Sam Massey

Interim Pastor,
Head of Staff

Sam Massey.jpg

I am delighted to be at First and Central for more reasons than I have space to enumerate right now. 


I was born to loving Christian parents who were Presbyterian ruling elders and the children of pastors. I was the last of four siblings. As a child I remember having a great deal of time on my own and showing up mostly for meals. My parents took me to worship weekly (my siblings were older and out of the house), both out of habit and due to concern over my choices when I reached high school. Nevertheless, worship - and only Sunday morning worship - was the extent of our church participation: My parents believed that our vocation happens in the world and there is a danger in spending too much time in church. I began college at 16 in order to escape problems with white gangs in high school. I attended Greenville College, majoring in history and political science because I loved them as topics. I majored in chemistry as the price to be paid for my parents paying for my education. I did well in studies; I proved equally inept in both the laboratory and playing collegiate level basketball. There were accidents.

During a year of work for the Illinois Department of Public Aid (government workers deserve an extra bonus in heaven), I prepared to take the LSAT to enter law school but was derailed by illness twice. I had been taught that daily prayer should solicit God's guidance, and the same goes twice over when you are stuck. I was stuck; I prayed to discern God's will for me and the response led me to pastoral ministry. The call was as undeniable as it was unwelcome. I ended up at Princeton Seminary.


I met Susan at my first call in a PCUSA/UCC congregation in Paxton, IL and proposed after three dates. She was the daughter of the Clerk of Session and  president of the trustees. We married at the end of 1983. We moved to Lancaster, PA where I served as an associate pastor, then to Florida where I served as Pastor/Head of Staff in the Orlando suburbs. There we bore first son Will who is now back in Lancaster serving a church as youth minister, married to Yana and with one child Lola. When he was two years old we decided that Iowa possessed a healthier environment for raising children, so we moved to Des Moines. From there Susan's call to pursue Ph.D. studies led us to Charlottesville, Virginia. There we brought our second son Daniel home from China. He is now pursuing photography in Des Moines. 


The clash over race, class, and privilege, a clash that also impacted son Daniel, caused our family to bounce off of the Charlottesville atmosphere. After seven years we returned to Iowa, this time Iowa City. The 12 years there was a honeymoon, even during a conflict over my advocacy for the too-long delayed recognition of LGBTQ+ persons' gifts for ministry and their marriage vocations. As happy as we were as a family in Iowa City, I completed the tasks that kept me there and I awoke one day with no vision for the congregation remaining. Susan is interim chairperson of the Upper Iowa University online graduate program for literacy education, a calling she can manage from Wilmington. 


During my childhood and youth I battled bullies, first with my fists (hence the gang problems). I learned later to use my words. As time passed my resistance to oppression led in two directions: 

  • Co-creating three non-profit organizations to pursue justice in teamwork with those dispossessed or disenfranchised (the fourth is in the works and left to others to accomplish) .  

  • Obtaining two doctorates around organization, justice, and leadership and the conflict found at the intersection of all three when they are taken seriously. 

I am now at what Richard Rohr calls the second half of life. The years of anxiously building a career and establishing retirement savings are behind me. Although the second half of life is supposed to be about pursuing meaning, I have found my whole ministry to be meaningful. Consequently I come to First and Central as it asks the question "What next?"  The same question is equally applicable to me.