Jim Kitchens, pastor of Second Presbyterian Nashville, has announced he will be leaving his post to take a position in Northern California. 

Sunday, April 25 will be his last day to preach in the pulpit of a church that has grown into a strong supporter of Nashville's GLBT community.

Kitchens' Nashville tenure began seven years ago, when he began interviewing for his Nashville position and was told that “The nominating committee was forthright about the fact that any new pastor would need to be supportive of the GLBT community," he recalled. After a series of interviews and a tremendous amount of prayer, the nominating committee decided to elect Kitchens as the pastor and on Oct. 1, 2003, he began his work. Little did he know the work that was ahead of him.

 

Two weeks before Kitchens began his position, the sanctuary at Second Presbyterian burned to the ground. Oddly enough, the previous church Kitchens served also suffered a devastating fire, so his skill of caring for a church in this situation was quickly put to use.

 

Many times it has been said that a church isn’t a building, it is the people. But there are a lot of memories associated with a building, everything from weddings and funerals to baptisms. “While I had experience leading a church through this trial, the more valuable gift I brought to the situation would be in assisting people in their grieving process as they waded through the spiritual contours of such a loss," Kitchens said.

 

Second Presbyterian held its first services in the new sanctuary on Dec. 3, 2006. In addition to the new sanctuary, a new fellowship hall, youth space and children’s classrooms were built to replace space destroyed by the fire three years earlier.

 

Since opening the new sanctuary, Second Presbyterian has added 150 new members. Those new members are largely singles and young families with children, the prefect demographic for a growing church.

 

According to Kitchens, “It is often said if you welcome GLBT members, unless you are a gay-identified church, it will cost you members. But in our case, being an openly progressive, welcoming congregation has been great for our evangelism.”

 

When new members are asked why they come to Second Presbyterian, some cite the church's stand for social justice, saying that the members work passionately for the social rights of many individuals. Others cite the mission statement posted on the home page of their web site which says, "We welcome you to join us in our journey of faith, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, economic or family status, ethnicbackground, and mental or physical abilities." With this statement, Second Presbyterian proclaims that faith is indeed a journey, and that all are truly welcome to explore that journey together, according to its members.

Kitchens goes on to add, “Many church members say they have a gay family member, and ultimately they want a church home where they know that family member would be welcome.”

Second Presbyterian is a More Light Presbyterian Church, meaning it is a congregation working for the full inclusion of GLBT members. This applies not only to membership, but leadership as well. Ben Papa, Trice Gibbons and Phil Phy are just a few of the church's leaders who have been profiled in Out and About.

In addition to providing leadership in the Christian community, Second Presbyterian has accomplished a long list of incidences where it lent support within the GLBT community. The church has operated a booth at Pride Week and its members have taken many supportive stands for the adoptive rights of GLBT parents. In the fall of 2008, Second Presbyterian hosted the “Our Family Matters” conference, devoted to looking at the relationship between God and the GLBT community. During the fall of 2009, Second also hosted “The National Conference of Welcoming and Affirming Presbyterians.”

As Jim Kitchens leaves his post at Second to become the Interim Pastor at Calvary Presbyterian in San Francisco, he leaves some big shoes to fill. Rarely do you find a pastor who has the skill to preach, the compassion to nurture, and the administrative skills to lead a growing church.

When asked why he was leaving, Kitchens responded by saying, “I loved this ministry and could have loved it for many more years to come. But my wife and I are at a point in our lives where we need to be closer to family. Both of our daughters live in Northern California. So the desire for continued ministry and to be closer to family has led us to Calvary Presbyterian.”

Jim Kitchens, you will be missed.

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