Dynamic Jefferson City pastor disrupts status quo

Angela Madden
Angela Madden

Avoid telling the Rev. Angela Madden: "We've always done it this way."

The First Presbyterian Church's senior pastor thrives on adapting and innovating - finding new ways to bring people to Christ. She's served at the church for only about 20 months now, but she's already worked with the Faith Family to usher in various new programs.

"I don't look to settle for being good. I look for us to be great," she said. "I am a status quo changer. I see churches as retail shops. You never know what is going to happen, who's going to call or who's going to walk through the door."

Churches, she said, must be ready to deliver their product - Jesus Christ - in many different ways and places, not just a set time on Sunday mornings.

For a few years before Madden came to First Presbyterian, the church began livestreaming its services. That came in handy when the COVID-19 pandemic forced closure of in-person services. The church also held some Sunday services outside, closing a block of Madison Street so people could worship in the middle of the street in front of the church. Congregation members brought their own chairs.

Madden also has helped implement other non-traditional programs, including:

Sermons from the porch.

"Worship Bags" given to each Faith Family household and visitors in the church as a way to engage them from their remote worship spaces.

The Heart Art Project, in which church youths submit art that goes to homebound/isolated members of the church.

Ashes to Go, an Ash Wednesday program that allowed people to get blessed with ashes on their foreheads while driving through the church's circular drive.

One project Madden started during the pandemic has been "Sunshine Moments," typically six- to 10-minute Facebook Live videos to interact with church members and the community. She continues to make them each Tuesday and Thursday.

In one of the videos, she talked about the need for coats, mittens and gloves. The church had taken over the coat ministry started by Encore Vintage thrift and consignment Store. The program had only two coats available for people in need. Her "Sunshine Moment" segment about the need for more coats and cold-weather clothing led to coverage by two television stations and the donation of hundreds of coats, hats and mittens.

Madden said her biggest strengths are "enthusiasm, optimism and irrepressible joy."

"And I have a high stress tolerance, which has proven to be effective," she added. "But my whole ministry theology is based on joy and hospitality, having a celebration of faith."

Madden, a native of Wichita, Kansas, studied in France before graduating from Wichita State University then Washburn Law School. In the mid-1990s she was a mission volunteer for Presbyterian Church USA before going through seminary and earning her master's of divinity.

When she has downtime, she enjoys traveling, exploring and trying new restaurants with her husband, Jack Scott, and their son, Major, 11. She also likes walking - "It's probably what keeps me sane," she said - with Monk, her family's 100-pound golden retriever.

Her family has gone through the extensive process to get a Missouri foster care and adoption license, and they hope to add to their family possibly this year.

"We see adoption as a ministry," she said. "We see care for kids as an extension of what we're called to do as disciples. We are all adopted heirs of Jesus."

The best part of her job as a pastor, she said, is "generous hearts of the people, the creative witness of people, the stamina of people."

The worst part? "It's where we as humans get stuck in the status quo of somehow limiting God instead of celebrating the all-powerful possible God that we were created by," she said.

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