New pastor starts at Brownstown Presbyterian Church


When the Rev. James C. Blankenbeker served as a student pastor, one of the churches he worked with had a saying.

The pastor at the place of worship would tell the attendees, "No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re always welcome here."

Blankenbeker, 42, plans on continuing to live by that saying in his new role at Brownstown Presbyterian Church.

On Sunday, Blankenbeker was introduced as the new pastor of the church.

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While he isn’t a Brownstown native, he’s familiar with both the community and church.

He is the son of former Brownstown residents Margaret Burt and the late Dr. Joseph Blankenbeker. Dr. Blankenbeker was the superintendent of Brownstown Central Community School Corp. from 2002 to 2004.

The Rev. Blankenbeker completed his Master of Divinity at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 2013 before getting ordained in 2017. He also obtained board certification as a chaplain in 2018.

"I knew about Brownstown and this church," he said. "I was actually a member in 2009. The pastor had left, and I knew they needed pulpit supply to help lead worship on the weekends. I’m from the chaplain field, but I would preach on the weekends. Since they still needed people, when I was in seminary in Louisville, I would ride up on the weekends."

For the past four years, Blankenbeker worked as a chaplain at University of Kentucky HealthCare in Lexington, Kentucky.

He continued to come to Brownstown despite the long drive.

"When I worked in Lexington, I would still make the trip once to twice per month," Blankenbeker said. "That was an ongoing relationship. My parents were members for the 10 years they lived here, so I had a connection and kind of knew the people. It all happened kind of organically and naturally."

Blankenbeker and his wife, Laura, and 8-month-old son, Henry, started moving into their new home in Brownstown last week.

Before his debut as pastor, church members reached out to Blankenbeker.

"The church is the people. The people here are very loving, generous and kind," he said. "They are always looking to help out. This past week alone, members brought us meals every night so we didn’t have to worry about making dinner. To me, that has always kind of been how I’ve experienced them. They want to help and reach out to people who need it."

He said he wants to get the church more involved in the community long term.

"United Way did a study on the area and the needs of the community. I’m looking through that now," Blankenbeker said. "One thing I like about the Brownstown community is that there is a Brownstown Area Ministerial Association that kind of pools resources so there is one point to get help. This is my first week and I haven’t been able to get in touch with them yet, but I would like to see if we can help address some of those needs and problems."

The church hasn’t had a pastor for a few years, and Blankenbeker looks forward to fully immersing himself in his new role.

"What I love about this community is the heart of the people," he said. "They really have a passion to keep this church open. These people have fought to keep this church open, and their hearts are in worship."

Brownstown Presbyterian Church is the oldest Presbyterian church in Jackson County, being formally organized in 1839 by the Presbytery of Salem.

Before moving to its current location at 417 N. Elm St. in 1970, the church was located on the courthouse square for 75 years.

Prior to that, services were held in various places, including the school and courthouse.

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Brownstown Presbyterian Church has worship at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at the church, 417 N. Elm St., Brownstown, across from the high school. Adult Sunday school is at 9 a.m. During worship, there is a nursery available for children up to age 5. For older children, a children’s church program is offered.


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