In January of 2015, a search began for a new senior pastor of First Congregational Church in Redlands, Calif. who would succeed a retiring beloved pastor of 38 years. Now, a little more than a year after Dr. Steven J. Davis was installed as the church’s new senior pastor, we had a conversation with him regarding his journey in this new role.
Steve began the conversation by remarking how crucial relationships were to the search process that ultimately matched his skills, gifts, and experience with the needs of the congregation so seamlessly. In 2014, FaithSearch Partners had connected with Pastor Davis within the context of previous search. Though it didn’t work out, it afforded the opportunity for us to get to know Steve and for him to get to know us. More importantly, Steve said, we built a relationship with him.
This was true with the congregation as well, he added. When FaithSearch Partners was awarded the search, we took time to help the church answer questions up front about who they were and what they needed, developing more relationships in the process. The resulting mutual understanding and respect made the process more than just business; it became ministry.
Dating back to 1880, the church has had many oral traditions and a congregation largely composed of older families. Steve brought respect for those traditions and families to his new ministry while also looking toward the future to capitalize on the nature of the community as a cultural center and university town. Soon, a new children’s choir had been established, building on the brand previously cultivated in the community for world-class music and choral productions. Tapping into the University of Redlands’ musical talent, world-class recitals began to attract the community back to First Congregational church. Next, a new worship service for emerging generations will be rolled out.
Under Steve’s leadership, the position of Director of Family and Youth Ministries was created, drawing younger families to the church, and his professional involvement in the community created a unique invitational public platform. Steve got involved with the school system as a community expert to bring healing in the wake of student suicides. He also was key in helping the community deal with the outcomes of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, knowing the shooters lived just doors away from his home and the Redlands police were part of the live-fire force that responded. Steve led multi-faith conversations to bring understanding and peace to the community and facilitated a memorial at the University of Redlands.
Though Steve characterizes his first year as one of planning and initiating, it is clear the church is doing more than simply waiting for things to happen. They are moving ahead, growing, and making a difference in the community. When asked about his experience with FaithSearch Partners, he responded with a story: Steve and his wife were ready to accept a call from a church in the Midwest. We called the day before his official acceptance, inviting him to consider candidacy with First Congregational Church, and he set aside the call and responded in the affirmative. Why? Because of the relationship we had built with him, he says. When asked about his experience with FaithSearch Partners, he simply said, “Great match!”