Before moving to Owensboro a year ago, the Rev. Matt Curry had never lived outside his home state of Texas.
Curry, 58, was called to be the new pastor of First Presbyterian Church, at 1328 Griffith Ave., and began his ministry there on June 1, 2021.
“Everything that appealed to me about the town and the area before I came here has all turned out to be true,” said Curry, who pastored Central Presbyterian Church of Waxahachie, Texas, near Dallas, from 2012-20. “I love all the amenities that Owensboro has — the riverwalk and all those things. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. It’s also a place where you’ll run into people you know. I was looking for a ministry context like that.”
Along with the city, Curry said he was drawn to First Presbyterian Church itself, pointing out that it still holds Communion every Sunday. Communion is the service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared.
“That’s somewhat unusual for a Presbyterian church, and they let me know that it was important to them,” Curry said. “And I love that. I think we should have Communion all the time. For most Presbyterian churches, it’s the first Sunday of the month. When we have it here, our table is open. You don’t have to be a Presbyterian or a member of this church to be welcome at the table.”
Prior to entering into ministry, Curry worked as a journalist for 27 years. He was an AP writer in Texas but left after he was hired at Central Presbyterian Church.
Curry said he misses his former AP colleagues but “not the day-to-day grind.”
“One of the commonalities between journalism and ministry, I deal with people in the best and worst times of life,” Curry said. “The difference is I get to still hear their story, but now I get to help them find God in their story and God’s presence while trying to give comfort.”
During the past 12 months, Curry said the church has regained more of its normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic that caused attendance to drop in favor of online worship.
“People are coming back,” he said. “It’s nice to have that technology to be able to worship and not be physically present. But there’s also something always missed with that. It’s seeing old friends and those who have long connections with the church. So it’s a pretty joyful time to be able to do that.”
And with more people returning to in-person worship, Curry said the congregation is in a “season of regathering” by bringing back activities such as vacation Bible school and the church picnic.
He added that the church is in the middle of planning its signature event — the Owensboro Multicultural Festival, which is scheduled for Aug. 20.
Curry said he quickly realized how important and how recognizable the event has become to Owensboro and its residents.
“I think the Multicultural Festival is really a ministry of peace and reconciliation; it’s an opportunity to see the many facets that there are to this community that people don’t ordinarily see,” he said. “I got here just in time for it last year to get a taste of it. So I’m really looking forward to it this year.”
First Presbyterian Church is also positioning itself to being “an alternative to what is out there,” Curry said.
Curry said the church is traditional in its worship and keeps true to the hymnals and the theologians of the past.
“We’re reformed and reforming, meaning that we’re open to what God is saying to us in each new age,” Curry said.
And part of that reform, Curry said, is First Presbyterian placing an emphasis on working closer with the Black and LGBTQ communities of Owensboro.
“We’re very focused on inclusion, hospitality, social justice, welcoming those people who may feel they’ve been harmed by the church or by Christianity and don’t think that there is a place for them,” said Curry, adding that the church will have a presence at the Juneteenth and Pride events.
Curry said the community refers to First Presbyterian as the “church on the hill,” but he would rather for it to be known as “the light” within the community.
“We’re supposed to live peaceably with our neighbors, but we live in a very polarized world,” he said. “When we say everyone is welcome regardless of your politics, we really try to live that out.”
As far as any future projects for the church, Curry said there are no planned building expansions, but that capital funds are being committed to buying new furniture for the refugees who are settling within the county.
“Our worship here is very important; it grounds us and fuels us for what we do,” he said. “But we want to be a people who make a difference for others in this city.”
Don Wilkins, email@example.com, 270-691-7299