Interim pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Geneseo

Claudia Loucks
The Rev. Stuart Schoup, interim pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Geneseo, wears a stole that he received while serving in Ghana.

The Rev. Stuart Schoup is an intentional interim pastor who currently is serving the congregation at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Geneseo.

He was called to the Geneseo church after the retirement of the church pastor Rev. Bruce Bergthold.

Rev. Schoup, who goes by Pastor Stuart, explained in his denomination, ”Intentional interim positions vary in length – one to three years.”

He believes he will be in Geneseo from two to three years, and he added, “Currently, there are a lot of unknowns that will influence the process. Only God knows how long it will actually be.”

“I began serving First Congregational United Church of Christ in Geneseo on Jan. 1 which he described as, “with my first service in the aftermath of a snow storm on Jan. 2. This was followed by a second service on Jan. 9 amidst icy conditions.”

When asked about his responsibilities at the Geneseo church, Rev. Schoup said, “I am called to serve this congregation as it prepares to seek its next called pastor. Before forming a Search Committee, my responsibility is to work with this congregation as it asks questions like: ‘Who are we? How has it been going? Are there changes that need to be made? To what is God calling us? What kinds of qualities and skills are desired for the next called pastor?’…Meanwhile this congregation recently voted to be Open & Affirming (accepting and affirming of those who identify as LGTBQIA+), it now has to live into it.”

“I find this period of time in my life of church to be alive, fun, and full of the spirit,” he said. “It is a time when we engage with ministry, ask questions, explore, experiment, address concerns.”

He is not married and admitted that is why “I can make the kinds of moves I make. I do have a cat named Gracie. She keeps me sane. Both of us are living in a house on Hillcrest Dr., and loving it…good neighborhood, good neighbors, good house, awesome back yard.”

“The people I have met in Geneseo have been kind and thoughtful,” he said. “I have enjoyed the people I have met whether in my congregation, the community, my colleagues, or in the businesses. I like this community!”

The pastor is at the church from 9 a.m. to 2 p .m. Monday through Thursday and on Sunday mornings, “and a whole bunch of other time as needed,” he said. “I do love the variety of ministry.”

When asked if he was raised in a Christian home, he answered, “My standard answer is that I was bred and born ‘United Church of Christ’, which came about as a merger of the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical & Reformed Church in the late 1950’s. My parents were serving as United Church of Christ missionaries in Syria. When I was due, my parents crossed the border to a hospital that the United Church of Christ had in Gaziantep, Turkey, where I was delivered by a UCC doctor.”

When his family returned to the USA, his mother served as pastor of a congregation in rural Ohio and his father served in retirement housing.

Rev. Schoup graduated from high school in Upper Sandusky, OH, attended Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Business Administration, and later earned a Master of Divinity Degree from Andover Newton Theological School (seminary) outside of Boston, MA.

In 1987, he was ordained in the United Church of Christ and has served the church ever since that time in a variety of ministry settings with a couple of side trips, he said…”One of those trips took me to Ghana where I served as a professional volunteer for one academic year at a seminary (mid 1990’s), and the other took me to Lebanon where I served as the Director of Financial Aid and Spiritual Life for two years at Haigazian University, 2012-2014.

When asked what led him to ministry, Rev. Schoup said, “The Call has always been part of my life. I grew up knowing that I would work in some capacity for the church. Early in life, I thought that would be on the institutional side of the church. In Seminary, I found the call leading me into parish ministry. Several times I have tried to step away from Parish Ministry only to be called back into it.”

Because he specializes in short term ministry and now as an intentional interim pastor, Rev. Schoup has served numerous churches in several states for periods of one to three years.

He also shared some information about his time in Ghana and said, “Ghana is in a part of Africa that some will refer to as West Africa. In January of 1995, I went with a Lancaster Seminary Class (Lancaster, PA) for a two-week experience n the Volta Region of Ghana. I fell in love with it. I wrote our partner church in Ghana, The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana, asking if they might have a need for a full time volunteer for one year.”

“The answer was ‘yes’ they had a need in a small seminary in one of their villages, Peki in the Volta Region,” he said. “I resigned form my position as the pastor of two congregations in Nebraska (two congregations that I loved) and went to Peki for one year, awesome experience. I learned more from my students and Ghanaians that I ever taught.”

“The village of Peki had no telephone or running water,” Rev. Schoup said. “I had to travel an hour for any of those. We were blessed to have electricity. I had no car and needed to rely on foot power and a transportation system developed around privately- owned vehicles called ‘trotros,’ mostly small vans that would be condemned as unsafe in this country. In and around classes, I was able to travel extensively throughout the country, mostly staying as a guest in various churches.”

“Ghana taught me to be more patient and tolerant,” he said. “Ghana also taught me how much abundance is present in American life and how wealthy we are as a people and as individuals. The Ghanaians I met were by and large beautiful people – kind, thoughtful, intelligent.”