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'Perfect balance' for First Christian pastor as he takes position for denomination

'Perfect balance' for First Christian pastor as he takes position for denomination

July 30th, 2017 by Michelle Brooks in Local News

The Rev. Beau Underwood poses in the sanctuary of First Christian Church at 327 E. Capitol Ave. Underwood was installed as first vice-moderator of the General Assemby of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Photo by Julie Smith /Fulton Sun.

A diverse and motivated congregation in the Capital City, the senior minister job at First Christian Church was an unsolicited, perfect fit for the Rev. Beau Underwood.

Three years ago, he was working for a faith-related not-for-profit in the nation's capital. But, he was beginning to realize his part-time work at the National City Christian Church — the Disciples of Christ denominational ministry — in Washington, D.C., was becoming his true path.

A friend, who grew up in the Jefferson City congregation, suggested the opening as a good fit for Underwood, who wasn't actually looking for a move, he said.

But he trusted God that things would open up. When he and his wife, Casey, both received job offers in Mid-Missouri within four days of one another, they accepted the call.

Underwood grew up in a 7,000-population town in Illinois, his wife in metropolitan areas. "Jefferson City is a perfect balance," he said.

At first, Underwood thought he would become a psychiatrist. He discovered he did not enjoy science. What he really wanted to do was help people with life's challenges — something pastors do.

He was ordained in summer 2010 in his hometown church of Princeton, Illinois.

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This month, he was elected as the Disciples of Christ national 1st vice moderator for the general assembly. The two-year term will help support newly installed moderator Sue Morris, and he will be responsible for the denomination's biennial meeting in 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.

The local congregation is one of the 100 largest in the denomination. And denominational involvement is a priority for them, he said.

Underwood jokes, "I'm an impolite dinner companion," because his two primary interests are the social-taboo topics of religion and politics.

He attended Eureka College, President Ronald Reagan's alma mater, in Illinois. Then he went to seminary at the University of Chicago, where former President Barack Obama taught. His last job, at the Disciples' D.C. church, was where President Lyndon Johnson attended.

He worked several years as senior director of advocacy and communications at Sojourners, a ministry engaging both political parties on issues from a Christian perspective.

"It was hard work in a time when we are more polarized," Underwood said. "We stand on the side of the Gospel."

Through that role, he met many conspicuous political leaders. But it wasn't entirely satisfying to him.

His experiences inside the political machine and seeing the processes and layers inside government have helped him minister to his local congregation.

"I know the issues they're wrestling with," he said. "It's helpful to know the actual work life and pressures. I can preach a sermon and not be naive; I can connect the Gospel with the headlines.

"Faith is not divorced from the world."

Correction: Sue Morris was referenced with an incorrect title in the original version of this article, which has since been removed.