Six years after taking over as senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church, one of Colorado Springs' oldest and largest congregations, the Rev. Jim Singleton is leaving to go teach at a Boston-area seminary.

Singleton, 53, informed the church board, called the Session, on Tuesday of his plan to leave in July to teach "practical ministry and theology" at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., northeast of Boston.

Singleton had a relatively short tenure leading the 5,000-member downtown mega-church compared to the pastor he replaced, the Rev. John Stevens, who preached there 34 years prior to his retirement in 2005.

But the decision was made for him, said Alison Murray, leader of the First Presbyterian staff.

"It is a calling," Murray said. "He's feeling deeply called to make this move to teach next-generation pastors.

"This is God's timing."

First Presbyterian will launch a national search for a new co-pastor, Murray said. It hopes to find a replacement in time to allow a transition period before Singleton's departure.

Singleton came to Colorado Springs in 2005 from Texas where he had led the 2,000-member Covenant Presbyterian church in Austin since 1999.

His move to Gordon-Conwell represents a homecoming of sorts. Singleton began his seminary training at Gordon-Conwell before concluding his studies at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va.

He also had taught at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  He is a native of Oklahoma.