Local minister receives his doctorate

North Ridgeville

By Shane Rogers

First Congregational United Church of Christ on Center Ridge Road announced that its interim minister, the Rev. Dave Howell – known to the congregation as Pastor Dave – is now officially the Rev. Dr. Dave Howell.

Howell received his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary after putting in six years of work. His doctoral project focused on his time spent at a church on the urban east side of Cleveland.

“I worked with a church that was at the end of its life, and basically what my project was, was following up on that,” Howell said. “How did that affect the community that the church was in? How did it affect the members of the church, the other pastors in the community that remained after the church closed? What can we learn from that experience? What should churches be trying to do?

“Part of the issue is that churches think of themselves as being eternal; you know, they are going to last forever and ever and ever,” he added.

His research, which was eventually accepted for his doctorate, took a year and a half in order to conduct all the interviews, six months to write the first draft and another year to smooth out all the details and make it into a final product. According to Howell, the unique perspective he took for his research has sparked the interest of the church that encouraged him to seek a grant to formally publish his work. He admits, however, that it has been put on the back burner for now.

For now, Howell plans on spending his time focusing on his position of interim minister, which he has held since January, and using his new doctorate to continue to lead his congregation. Although he technically has to change his formal signature to “Rev. Dr. Howell,” he also plans on continuing to be called “Pastor Dave.”

“I feel like (the congregation) can say that easily,” he said. “They don’t feel like they are saying something artificial.”

According to Howell, congregants began calling him “Pastor Dave” because they liked how it sounded. To Howell, it is a term of endearment.

“People see you more as the shepherd leader,” he said, a point that he made multiple times.

As for future plans, Howell is more focused on the here and now of his current congregation. According to him, being an interim minister is a unique position within the United Church of Christ, in which the person comes in and leads the church while it works to decide on, and get ready for, the next long-term minister coming in.

 

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