TALLMADGE — The new senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of Tallmadge, a United Church of Christ, says he has found a niche for his gifts among the local congregation. A self-described "evangelism pastor," the Rev. David R. Brumbaugh has taken the helm with a ministry driven by music, joy and humor.

Brumbaugh celebrated worship with the congregation of the 209-year-old church for the first time on April 29. Today he is settling in, getting to know both his congregation and the community. Every other church Brumbaugh has served has been in Pennsylvania.

The Rev. Neal Sadler had served as interim pastor at First Congregational following the retirement of the Rev. John Schluep, after nearly 18 years of ministry at the Tallmadge church.

Brumbaugh most recently served the Myerstown United Church of Christ in Pennsylvania, about 340 miles from here. He was there just shy of two years. Prior to that, Brumbaugh was at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Denver, Pa. for 16 years. 

"The reason I felt called to come to this church in Tallmadge is really a combination of things," Brumbaugh says. "I believe that this is a really, really good fit and match for the gifts that God has given me to share and the people here who were in the search process early on … thought that this would be a really good partnership … This is where I will be until I retire, whatever that means, and this presented an opportunity, a greater opportunity, … for ministry that my previous church did not."

In addition to being a pastor, Brumbaugh is a professional musician: a jazz trumpet player. He says that’s one of the gifts he will be able to share "more freely and in a greater depth here" than at his previous position. He’s performed with "some of the best players in the world" and says it’s a privilege to bring that talent to the music ministry of his new Tallmadge church. 

Brumbaugh lived in Akron in the 1960s as a boy, when his father was a professor at the University of Akron. He’s lived in five states and moved 11 times. Brumbaugh felt the call to ministry during college when he was on track to become an Army officer. "God is a mystery in how he chooses people to serve," Brumbaugh says, "but that’s all God’s design. I’m thrilled to be pastor — I’ve been doing this for 32 years now." He earned a bachelor’s degree in geography, with a minor in music, from Kutztown University. He possesses a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in the United Church of Christ in November 1986.

"This is a really good church," Brumbaugh says, "a very fine church, (in terms of) the depth of their faith, their ministry, their mission, their outreach and their willingness to growth. In every way that means. Not just numerically but to grow as people of faith and style of worship. We were very much on the same page about that."

First Congregational Church has about 750 members. Attendance at worship varies between 180 and more than 300, depending upon the Sunday. "Both spiritual growth and numerical growth is a goal," Brumbaugh reports. He describes worship as the one time and place where the most people gather at a church during a week, so he says it provides "the best opportunity" to make an impact. He says his interests and where he feels led is in terms of promoting the vitality of the worship service and reaching out to all generations, but particularly younger people. "For whatever reason," Brumbaugh says, "children and youth like me — I think because I’m willing to be silly."

During the summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the church offers one worship service at 9:30 a.m. The rest of the year, two worship services are offered, at 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Brumbaugh has been married to Brenda Fidler for 20 years; she is a licensed practical nurse. While the pair are still in the process of getting to know their new community, he says they have been overwhelmed by " the Midwestern hospitality" extended to them in many ways.

"I don’t come in with a particular agenda," Brumbaugh says, "other than that everything that we will do here we will strive to do with excellence."

Reporter Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, ewalsh@recordpub.com or @EllinWalsh_RPC.