One Sunday, the Rev. A. David Paul laid down in church.
But the pastor wasn’t really lying down on the job.
He was presenting a children’s message about teamwork.
“I laid on the floor — flat — and said, ‘OK, kids pick me up.’ They didn’t budge. They looked at me like I was crazy,” the pastor said.
So the minister encouraged the children to find others to help them. Eventually, people were able to lift up the pastor illustrating a “Many hands make light work,” message.
Paul used the example to talk about how two congregations coming together can do great things for God.
Since 2014, Paul has been pastor of First Congregational Church, UCC, in Fremont. The church, which has about 355 members, is looking toward its 160th anniversary.
In July, Paul also became pastor at Arlington Community Church, which has about 230 members.
Paul preaches at the 8:30 a.m. service on Sundays in Arlington and the 10 a.m. service in Fremont.
The arrangement has created synergy. Arlington youth are coming to Fremont for confirmation. Recently, 18 youth from Fremont and Arlington met for a confirmation class.
“You should have seen these kids,” Paul said exuberantly. “They’re all bright, good kids and the way they accepted each other was a God thing … It was spectacular.”
Paul is enjoying his work at the Arlington church and looks toward more cooperation and energy between the two congregations.
The collaboration is just part of Paul’s multifaceted ministry.
Born in Hartford, Conn., Paul was young when his family settled in Pittsburgh.
“I had my first sense of call when I was 9 years old,” he said.
At the time, his parents invited their pastor, the Rev. Hetz Marsh, on vacation. Paul and his brother didn’t want to go, but it would turn out to be one of their best vacations.
Marsh had a great ability to love people and allowed himself to be loved in return. He could connect with others.
Paul would tell his parents: “I think I want to be like him when I grow up.”
Even so, Paul said he would spend the next 18 years sort of denying a call to the ministry. Coming from an achievement-oriented culture, he wanted eventually to become a psychologist.
He graduated from Upper St. Claire High School in Pittsburgh in 1988 and went to Northeastern University in Boston, where he majored in psychology and biology and played football for two years.
“I had my fourth knee surgery and decided to call it quits (for football),” he said.
He graduated from a five-year program in four years in 1992. Paul worked Dr. William Pelham, a leader in the study of attention deficit disorder and attention hyperactivity disorder, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. Paul tracked youth behavior during the summer. In the fall, he worked with program setup and afterschool programs.
He later worked for Pressley Ridge in Pittsburgh, where his work included supervising therapeutic treatment homes and did parent training.
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Paul enjoyed working in psychology, but felt like something was missing.
“And the thing that was missing, I always found in church,” he said.
Paul would become the youngest in the congregation to be in the Stephen Ministry at Westminster Presbyterian Church. He worked with youth groups.
He and his wife, Jen, married in 1997 while he was earning a master’s degree in counseling and community mental health.
“She was the first woman who ever embraced my faith instead of running away from it,” he said.
Paul went to Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 2001 with his master’s in divinity degree. He became an associate pastor at a Canfield, Ohio, church. Paul said he later became head of staff at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church, where he served for three years.
He then got a job as interim executive pastor at the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, where he worked two years.
Paul said he was called to First Presbyterian Church of Omaha and went there in 2009. He served as associate pastor for discipleship and care.
He was there until the end of 2012 when he started working at Triune C—Counseling, Coaching and Consulting in Omaha – something he still does. He also became adjunct professor at Bellevue University in its graduate school for clinical counseling in 2013.
Paul would begin serving as a pulpit supply pastor at First Congregational Church, UCC, in Fremont, something he really enjoyed. He then was approached about becoming the church’s pastor. Paul’s wife encouraged him to look into the offer.
He would begin serving as the church’s pastor full time in April 2014, while continuing to work at Triune C and teach, both part time. He would stop teaching at Bellevue, but became an adjunct professor at Midland University in 2015. There, Paul said he taught sociology to undergraduate students.
Paul would stop teaching at Midland and pare his time back at Triune C to begin serving the congregational church in Arlington, while continuing to serve the Fremont church.
He enjoys serving the congregations. Seeing youth from the churches come together as confirmands, laughing and growing, has been inspiring and energizing, he said.
“It has brought vitality to both congregations,” Paul added. “We’re talking about doing a mission trip this summer and partnering with a church in Omaha to do it. We could have 30 kids going on a mission trip this summer to Des Moines.”
Paul said the junior high-age students could be involved in various service projects during the four- or five-day trip next summer.
The pastor’s enthusiasm is evident as he talks about other events as well.
Recently, the Arlington church had its annual fall festival with a record number of vehicles in its car show. And the church ran out of ice cream by 1 p.m. that day and had to buy more, because of the excellent attendance.
The Fremont church is looking forward to its annual Christmas bazaar. This will be the church’s 72nd annual bazaar.
This month, Fremont’s congregation also will launch its yearlong observance of the 160th anniversary of the church.
Paul noted that attendance has increased at the Arlington church since its service was moved to 8:30 a.m. A couple of families, who normally attend the Fremont church, have enjoyed the option of being able to go to services in Arlington.
Paul looks forward to seeing the congregations continue to support and energize each other.
“As everywhere else, churches have shrunk and are struggling. This has created an opportunity for both churches to thrive, where with God’s help we’re creating a future that’s worthy of our past,” Paul said.