pastor prepares to leave Smithville First Christian Church | Community life


SMITHVILLE – The First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation in Smithville will say goodbye to their pastor next weekend, but not until they have delivered another sermon.

Reverend Lara Blackwood Pickrel has stated that her final sermon will be titled “Let Your Light Shine” and will be supported by the scriptures in Matthew 5: 13-16.

“We’re really going to focus on encouraging the church to be the church right now,” she explained. “During the interim and however long it takes before the church finds a new pastor, they can still do a great ministry.”

Pickrel calls the decision to take charge of Hillcrest Christian Church on Quivira Road in Overland Park, Kansas, “bittersweet.”

“In many ways I’m sad,” she said. “However, I am also excited about the move and the decision for the whole family. My husband already divides his time in two churches in this area, St. Andrew Christian and Overland Park Christian Church. The bittersweet part is that I love these people so much. They are the best of people.

Pickrel praises the congregation.

“This congregation personally supported me as I went through some of the worst and best times,” she said. “They supported me when my father passed away and then helped us raise funds for our adoption. They know how to love their pastor because they know how to love each other.

Pickrel celebrated his eighth birthday in Smithville on January 2. His journey to pastoral leadership began around the year 2000. However, like many pastors, the call came early.

“I was about 14 years old and I was going to the parish camp,” she explained. “I spent many years negotiating with God to be more than a pastor. I was perhaps thinking of a professor of religious studies. However, I love my calling now.

She attended Texas Christian University, majoring in religious studies, then attended the Brite Divinity School and Phillips Theological Seminary seminary. She received her doctorate in ministry from Phillips in 2019. Her official ordination took place in 2009.

Her stay in Northland began in 2009 at Hilllside Christian Church on Vivion Road, where she served until December 2013.

“I am really proud of the relationships, especially with the community of Chacraseca, Nicaragua,” she said. “The women in our church paid for a nursing student to go to college and return to serve her community.”

Pickrel also praises the children and young families who shape the next generation of the church.

“I’m really proud of the way the Church has handled a major gift and created policies,” she said. “We have received this gift with joy and have added to our community outreach and helped to create the Stephen ministry, which is a means of forming lay people in one-to-one relationships with peers. The training is fantastic, but an investment.

Under Pickrel’s pastoral leadership, the church purchased new equipment for online worship.

“Although the past two years have not been easy, we are all stuck with each other,” she said of the impact of the pandemic.

One of the elders, Cheryl Merideth, praised Pickrel’s ingenuity in keeping the church going during the pandemic.

“It really proved how capable our minister is in keeping us connected,” she said. “Lara has taken Zoom classes and board meetings as well as Bible studies. She adopted the technology. I am so grateful that we had her to guide us. She is a gift.

Merideth said the elders learned to appreciate the text group where messages could be shared about who needed a visit or prayer.

“Lara is very prayerful and inspiring,” she said. “Her messages give me hope and she makes me feel like there is hope in any situation. Hillcrest gets a super minister.

Pickrel said she left details of how to embrace the congregation with the next pastor.

“They are capable and called people,” she said. “They are passionate about their church and their community. Learn what they have to offer. With a 178-year-old church, the roots run deep and are definitely intertwined. Follow these roots and see the connections. It can also be fun.

“What a privilege it has been for the past eight years to be a pastor, to serve them and to be a part of their lives,” she said. “I’m so excited for whoever takes this church because he gets a church gem.”


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