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G. Morris K. Jarkloh Jr. installed as First United Methodist’s new pastor

LANSING, Ill. (September 12, 2023) – Even after growing up as a pastor’s child, G. Morris K. Jarkloh Jr. had no idea he would be following in his father’s footsteps.

After spending over fifteen years in the ministry, his calling has recently brought him to First United Methodist Church in Lansing as the first-ever Black senior pastor.

The church’s previous pastor, Dave Price, transferred to a church in Glen Ellyn.

“Changes occur based on special needs and preferences or what the pastor has to offer the church,” said Jarkloh. “That is how our [Methodist] system works.”

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A wall in First United Methodist Church shows portraits of previous pastors. Pastor G. is the first Black lead pastor at the church. (Photo: Kinise Jordan)

Background in the ministry

Pastor Jarkloh — also known as Pastor G. — was born and raised in West Africa where his father served as a pastor in a United Methodist Church in Liberia.

“I did not know I was going to be a pastor. That was not my thing,” he said.

After serving as a lay speaker in his father’s church for several years, he became interested in pastoral ministry. In 2013, he decided to apply to seminaries in the United States.

He served as a student pastor at Hemenway United Methodist Church while attending Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston. After graduating in 2018 with a Master of Divinity Degree, he went on to preach at Chicago Lawn United Methodist Church for two years.

His calling then brought him to the West Ridge United Methodist Church in Chicago as the lead pastor before coming to Lansing.

Youth focus

As a young pastor he wishes to get more youth involved in the church.

“I am looking to work directly with TF South to see how I can personally help some of the young people who have issues,” Jarkloh said. “I am looking to see how I can get involved with the ambassador’s program and see if my services are needed.”

Pastor G. previously served as a peer counselor before starting in the ministry.

“I have talked to young people before to encourage them and be a mentor,” he said.

The church discontinued its Vacation Bible School due to the pandemic, but he plans to restart the program. The program brings the youth together to learn about the Bible, play games, and sing Sunday school songs.

One of Pastor G.’s plans to draw in younger members includes integrating traditional and contemporary music.

“Millennials are looking for music that they can relate to,” he said. “This comes with organizing a praise and worship team who are more contemporary.”

Engaging with the community

Pastor G. believes that everyone has something to contribute to the work of God.

“Our goal is to be a place that encourages the broken, the unlovable, the unreachable, as we deepen our relationship with God within our community,” he said. “Our responsibility as a church is not just limited to Sunday morning.”

Many organizations in Lansing have used First Methodist as a meeting space, and Jarkloh wants everyone to continue to feel welcome there. “This church is like an open door,” he said.

Pastor G. aims to be “progressive, open, and receptive to changes.” He plans to meet with church officials in the coming months to re-evaluate the leadership and current programs.

“We need to rethink the way we do church, and sometimes it is hard for people to accept changes,” he said. “In order for people to grow, they need to accept changes and find ways that they can navigate changes that can be better for the future.”

Installation service

First United Methodist Church hosted its first-ever installation service to recognize Jarkloh as the new senior pastor. The ceremony took place on Sunday, September 10. Guest preacher Rev. Darneather Murph-Heath preached a message titled, “A New Mindset,” based on a Scripture passage from Romans 12.

The passage encourages Christians to be different, transformed “by the renewing of your mind” (verse 2). Rev. Murph-Heath exhorted church members to be ready to do things differently in this next chapter of their history, in order to continue serving. “There’s more history in front of you than behind you,” she said, referencing a summary of ministry highlights that had been read earlier in the service.

“You thought I came here today to install your new minister,” Murph-Heath told the congregation. “But guess what? I installed you too.”

Following the message and a liturgical reading, church members participated in a ceremony of giving symbolic gifts to Pastor Jarkloh — a Bible affirming the preaching ministry, water symbolizing baptism and new members, bread and a cup symbolizing communion, a hymnal as a symbol of worship, a Book of Discipline representing the United Methodist covenant, a globe to represent mission, and a cross “as a symbol of your leadership as you lead our congregation in being leaders and being servants of Jesus Christ.”

A white robe was placed on Pastor Jarkloh, signifying his sacred responsibility. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Pastor Jarkloh’s installment was completed with a prayer led by Rev. Dr. Audrea Nanabray, District Superintendent of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference for the United Methodist Church. Other pastors and church officials gathered at the front of the sanctuary to surround Jarkloh and place hands of blessing on him. Jarkloh was visibly moved by the prayer.

Ready to serve

“I came a long way,” he said as he addressed his new congregation at the close of the service. From Liberia to Lansing, from lay speaker to lead pastor, Pastor G. Morris K. Jarkloh Jr. is installed and ready to serve his new church and his new community.

“This installation is meant to draw the attention of the entire community to know that the church is here for everyone,” Jarkloh said. “We are a church that is very concerned about people in this neighborhood, we want to help and be of service.”

First United Methodist Church is located at 18420 Burnham Ave in Lansing, right next to TF South High School.

First United Methodist Church is located at 18420 Burnham Ave in Lansing. (Photo: Kinise Jordan)

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Kinise Jordan
Kinise Jordan
Kinise Jordan brings local experience and a long list of journalism skills to her work with The Lansing Journal. She understands the need for reliable, factual information in equipping people to build community. An Audio News internship with WBEZ honed her interviewing skills and her sense of timing and deadlines. A native of Calumet City, Kinise is familiar with the interplay of local government, local schools, and local businesses.