Pastor Andy Wilson became leader of St. Peter’s Evangelical United Church of Christ in Granite City on Feb. 5. Before his seminary training, he worked as a paramedic.
Sometimes life takes us on a less-than-direct path to our ultimate destination. Such was the case for Pastor Andy Wilson.
Wilson began his duties Feb. 5 as leader of St. Peter’s Evangelical United Church of Christ in Granite City. As he stepped into the pulpit for his first sermon to his new congregation, he knew this was his new home.
“My first career was as a paramedic,” he said. “But I knew the job was not what I wanted to do the rest of my life.”
He began to think of where he wanted to turn next.
“I can’t say it was a calling that led me to enter seminary,” he said. “It was more ambiguous than that.”
He did know, however, that he wanted to be a part of people’s lives. So enter the seminary he did.
He has the support of his wife, Kristan, a St. Louis area chiropractor. The couple resides in Granite City next to the church that is now “home” with their two dogs, Hank, a Labrador retriever, and Bill, a Chihuahua and self-proclaimed boss. The Wilsons are locals — Andy grew up in Cahokia and Columbia and Kristan lived in Belleville — so they are familiar with Granite City and Southwestern Illinois.
During the first year of seminary, Wilson was approached about a position in Montana. A small, rural community was not financially able to support a full-time pastoral position, so church leaders were seeking seminary students to come into the area for a type of on-the-job training.
“It was a very small church — 20 to 25 people total,” Wilson said. “It was a neighborhood church. I quickly learned it was a congregation with a lot of hope.”
He said the experience was much more than he could have expected. More than 60 people attended his final service.
“It was the Fourth of July,” Wilson said. “The members had all been talking about their plans for the day of celebration, so I encouraged them to bring their friends and family to services on that day to start their festivities.”
Congregation members embraced the thought of sharing their hope with others in the community and expanding their church’s neighborhood.
It was an almost natural transition to come to St. Peter’s in Granite City. The first Sunday service again saw 20 to 25 people in the pews.
“I found they have that same hope,” Wilson said. “They have been very welcoming to my family.”
When asked about his goals and ambitions at the church, Wilson is quick to point out the community will dictate the future.
“I am new here, so I will wait and see where the opportunities of the community take us,” he said.
There is a small community garden near the church, at 2101 Cleveland Ave. in Granite City, which he plans to continue as a way of outreach to residents.
“I plan to expand on the hope displayed by the congregation and take that to others in the community,” he said. “So far it has been a very welcoming experience — one that I hope to share with others in the future.”
A hope that can grow along with the garden.