Capitol Hill Presbyterian Welcomes Rev. Keys

A New Pastor on Capitol Hill

658

 

Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church (201 Fourth St. SE) will welcome a new minister in January, Rev. Erin M. Keys. “I could not be more thrilled to be moving to Capitol Hill,” Keys said. “Everything I hear about it is that it is a wonderful community, and I know that DC is rich in culture and history.”

Church leadership is also enthusiastic. “We are so pleased that not only we called her, but she came to us and decided this would be her home as well,” said Sally Stoecker, co-chair of the church’s Pastor Nominating Committee.

For the past six years, Keys has been associate pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich, Conn. Prior to that she served as associate pastor at the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Though Keys lived in New York for a few years and loves the city, she felt a draw toward the District and the church. “I was drawn to the Capitol Hill church for many reasons. It is a warm community, an energetic and vibrant community poised to move into a new chapter together.” She also “felt a particular calling to be in Washington in light of everything happening in our country.”

Keys received her master of divinity degree at Columbia Theological Seminary in 2008, having taken a bachelor of arts with honors from Elon University in North Carolina in 2005. In 2014, Elon recognized her work with its Service to Church and Society Award, one of the university’s highest honors.

Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church has been without a pastor for almost two years, since Rev. Andy Walton departed for Clearwater, Fla. “It was hard,” said Stoecker of Walton’s departure, “because he was a very energetic pastor. But change is good.”

Interim Rev. Scott W. Wilson has been working with the church to facilitate the transition to new leadership.

Stoecker said that Capitol Hill Presbyterian was looking for three factors in a new pastor: leadership ability, work with children and excellent preaching. Out of a pool of hundreds of candidates, Keys was one of three selected by the seven-person committee to visit in September and October. “She had those three things,” said Stoecker. “The [search] committee found her sermons outstanding. And we just loved the fact that she grew up in a Presbyterian church and really enjoyed it and was active herself.”

Keys was raised in the First Presbyterian Church in Asheville, N.C., by parents who read Bible stories and prayed nightly with her. Literature provided during Keys’ candidate sermons at the Capitol Hill church described how these formative influences “invited her to grow in her love of God and her neighbor.”

Stoecker noted that the work Keys has done with children, leading youth groups and recruiting teachers is especially valuable in a Capitol Hill community that is increasingly filled with children. Her administrative experience, especially at First Presbyterian, where she ably negotiated staff changes, including the departure of five staff members during her first five years, was also a tremendous asset.

Keys currently serves on the advisory board for NEXT Church, a network of leaders across the Presbyterian Church that seeks to cultivate congregations and leaders whose work promotes God’s transformation of our communities for the common good. She is a board member of Educating Haiti, a nonprofit organization that is building a school in St. Marc, Haiti.

Keys is in her first term in the postgraduate program at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in Georgetown. She says that the family system theory formulated by Murray Bowen, for whom the center is named, helped to inform her ministry even before she went into the program. “This theory is particularly useful for ministry, for the work we do,” she said.

Rev. Erin M. Keys is an avid and skilled photographer of the beauty in the world around her. Photo: E.M. Keys

Although Keys accompanied the Youth Group of the Connecticut church to the District on a trip last summer to work among the homeless, and has visited friends in the District, she says her move here will be a new experience. But she seems set to fit right in. Not only is she an avid jogger, she plans to get a puppy shortly after her arrival to jog alongside her. “I’m also hoping a dog will help me meet people,” she said in good humor, adding that she is looking forward to jogging on the National Mall. She also enjoys hot yoga and reading and is a skilled photographer.

“I’m excited to make my home here and be part of not just the next chapter of the church, but the wider Capitol Hill community,” she said. “I look forward to getting to know all my neighbors, both within the church, the community and the wider District.”

Stoecker is also excited. “Rev. Keys said that she felt something, some sort of a ‘spark’ when she saw our announcement,” she said. “I’m just so glad that she followed up on that spark and is coming to Capitol Hill.”

The Capitol Hill community will have an opportunity to meet Rev. Keys when she attends the third annual St. Valentine’s Concert and Sparkling Wine Tasting. The event takes place on Feb. 10, at 6:30 p.m., and benefits Capitol Hill Presbyterian service partners programs at Capitol Hill Group Ministry that help the homeless as well as programs at Good Neighbor Capitol Hill that support the refugee community.

The concert will be conducted by the church’s music director, Caitriona McEniry-Roschke, and will feature love songs from the 1920s. The wine tasting is hosted by Chani Wiggins, DC Wine Wonk. Free childcare and parking are available.

Tickets and sponsorships are available at www.capitolhillpreschurch.org.