Brooks to Serve As Franklin DS
A native of Pittsburgh’s South Hills, Brooks grew up in the Baldwin church he now serves. It is where he was “nurtured and challenged” in his youth, and where his journey of discipleship began. After serving 31 years in ministry, Brooks says with conviction that he loves the church, but he is concerned about its future.
“It has been a joy to serve the church throughout my career. But I am worried about our church,” he said. “Will we have a church to pass on to the next generations? What exactly is to become of us? This worry has turned into a passion for me: To find, more than to preserve, the church for the next generations.”
Brooks said Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it”, is true for the church today. “The more we try to save our church, the more it is slipping through our hands like so many grains of sand… We have become good at bringing people to church, but not to Christ.
“We claim to make disciples, but struggle to know what a disciple looks like,” he explained. “The church has become the place where nothing can change, rather than the place where lives are changed forever.”
If we are going to save the church for future generations, he added, “We must come to know and accept the love God has for each one of us personally and act on it by loving God and our neighbor. Our church must find ways to make the love of God real for people today by speaking the name of Jesus Christ within and without of the church.
“Our church must be so in love with God --not the church --that it is obvious to anyone who enters,” Brooks said. “Our church must show the love of God to those in our community in real and tangible ways.”
He said he is glad to have already heard stories of how churches on the Franklin District are showing love for God and others in powerful ways. The district, he noted, is the heart of our annual conference geographically. “I hope we can find ways together to be the heart of our conference spiritually and passionately,” he said.
Joining Brooks in ministry in the Franklin District will be his wife Cheryl, a developmental therapist working in early intervention; their daughters, Carly and Maggie, both college students; a rescue dog and a cat.
Brooks has served previously on the Franklin District, as pastor of Fredonia and Big Bend UMCs, from 1988-1992. His first appointment after graduating from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary was as an associate at Grace UMC in Warren. He also served Johnstown First and Crafton UMC before moving to New Jersey early in 2002 to serve as Director of Children and Youth Ministries for the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting on the Jersey Shore.
He later joined the Greater New Jersey Conference staff as Children, Youth and Young Adult Coordinator. In that role, he worked to strengthen ministries with young people, enabled the Conference and its churches to implement a Safe Sanctuaries policy, and helped to restructure the camping ministry.
Brooks returned to serve the Baldwin church in 2007, and a few years later joined the Conference Camping and Retreat Ministries team, which he now chairs. Here he also helped to guide a restructuring that changed the way the camps and Olmsted Manor relate to the annual conference.
A theater major at the University of Pittsburgh, Brooks worked in the theater – acting, directing, handling lighting or other tasks—to pay his way through college and seminary. His picture is on the “Wall of Fame” at Little Lake Theater in McMurray and he started community theaters in some areas where he served in ministry. Though he hasn’t performed in a theater for awhile, Brooks often writes and acts in skits for worship.
While a seminary student serving as an associate at Smithfield United Church in Pittsburgh, he met the Rev. William B. Meekins, Jr., who also was a pastor in the city. For many years, the two served as deans of what they called Christward-Bound camps. Over the years, they took inner city youth from the Pittsburgh and Johnstown areas on 10-day camping, back-packing and canoe trips. “It challenged them and gave them a sense of accomplishment to make it through – to hike 40 miles or whatever-- when most of them had been told they couldn’t accomplish anything,” he said.
In his new role as district superintendent, he’ll again work with his friend Meekins, the former Greensburg DS who now serves as assistant to the Bishop.
When the Brooks family moves to the Franklin District, they’ll take a plaque that is beside their front door wherever they go. It contains the words from Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“That will be our prayer for each and every one of us, that God will prosper us and not harm us; that we will live into the future that only God holds for us. That we can find the courage to let go of our church and our life and lose them in Jesus Christ so that we might be saved,” he said.
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