On Jan. 18, the Rev. Alexander Evans will be installed as pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1845. Evans,
a former history teacher, graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1987. He follows the Rev. Benjamin Sparks, who served for 25 years. Prior to moving to Richmond on Dec. 1, Evans was senior pastor of Blacksburg Presbyterian Church and chaplain for the Blacksburg Police Department during the shootings at Virginia Tech.
For more with Evans, including his reflections on "the horrible and hopeful" days surrounding the shootings, visit rich mondmagazine.com.
Q: Second Presbyterian's founding pastor, Dr. Moses Drury Hoge, and certainly the previous pastor, Benjamin Sparks, believed that churches are called to speak politically. What will churches be called to speak about in 2009?
A: I think Richmond has a history of race issues, of economic-disparity issues that are always going to need attention. We find ourselves in the downtown surrounded by a lot of people for whom life is very hard. We know our ministry is downtown, and we want to be seriously involved in urban ministry, with the needs of the poor. And we are also in the capital, where policy decisions are made about the poor. I don't know how they will take shape, but I'm excited to be a part of it.
Q: We have had mayors who have also led churches, as does our incoming mayor. How do you view the role of religious leader who is also an elected official? Any minefields to avoid?
A: The mayor of Roanoke was also a pastor. And I thought it would be a delicate walk to be the highest elected official and a pastor, especially in our land where we try to keep church and state separate. But I think, finally, it's almost impossible to do that. They are going to run together. I think The Gospel almost by nature is always pushing us to be involved in the world, in politics, involved in the city. I think it's not possible to separate the two.
Q: Often, the best leaders surround themselves with people they disagree with, as with Lincoln's celebrated "team of rivals" and some of Obama's cabinet picks. Who would be in your make-believe cabinet of advisors, people with whom you agree and disagree?
A: It would nice to have Jesus at the table. Then I think it would be really cool to have Dietrich Bonhoeffer because of his perspectives on justice and righteousness, and he had a bravery that
I admired. I'm a big Bono fan. And I don't think I would agree with Mother Teresa on everything, but her compassion attracts me to her. As a pastor, our denomination is often struggling with tough issues. I want to sit at a table with those who disagree with me and strive to respect people's faithfulness and honorable intentions. Even though we may not agree with their means, we can try to be a community and try to be a church together. I'll strive for that in this church and in this community. In my office I have a sign that says, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."