Rev. Jason Santos Selected to Fill Vacant Presbyterian Church Pulpit

A long-standing vacancy at the pulpit of Lake City’s historic Community Presbyterian Church was enthusiastically remedied Sunday morning, January 12, as Rev. Dr. Jason Santos was confirmed as the church’s new resident minister following a church-wide Congregational Meeting. Rev. Santos’ appointment fills a vacancy at the church which has existed since April, 2018, when the church’s prior minister, Rev. B.L. Jordan, resigned citing health concerns. During the 18-month interim, the church’s pulpit was filled by temporary pastors, primary of which was Supply Pastor Dr. John Roose and occasionally Guest Pastor Rev. Ed Nettleton. During the interim, an exhaustive interview process was conducted as upwards of 80 resumes from applicants were reviewed by the church’s five-member Pastor Nominating Committee comprised of John Bonner, Pat Stone, Denny Brannon, Allen Brown, and Diane Bruce. Rev. Santos drew on the New Testament’s Acts 10:34-43 in his candidate sermon entitled “Same Same-Same” which was delivered before congregation members, the nominating committee, and guests who filled approximately half the pews at the 9:30 a.m. service. Rev. Santos’ sermon highlighted what he termed “deluxe” and “massively significant” passages from Acts emphasizing the directive not to judge but rather to bear witness. Heartfelt intellectual analysis was evident as Santos, with bushy, lightly graying black beard, spoke with passion on Apostle Peter’s time in Joffa and interactions with both Gentiles and Jews, including the Centurian Cornelius, all the same in God’s eyes and “all made the same,” in Rev. Santos’ interpretation. Santos drew subtle humor in his sermon, drawing the same “same-same” analogy with a newly arrived Alaskan Malamute Pup, Louie, and the venerable 10-year-old Black Lab, Ruby, which share equal “same-same,” love and attention in the Louisville, Kentucky, home with Rev. Santos, his wife, Shannon, and sons Judah, age 18, and Silas, 8. Judah Santos was among the rapt, front-row audience on Sunday and, with his father, had arranged for live-streaming allowing Mrs. Santos and other members of the family to observe the proceedings from their home in Kentucky. In his opening remarks, Rev. Santos smiled broadly and extended his arms from the pulpit in a relieved, welcoming gesture, telling congregation, “It’s been a long journey.” His reference to journey was applicable, he said, to both the local Presbyterian congregation which has been without a permanent minister for a year and a half, and Santos’ own personal convoluted journey. He briefly alluded to the fact that he was aware of an earlier vacancy in the local church pulpit as early as 2009 at a time when he was in his fourth year of residency at Princeton Seminary. Despite the distance, he filed an application letter for the post in Lake City at that time. Life intervened and he instead accepted a position at a 4,200-member church in Seattle, Washington. Despite never meeting, Santos on Sunday told the congregation he never forgot Lake City and, throughout the years, “in my heart I’ve always felt a connection to this community.” After accepting the Seattle church post, the first house he and his family considered was located in the suburban Seattle community of Lake City. After becoming settled and in the process of commuting to his new church, Santos said his access route was on a highway known as ‘Lake City Way.’ After Seattle, he moved to a 1,200-population, largely Amish community in Western Pennsylvania where he completed his Doctoral Dissertation. He is now employed in an administrative role at the headquarters of Presbyterian Church, USA, in Louisville, Kentucky. Santos again referenced “a long journey” and “Divine Providence” when he learned that Lake City’s Community Presbyterian once again had a vacancy and his decision to again apply. “I’ve never felt a stronger call to a place,” he emphatically told the congregation on Sunday. He referenced the impending church-wide congregation vote and said that if it was in the affirmative, “we’ll spend many years together delving into the Scriptures.” Announcement of the 100 percent affirmative vote and his call to the pulpit at Community Presbyterian Church came in the midst of hearty hugs and handshakes at a potluck breakfast banquet which was held in Darley Hall following the service. Rev. Santos now returns to Louisville, Kentucky, and will be back in Lake City in April for his first official sermon as church minister. He and his family will make their home in the historic 1879 Presbyterian Manse which has been vacant since Rev. Jordan’s departure in 2018. Highlights of Sunday’s service included Rev. Santos’ repeated reference to the Taizé Community, an ecumenical organization in southeast France which has achieved remarkable conciliatory work since its establishment in 1942. An integral aspect of the Taizé Community’s resiliency are calming, repetitive chants or songs. As a key element of Sunday’s service in Lake City, the 1981 Taizé prayer “Jesus, Remember Me” was sung by Santos and congregation, accompanied by Janet Potter on the piano, with the simple lyrics “Jesus, remember me when we come into your kingdom” being lyrically repeated perhaps 20 times, at the conclusion of which there was a poignant and meditative silence.