The Rev. Tim McConnell grew up in Colorado Springs and graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School in 1991. He recalls visits to his mom's workplace on East Woodmen Road when he was a teenager, at a time when that teeming thoroughfare marked the city's "distant outskirts."
"You'd look north and there was nothing," McConnell said. "It's not like that anymore."
After 25 years away, pursuing a path in ministry, raising a family, teaching and pastoring churches in New Jersey, Virginia and Georgia, McConnell is back in the city where his faith first was catalyzed, to lead one of its larger and more historic downtown congregations at First Presbyterian Church.
"Growing up here, I met the Lord through Young Life ministries and went to Frontier (Ranch) camp probably a dozen times," said McConnell, 42, who was tapped this year and installed June 10 as lead pastor. "It's interesting to come back to your hometown 25 years later and it's the same city but it's an entirely different city. The challenges that Colorado Springs faces now are challenges that either weren't there or that I wasn't aware of as a high school student. There's a lot that's new and novel, but I'm so proud of how this church responds to the needs of the city."
After earning a bachelor's degree in English - and meeting future wife Abigail, with whom he has four children - at Northwestern University, McConnell entered the Army Reserve to pursue chaplaincy, while simultaneously working toward a Master of Divinity in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained in 1999, McConnell also holds a Master of Studies in Theology from Oxford University and Ph.D. in Historical Theology from the University of Virginia and is the author of "Happy Church: Pursuing Radical Joy as the People of God."
He most recently served as senior pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Ga., and in February began traveling to the Springs for two-week stints to meet the congregation and lead periodic sermons. Abigail and the couple's three school-aged children are relocating to a city they visited regularly to see family over the years. "They know this city because their grandparents live here. They're all excited. My son and I are avid rock climbers, and we're going to get a lot out of being outside in Colorado," McConnell said.
He's also excited to be pastoring a thriving ministry that's considered a leader in the denomination and whose history dates to the city's earliest days. The 144-year-old church was founded 16 days before Colorado Springs filed for incorporation with the Colorado Territory.
"This city was founded by Gen. (William Jackson) Palmer with the idea that it was a beautiful place to live in God's creation, and the church has always been a part of that same vision," McConnell said. "First Pres has helped this city become what it is and continues to work in a very dedicated way to promote the well-being of everyone who lives here, to let them know the Lord and flourish."