By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
In the back of his mind, the Rev. Chuck Hetzler always had a feeling he might be returning to his hometown at some point in his religious journey.
That time has come.
Hetzler, 35, has been named the new senior pastor at Quincy's oldest church, First Union Congregational, 12th and Maine. Hetzler's first Sunday at First Union will be Aug. 4.
"We're excited to be coming," Hetzler said in a phone interview from his family's current residence in Princeton, N.J. "We see this is as something God was orchestrating. We're excited about the long history First Union has in Quincy and its long history of involvement within the city."
Hetzler said one of his goals for First Union is to see it take an even more prominent role in Quincy.
First Union has been without a full-time pastor for about 10 months. The Rev. Larry Wentzel retired late last summer. The Rev. Bruce Rice was the most recent interim pastor at the church, which dates to 1830, more than 30 years before the Civil War.
Hetzler was born in Quincy and moved to Charlotte, N.C., with his family when he was a teenager. It was then that he felt the calling to the ministry.
"I began to see my need for Christ, and at the of 16 I decided to follow him," Hetzler said. "I had always felt a drawing to ... return to Quincy, but my career kept taking me away."
Last fall, Hetzler began talking with First Union. After several conversations, Hetzler said the choice became clear.
"We just kept praying about it," he said.
Hetzler's most recent pastoral involvement has been with the New York City Christian Union, a nondenominational ministry that provides high-level direction for a network of Christian leaders. Part of Hetzler's duties included planning, supervising and executing programs and events to minister to professionals in New York City and helping them with their own spiritual journeys.
"Chuck is an accomplished scholar and experienced minister, devoted to providing evangelistic ministry of the gospel of Christ," First Union member Mike Hulsen said. "His wife, Karen, is an accomplished vocal performer, and they are the parents of four wonderful children."
The Hetzlers' children -- Nathanael, 7, Nico, 6, Annalise, 5, and Amari, 4 -- include two from the Congo whom they recently adopted.