We begin our examination of Pen Peerys spiritual coming of age where all such inquiries should begin.
On the golf course.
There, he says, hes had a recent breakthrough. In the past year, his game had undergone a full-immersion dip in the toilet. Worse, he kept comparing his play to what it had been before the responsibilities of marriage, three children and a church intervened.
And then it hit him: Maybe Im just not that good. He felt liberated. Golf, no matter how he played, was fun again.
Similarly, the newly named senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte is not bogged down by fears about the future of mainstream Christianity. His denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), is shrinking. Its congregations continue to argue over what theyre supposed to be.
Once again, Peery chooses to free himself from the past.
Pen has not been part of congregations that have been intimidated by the struggles weve gone through, says his father, former longtime area minister Pete Peery.
Hed say, Look Dad, Im tired of fighting the battles of your generation. Were moving on.
Freed from the templates, Pete says, The church can be intentional, in what it is and what it does.
Pen puts it this way: I dont know that church that everybody is lamenting. Im confident God has a purpose for us.
Such optimism has a side benefit. His family will always find work.
Peerys, you see, become Presbyterian ministers. They then marry other ministers and beget more and more men and women of the cloth. Pen calls it The Family Sickness.
The implications are extraordinary. Could the super-charged spiritual DNA of a single family one day thaw the Frozen Chosen?
For Pen he and his sister Meg are the sixth generation in the streak the fine line between the family business and his own free will began to blur in high school.
Up to then, Meg said her big brother had found preachers kid middle ground, between hellion and stick in the mud.
But he never rebelled against the church. He saw the joy his parents felt from their own ministries. Like his father, he ditched law school late for the seminary. He stopped wondering if hed chosen well when he got his first church, in Richmond.
Intellectually, it clicked, he says. As a pastor, you get invited to these incredible moments in peoples lives.
Peery was 4 1/2 years into his pastorship of First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport, La., when the phone rang. The search committee at First Presbyterian in Charlotte came to hear him preach three times.
On June 7, the formal call came. Pen Peery was coming home. His first sermon will be Sept. 16.
His new church was his hometowns first, founded in 1821. The challenge he and his congregation face, Pen says, is to stay grounded in all that history while injecting it with the sense that we need to be innovative to really adapt to where God is calling us to go.
His father, who now lives with Pens mother, Margaret, in Montreat, believes the old church may be one step ahead. First Presbyterian moved boldly when it called a 35-year-old guy to come to the tallest steeple in uptown.
At Pens installation in Shreveport, Meg urged her brother to dream, see visions and look for green grass.
Golf aside, the family suspects hes found some behind the granite walls at Trade and Church.