Religion

Pastor doesn't take 'cookie-cutter' approach to ministry

Praying and meditating, the Rev. Matthew Hunt walks the sanctuary of Salem Evangelical United Church of Christ in Quincy, finding a sense of peace and connection with God, as he goes through the process of formulating his sermon outline for the upcoming weekend services. Hunt will be installed as pastor at the church Sunday. | H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 22, 2016 10:15 pm
QUINCY -- The Rev. Matthew Hunt may be preaching about handmade Christians in a cookie-cutter world, but don't expect him to take a cookie-cutter approach to ministry.

"I know what I want to do. I am absolutely committed to getting there. I'll stop at nothing," Hunt said. "I passionately love people, passionately love Jesus, and that's what compels me to be who I am."

Pastor of Salem Evangelical United Church of Christ since January, Hunt already feels at home in both the church and the Quincy community.

"I just feel like I was supposed to be here," he said.

Hunt will be installed at a 4 p.m. Sunday service.

"We're not just celebrating that I showed up and also celebrating we're glad that happened," Hunt said. "It's been a really good three-and-a-half months. We've taken some very tangible, important steps toward growth, church health and well-being. We're in a good spot right now."

The Southeast Iowa native grew up in a strong church family, and his career choice came as no surprise to leaders in the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church in Burlington who nurtured him on a path to ministry.

"Probably the surprise was, I didn't go into ministry with their church," Hunt said.

After graduating from Western Illinois University with a degree in sociology and communications, he work with high school and college students at the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Macomb. Along with the job, he found a spiritual home with other Christians who shared his inclusive beliefs. Hunt graduated from Kentucky's Lexington Theological Seminary in 1996, served as associate minister at the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Independence, Mo., which nurtured his love of the Royals and barbecue, then spent 13 years as associate pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Keokuk, Iowa, before becoming pastor at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Keokuk.

Hunt's ministry in each location targeted evangelism, youth and community efforts, including launching the ongoing Common Grounds street ministry still supported by 12 churches in Southeast Iowa. He plans to continue the same work at Salem.

"With Salem, I would really like to see us do two things -- to grow spiritually in our commitment to Jesus and the Scriptures, and I would like to see that prompt us to mission and outreach," Hunt said. "I would like to see us be a blessing to the community and to work together with the community to make Quincy a better place and to help people in need."

He envisions the church working with area nonprofit groups to meet needs and expanding its community outreach, which already includes a Saturday meals program and a new community garden project.

The father of two -- son Wesley is a high school senior, and daughter Kendra is a seventh-grader in Keokuk -- Hunt shares their love of music, but he leans toward collecting and reselling vinyl albums, primarily metal and classic rock.

Hunt also teaches an ethics class each semester at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., that always touches on religion.

"The biggest job I have in that class is, I've got to help kids go from an opinion to an ethical framework that uses logic and reason to come to a conclusion on an ethical issue," he said. "People like to have opinions."

INSTALLATION SERVICE

Salem Evangelical United Church of Christ will hold an installation service Sunday afternoon for Rev. Matthew Hunt.

The service begins at 4 p.m. at the church, Ninth and State.

Pastors from the Western Association of the United Church of Christ and across the region will participate.

Preaching will be the Rev. Bill Mitchell, interim pastor at Ursa Christian Church. Mitchell was the senior pastor at First Christian Church in Keokuk, Iowa, where Hunt served as associate minister for 13 years.