Pastor richard pfeil

A Brief Autobiography

 

I was born in Butler, PA on October 21, 1961, the son of Hazel (Beck) and Dale Pfeil, one of nine in a family of six girls and three boys. My father was a housing contractor, a hard worker but poor with managing money. As a result I grew up in poverty, though I never knew it at the time. 

Being poor meant that everyone worked, and everyone learned the value of a dollar. From the age of 8, I have always had a job. My first was selling seeds. Then I learned to rake leaves and shovel snow. Later I caddied at an exclusive club. During junior high and through college, I worked for my dad, who had started a new construction company. I learned how to labor, build/repair homes, lay block, and paint. Painting became my specialty. I put myself through college largely through scholarships but also through painting homes in the summer. So I’ve always been self-motivated and have had a strong work ethic.

My family was rootless; we moved nine times during my childhood. I claim the small town of Evans City as my “hometown” because life there provided many fond memories, memories of sledding, snow-covered Christmases, long lazy days of having fun being a child, summer meadows, trees that looked like bouquets of flowers in the autumn, riding bikes, trading baseball cards, and rooting on the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers who had epic teams during my childhood.   

The family moved from Evans City to Erie in 1972. The “Erie years” were filled with turmoil. We experienced many financial crises and my parents started to have marital problems that ultimately led to divorce. The family split by gender. The girls lived with mom and the boys moved in with dad. For me, the divorce became a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it shattered my childhood and family. But, on the other, it led to my salvation. The divorce shook my father’s world and resulted in his returning to church, where he found Christ (Really Christ found him!) After his conversion he started to take my brothers and I to church, and after a lot of resistance, I finally bumped into the living Christ through hearing the Gospel message one Sunday. I had what I call a “Wesleyan” experience. I can still remember the experience to this day.  

A month later, I entered the hospital with leukemia and was given three years to live. Led by God, my father came to the hospital one night around midnight to pray for me. No one stopped him, as they assumed that he had been called in because I was near death. Two weeks later, I was sent to the Cleveland Clinic for further study and treatment. Upon reexamination, they could no longer find the disease. Through that experience, as well as my conversion, and the continued movement of the Holy Spirit in my life, I decided to enter into the ministry.

I received my BA from Oral Roberts University. While there, I discovered my reformed heritage and a particular call into ministry within the Presbyterian Church (USA). I had been baptized as a child in a Presbyterian Church, and our family had attended sporadically; but the church bored me. When we left for Erie, we left the church as well.
Being called back into the Presbyterian Church was a surprise for me, but a good one. After college, I moved back to Erie to take care of my mother who had contracted cancer. I also had to help support and raise the last of my three siblings. Three months later, I discovered a Presbyterian Church (Eastminster) that was looking for a Director of Christian Education. I applied and  got the job.

 During my time at Eastminster, though not through the church, I met my wife, Renee. Four years later, after a very productive ministry at Eastminster, the church confirmed my calling and sponsored me as a candidate, which ultimately led to my ordination. I received my M.Div. from the University of Dubuque, and my first call from the First Presbyterian Church of New Brighton, which I shepherded for ten years.

First Presbyterian Church was the quintessential “Old First Church.” It had declined from 700 to 40 in worship and had not adjusted to the changing times. During my tenor I was able to do a turnaround and was able to bring it to health with an average worship attendance of 120.

In 2001, God called me to lead the congregation at White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church as Head-of-Staff. My role was to preach, teach, and be the visionary leader of the congregation. White Clay had the distinction of being one of the early Confessing Churches of the PC (USA) and of being one of the few overtly evangelical Presbyterian (USA) churches within the New Castle Presbytery (Delaware). It was also the 6th fastest growing congregation in the state over the past 10 years. During my tenor the church grew from 250 average worship attendance to 400 in average worship attendance.

After eleven years at White Clay God called me to Journey Evangelical Church in Westminster, CA to help an Asian congregation transition into a more diverse congregation that was embedded in its community, which fit my vision for the current church: to be a “Revelation 7:9 church” that expresses the grace of God that’s been experienced. While at Journey I was able to grow the church ethnically and numerically. I helped the church go through multiple transitions: from being homogeneous to being diverse, from being an inwardly focused church to being an outwardly-looking church, and from being a Pastor-centered church to an elder-pastor led church. I was also able to cast a strong and compelling vision for the church, led the congregation out of the PCUSA with the first wave of churches that sought gracious separation from the denomination, re-wrote the bylaws and articles of incorporation so they were aligned with our new church association, ECO (The Covenantal Order of Evangelical Presbyterian Churches), developed an intentional path of discipleship, equipped people for ministry, helped the church become an “incubator” church that planted Vietnamese congregations within Little Saigon in order to reach the Vietnamese community with the Gospel, and inspired members to launch several new ministries
that ministered to the poor and marginalized and partnered with the local schools.

The sector of the community we appealed to the most were Millennials. I think the reason we appealed to this age group was due to our emphasis on grace – a grace that not only saves your soul but also shapes your life; being an authentic community of faith that breaks down all human barriers that divide; and our emphasis showing the grace of God as preparation for sharing the Gospel to others. I refer to it as “God Space.”

I am married, and we are empty-nesters, having raised six kids. I am in good standing within my denomination – ECO (The Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians) and the Presbytery of Southern California.

 My wife and I enjoy most sports (playing, not watching, golf in particular), the outdoors, fishing, camping, good movies, going out for breakfast, reading my Bible and the newspaper, politics, science (especially cosmology), music (I’m eclectic), art, remodeling homes, and traveling. We are adventurous, humorous, fun-loving, outgoing and introspective.

September 2019