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The new pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Aaron Saari, is thrilled that his first ministerial position is in the village her grew up in. (Photo by Megan Bachman)

New pastor preaches ‘radical love’

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Take a closer look at the new pastor at the First Presbyterian Church and you’ll see that the man wearing the clerical collar also wears earrings, long hair, tattoos and combat boots and preaches about “radical love” and progressive Christianity. In his sermons he quotes U2 followed by St. Augustine, Leonard Cohen followed by Plato.

Not your typical minister, the Rev. Aaron Saari now leads the local church already known for its social justice commitment towards even more inclusivity and service. Preaching in his hometown, the theologian and educator also hopes to spark philosophical conversations among local skeptics and appeal to those disillusioned by organized religion.

“There are so many people who have been beaten down by the Bible and the idea of coming to church is so abhorrent to them and I get that,” Saari said this week. “The way we can address that is by flinging our doors open and saying you are welcome and you are affirmed for who you are. It’s an open table of radical love … and it’s based on the idea of love and that God is always expanding, not contracting.”

Saari, a biblical scholar, recognizes that his views may be different from other pastors, but believes that he is following the message of Jesus in the scriptures. He is pro-choice, pro same-sex marriage, will perform same-sex marriages and baptize the children of same-sex unions, and will “do so unapologetically,” he said.

In his first head ministerial position, Saari, 37, was hired as the new part-time pastor late last year, taking over after the Rev. Derrick Weston left last summer. Saari has Master’s degrees in English, Theology and Divinity and is a visiting theology professor at Xavier University.

Worship services are at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays and are open to all.

Read the full story in the Jan. 9 issue of the News.


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