The Rev. Phillip Vickers joined Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Tellico Village during the first week of September.
“I love the idea of coming home to the South,” the Mississippi native said.
Vickers enjoys hiking with his family, cooking, reading and writing. He and his wife, Cheryl, have been married 20 years and have three children, Autumn, Zoe and Sean, all of whom will be attending Loudon County Schools.
He will be formally installed at the church in an Oct. 23 ceremony that will include regional church leaders.
Vickers most recently pastored churches in the panhandle of Texas and Kansas City, Kan. The two experiences were quite different, he said, noting the Texas church was in a rural setting, while the Kansas City congregation was located in an affluent urban area.
He attended Mississippi State University and was the first in his family to go to college. He initially wanted to study computer science but quickly decided his natural gifts were more concentrated in the area of liberal arts and writing in particular.
While studying English, he was baptized at the campus Methodist Church. He said he was introduced to the Lutheran faith through his future wife and was attracted to its great historic theological legacy.
“I was also attracted by the liturgy and the focus on grace,” Vickers said.
He received a Master of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Seminary in 2007. As a pastoral intern in Winston Salem, N.C., he served as an assistant pastor to a small congregation mostly comprised of Peruvian immigrants.
“In the Lutheran church, the assistant pastors are called vicars,” he said. “So I was Vicar Vickers.”
During an assignment in Hutchison, Kan., he supervised an intern and served as dean of the area, providing pastoral care for Lutheran clergy. He also served as associate pastor for family life ministries.
“I really enjoyed working with young people,” he said.
In Kansas City, he was chair of the Resolutions Committee at the 150-year-old First Swedish Church, receiving and editing proposals to be considered by the yearly assembly.
Vickers replaced the Rev. Ingrid Schalk, who left last winter after serving the congregation for five years. He said he is thankful members were able to keep the church running smoothly during the pandemic recovery without the guidance of a full-time pastor.
Shepherd of the Lake has a demographic base mostly comprised of retirees from Tellico Village. The congregation, which numbers 50-60 worshippers, offers unique outreach opportunities and has unusual spiritual needs, he said.
“We will never be a giant church, but we offer a unique opportunity to serve,” he said.
He said church members can show their faith by serving in critical areas, such as providing clean water through the Water to Thrive project that digs wells worldwide in places with a need for fresh water.
One area Vickers would like to explore is confirmation. Church members usually go through the confirmation phase when they are young, but in recognition of the subsequent phases of adult life, he would like to create a secondary or adult confirmation.
He plans to lead a Wednesday morning Bible study on the biblical foundations of Lutheranism. The class will celebrate the Lutheran heritage in a way that honors tradition, he said.
“I’m very interested in education and I love to teach,” Vickers said.
At the end of October, the church will host an open house, which he hopes will create the opportunity to meet more people in the community. Changes to the church layout, which was once a funeral home, may be completed by that time.
“We also want to show people what we’ve done with the church,” he said.