Rev. Dr. Brett Mitchell
Ph.D. – University of North Carolina
M.Div. – Princeton University
Currently serving two congregations in the Portland, OR area:
Community of Pilgrims Presbyterian Fellowship and Portsmouth Trinity Lutheran Church
It is the unanimous conclusion of the La Mesa Presbyterian Church Nominating Committee (PNC), after reviewing 31 candidates and interviewing six of them, that Pastor Brett Mitchell is the pastor we believe the Spirit of God is calling to our congregation to help us move in our own pilgrimage journey towards loving God and loving our neighbor in new and challenging ways.
As PNC member, Elizabeth Quinley, so succinctly stated relative to our unanimous decision, “Brett brings us an appreciation of tradition & ritual; energetic preaching; fresh ideas and perspective; and love for people”. Those words capture the sentiments of the entire PNC. PNC member, Conrad Rocha, noted that in interviewing Brett, “he went beyond the concept of Theology of Place to the more encompassing Theology of Presence, another step in our journey.” That is, “we are not just in this place at this time, we must be present in this place at this time.” Jordyn Monahan, in reviewing Brett, stated that Brett had “solid traits in terms of church leadership….and is what we are looking for both as a committee and a congregation”.
Brett often describes himself first as a pilgrim – a person, like all of us, who is on a daily journey towards our home in God. Brett says he felt drawn to this ministry, which by its very name, “La Mesa, the table, fits with a core principle of pilgrimage, which is hospitality.” He believes “we are called to practice hospitality as Christ’s body, welcoming friend and stranger alike to the banquet table of God’s beloved community”. PNC member Judy Belvin commented that “Brett is an excellent preacher, with energy and ideas that will help us move forward. He is also a person who is interested in others and will want to get to know the members of the congregation”.
In 1999, Brett went on his first pilgrimage with members of the Pilgrimage of Vocation of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM, to Chimayó, NM, and it changed his life. As Brett says, “it was during this pilgrimage that he was smitten by the land and the people.” Since then, he has been on pilgrimages in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, the Holy Land, the British Isles, Spain, Central America, and more. The concept that our relationship with Jesus is likened to a pilgrimage – step by step movement and growth, and all our wanderings with the Spirit, is what informs much of his theology and interactions with all kinds of people. PNC member, Roxie Bradley described Brett as a person who “will bring spiritual energy and creativity to our worshipping community”.
Brett self-identified as one who “grow[s] when thinking and acting in faith ‘outside the box’ as to who is welcomed and included in church life. Having worked with communities of people living with disabilities, and as an openly gay pastor in the PCUSA, I often place myself in the mixed company of some people who are like me, and with others less like me. It is in the mix of the familiar and the different that I find growth. I strive to reach out to those people who are either older or younger than I am. I learn from women and men who self-identify as LGBTQIA+ and non-LGBTQIA+. I show up at service projects, trying to be a bridge between different socioeconomic classes. I seek to understand the concerns of people living with disabilities and those who are unemployed, homeless, and hungry. I struggle for justice with those considered "undocumented workers" while traveling outside of this country, remembering what it means to live as a stranger. The issue of race is never far from me as I taught in an historical black university for five years as a white Presbyterian pastor. I take the Gospel out to others in nursing homes and under Portland's bridges where the homeless live, rather than expecting people to only come to church to find the Gospel.” He does these things “in order to grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.” PNC member Winona Poole stated that “I appreciate his understanding of those who are ‘othered’ – the disabled, the LGBTQIA community, immigrants and more”.
In describing the ministry setting he feels called to, Brett said “I work well with people who discern they are on the cusp of making a change in a congregation's pilgrimage in loving God and loving neighbor. Such a congregation has a healthy understanding of where they've been, working on issues from its collective past, with a sense of where they are going as they follow the ways of Jesus.” Member Winona Poole also reflected that she “love[s] his perspective that we are all pilgrims on a journey with each other and with God.”
During our engagement in many conversations with Brett, both via Zoom and in person, we appreciate that, as he says, he “look[s] forward to continuing to grow the story of how the people of LMPC love God and love neighbor with rich, Spirit-filled worship experiences, as well as loving neighbors with food to those in need, large communal meals that feed others, and celebrating the arts as we welcome Christ with open hearts and minds and lives”.
In addition to being a pastor, Brett is a published writer, teacher, classical pianist, dad of two grown children, grandfather of two young girls (one of whom is less than a month old), dragon boat enthusiast, runner, and newly married man to his wonderful husband, Christian Halstead.
Next Steps in the Call Process:
Saturday, February 4, 2023: Public Reception for the Rev. Dr. Brett Mitchell
Time: 2:00-4:00 p.m. and his husband, Christian Halstead
Sunday, February 5, 2023:
10:30 AM Rev. Mitchell leads worship and Preaches
Immediately following Called Congregational Meeting for the purpose of:
1) Worship receiving a final report from the La Mesa Presbyterian Church Pastor Nominating Committee;
2) considering and voting on the candidacy of the Rev. Dr. Brett Mitchell to serve as Pastor of LMPC, effective Monday, February 27, 2023 & to approve his annualized terms of call; and,
3) Dismissing the Pastor Nominating Committee from service.
• God Plays Piano Too (NY: Crossroad, 1993)
• Unexpected Guests at God's Banquet (NY: Crossroad, 1995).
• Dancing with Disabilities (Cleveland: United church Press, 1997).
• Sacred Seasons (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1999)
• Christly Gestures (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).
• Follow Me (NY: Seabury Press, 2005) • On Being a Gay Parent (NY: Seabury Press, 2007)
• School of the Pilgrim (KY: John Knox/Westminster Press, 2007)
• Beyond Accessibility (NY: Church Publishing 2010)
• Practicing Pilgrimage (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2016)
• Everyday Superman: A Memoir (currently writing)
• Daily Pilgrimage Devotion (currently writing) and Dragon Boat Church (Publishing soon)
Links to Sermons on the Web:
Practicing Pilgrimage – Q&A
“Ebbs and Flows of Life”, May 29, 2019, Salem First Presbyterian Church https://youtu.be/hIbLKqwAq4M
"From 'Doing for' to 'Being With'" (July 19, 1998)
“Of Border Crossers and Misfits”, Lake Oswego United Methodist Church
“On Inclusivity”, September 8, 2019, Hillsboro United Method Church
Additional information from his Personal Information Form consistent with the La Mesa Presbyterian Church Survey Results:
Leadership Competencies: Preaching & Worship Leadership, Spiritual Maturity, Teacher, Communicator, Change Agent, Risk Taker, Strategy & Vision, Collaboration, Interpersonal Engagement, and Flexibility