PLAINFIELD – The Rev. Thom Parrott-Sheffer loves cooking, playing the guitar, watching movies, collecting Mickey Mouse memorabilia, traveling and kayaking in places close to home.
“As soon as the weather gets warm,” Parrott-Sheffer said, “the kayak goes on top of the car and stays there.”
These activities all equal “ministry” for the newest pastor at Plainfield Congregational United Church of Christ. Parrott-Sheffer incorporates his interests and skills into his pastoral style, and the people at Plainfield Congregational UCC are happy he’s here.
Sharon Kuzel, office manager, said the church searched for two years for the right pastor after its former spiritual leader retired. When the search committee interviewed Parrott-Sheffer, Kuzel said it had a united reaction: Wow!
“He is a person that is so passionate about what he does and is meant to do with his life. He exudes confidence,” Kuzel said. “We just can’t believe how fortunate we are to have found him. He wants to be here as much as we want him.”
Parrott-Sheffer said he applied for the position once he learned a few things about this church.
“There is a spirit here that is alive and exciting and not afraid of change. I wanted to be part of that,” Parrott-Sheffer said. “They have incredible core values and are open and affirming of everyone, including the LGBT community.”
Parrott-Sheffer said he knew by age 17 he wanted to be a pastor and has spent 34 of his 60 years in ministry. His childhood was immersed in Sunday school and youth choir; at 12, he preached his first sermon. The one constant in his life was church, he said.
“I had this strong experience where I felt God was laying on my heart what he wanted me to do,” Parrott-Sheffer said. “I just went there and never looked back.”
He received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, his master’s of divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and his doctorate from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in California.
Since then, Parrott-Sheffer led churches in California, Ohio and the Chicago area. The length of time Parrott- Sheffer stays in any one place varies – 10 to 15 years is average – but he has one criterion that helps him decided.
“I stay at the church as long as my ministry is being effective on both sides,” Parrott-Sheffer said. “As long as I have things being done and they’re doing things, it’s growing.”
To foster that growth, Parrott-Sheffer incorporates clips from his 1,000-plus movie collection into his sermons. Past titles include “The Matrix,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Ultimately, any title will do.
“All movies are allegories for Jesus,” Parrott-Sheffer said.
Parrott-Sheffer also played guitar for the church’s Blue Christmas event in December 2014 and his own installation Feb. 8, a treat for even Parrott-Sheffer, since carpal tunnel and pastoral duties had inhibited opportunities to play, he said.
Parrott-Sheffer took lessons in the late 1980s and then played with the worship band at one of his previous churches, until the evening service grew, increasing his pastoral duties.
Favorite artists? Harry Chapin and James Manley, he said.
But wait. There’s more.
Parrott-Sheffer plans to serve his homemade chili after services this Sunday and will offer a baked potato bar – also after Sunday services – on March 22.
A former parishioner even presented Parrott-Sheffer with a coupon to take a culinary class at Kendall College, and a former parishioner initiated Parrott-Sheffer’s 100-piece Mickey Mouse collections, which now includes such rarities as a 1940 Mickey Mouse magazine, he said.
Parrott-Sheffer’s interest in cooking began when he and Joan – a retired chemical engineer – first married. Joan worked long hours and Parrott-Sheffer was a student, so he assumed the household duties, including cooking.
Today, whole cabinets in his kitchen contain only spices, including varieties from India and Istanbul, where he and Joan have traveled.
“When we went to India last January, we didn’t bring home any spices,” Parrott-Sheffer said. “We had no room to put them.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Services at Plainfield Congregational UCC
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Sunday. During Lent, also 6 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Plainfield Congregational UCC, 24020 W. Fraser Road, Plainfield