An interview with Pastor Cunningham

Interests:  I enjoy my grandkids, reading, photography, gourmet cooking and grilling, listening to good music and enjoying a great play or musical.

Education: I attended Concordia Teachers College, Seward, Nebraska majoring in theology, church music and Christian education.  I was one of the first in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod to be certified as a Director of Christian Education.

I attended Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana with an emphasis in systematics (doctrine), worship and liturgy.

Ministry: I served at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and then at St. John Lutheran in Sherbun, Minnesota as Minister of Music and Education before attending the seminary.

My first call after graduating from the seminary was to Salem Lutheran Church and School, Jacksonville Illinois. There I was ordained and installed as associate pastor responsible for worship, the confirmation ministry youth and education.

From there I accepted the call to serve as associate pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Davenport Iowa. I was one of three pastors in that congregation responsible for worship, music, youth ministry, and the educational ministries.

I was then called to serve as senior pastor at the Lutheran Church of our Redeemer, Evansville Indiana. We were part of a school association consisting of three congregations supporting the Lutheran school in Evansville. There I administrated a staff comprising of a Director of Family Ministry, a church musician and organist and a full time Lay Minister. Before leaving Our Redeemer I trained five additional lay ministers through Concordia Wisconsin.  These Lay Ministers were equipped to serve part-time responsible for various areas of ministry within the congregation.

After serving Our Redeemer for a number of years I received the appointment to serve as University Pastor and Dean of the Chapel at Valparaiso University. I served the University for 11 wonderful years.

Future:  I'm looking forward to listening to the hearts of St. Peter's and discover their hopes and dreams.  This is their congregation and ministry of which I am privileged to serve as their shepherd.  Collaborating together we will determine what needs to be accomplished beyond the faithful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the nurture of God's people.

How do you hope St. Peter will reach the community?
Certainly the school is a very visible means of outreach to the community as well as the ongoing invitation for all to join us in worship and praise of God. But I would also hope that we could focus on other means to reach out through specific ministries to the poor, the disenfranchised and marginalized through a food bank, health fairs and clinics.  As we introduce a dynamic family ministry emphasis we may discover other ways to reach out through parenting classes and other family enrichment resources provided through St. Peter.

What is your vision for the church and school?

 Our vision needs to be shared vision, so my first hope is that together we can come to a shared sense of vision that is forward moving and progressive while maintaining integrity with respect to our Lutheran confessional faith and adherence to the Scriptures.

A strategic plan is already in place and partially fulfilled.  It needs to be revisited, assessed and revised as needed. It is vital that we maintain and even improve the quality of our worship life as we make the very best use of our Lutheran tradition. We have wonderful resources at our disposal and the legacy of music, liturgy and prayer by which we receive God’s gift of Word and Sacrament.

Key to our ministry is the investment made in the school. It is incumbent upon us to be faithful stewards of this unique resource and discover ways to promote and enhance its value to the community. The recent approval of a voucher system in the state of Indiana is a wonderful opportunity to extend the benefit of a Christian education to the surrounding community.

I will always encourage thinking “outside the box” and looking for ways to make efficient use of all the creative gifts that exist within the congregation.

Family: God blessed me with a wonderful partner in life and ministry, Sara my beautiful wife.  We met at Concordia, Seward, Nebraska where we both attended college. Sara is from Fort Wayne, Indiana where she attended Lutheran school at Holy Cross Lutheran Church and School as well as Concordia Lutheran High School. She is a commissioned and certified Lutheran school teacher having taught in Lutheran schools for over 30 years. She currently teaches fourth grade at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School in Valparaiso Indiana. She has been teaching there for 11 years.

We have been blessed with three beautiful children and two grandchildren.  Megan is our eldest who is married to Tim Becker. Megan teaches fourth grade at Memorial School in Valparaiso, and Tim teaches seventh grade at Immanuel Lutheran School. Megan received her undergraduate degree from Valparaiso University and her Masters from Purdue North Central. Tim, her husband, graduated from Concordia River Forest and teaches seventh grade at Immanuel. They have two children, Lydia, who is three years old and Karl, who just turned one.  Benjamin is a graduate of Wabash College with a Masters from Valparaiso University. He is currently living in Ft. Wayne working in the East Allen school district as a school psychologist. Our youngest, Paul, is finishing up his final semester at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana while working full-time at Staples in West Lafayette, Indiana.