to share the good news of the Gospel with each new generation,” she said.

Whatever lies ahead for her in Yellow Springs, Angela Schenck feels that choosing to serve as the First Presbyterian Church’s minister was the right choice to make.

“Sometimes you don’t know where the end of the road will take you,” she said. “But you know the next step.”


—Diane Chiddister