A desire to help people drew Alarik Morris to the ministry.
While attending Parish Hill High School in the small northeastern Connecticut town of Chaplin, he said that’s when he knew he wanted to be in a helping profession after he graduated.
He thought about studying to become a social worker or a counselor, but then he decided the best way to help people, in his opinion, is with the gospel.
Morris earned a bachelor’s degree in family life-community services from Concordia University Ann Arbor in Michigan in December 2017 and a Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in Missouri in May of this year.
He then was called to Seymour to be the pastor of Peace Lutheran Church. He participated in the ordination and installation service, led by local Lutheran pastors, on July 17 at the church, 330 W. Tipton St.
“It was pretty neat,” the 26-year-old said. “My wife and I were really happy to be called to a church, and it was pretty surreal because I got to have my vicarage pastor, who is a good friend of mine now, come and preach, and both sides of our family were able to come into town, and a couple of friends also were able to join us. It was very surreal all of this time from high school leading up to now.“
Members were especially excited because they had been without a pastor for more than three years.
“Thankfully, a lot of the pastors from the area were able to chip in and help out,” Morris said. “They are very thankful for that. They were able to lean on them and their experience, especially pastor (Andrew) Currao was a big help in their process of calling a new pastor.”
Morris said his Lutheran denomination can call pastors who are already in the field or just graduated from a seminary. It’s up to them to accept or decline.
“Those pastors they called and asked to come here, it wasn’t the right time in their ministry or they had more work to do in their current congregation,” he said. “Then they went through the seminary, and thankfully, the seminary had someone for them, which was me.”
Morris grew up in the Lutheran church with his parents, David and Beth Morris. When he chose ministry as his career path, he visited Concordia in Ann Arbor with his dad.
“What drew me to it was just the community of people,” he said. “It was kind of a smaller setting, which worked for me coming from a small school, and the community there is very Christ-centered, very focused on that, and it was a beautiful campus, too.”
In college, he took a lot of preseminary classes and was able to dabble in the counseling and social work fields, including a semesterlong internship with a chaplain at a state prison and an internship at a nursing home in the area.
“They call that practicum to get your feet wet and try some new stuff,” Morris said.
At Ann Arbor, he also met the woman who later became his wife, Angela Knickelbein.
After he graduated, Morris stayed with his parents, who moved up to Maine, for a while until starting at the seminary in the fall of 2018. While in Maine, he worked at a group home for people with mental illness.
Once seminary started, the first two years were spent in the classroom. Then the third year was vicarage, which is a pastoral internship. He did that at St. Mark Houston in Houston, Texas.
“I was able to do a lot of things, like preach, teach, that sort of stuff, just help run the service, help do elements of the service and go visit people,” Morris said. “It definitely solidified my choice of going throughout with ministry. I really found that I had a passion for preaching and teaching. That was the big thing — Bible studies and engaging in conversations with people and helping them learn that way and improving myself and my preaching abilities.”
His final year was back at the seminary in the classroom before being called to Peace Lutheran Church.
He said he is passionate about two things in ministry: Sharing the gospel in a culturally relevant way with those who are unchurched and teaching people what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century.
Morris said churches need to be aware of how they can present the gospel in a way that removes the most barriers from a person understanding how important the truth is to them as Christians.
“What can we do to remove every barrier possible from someone hearing the gospel? That’s what that means to me,” he said.
It’s a very interesting time to be a Christian and to be the church, Morris said.
“There’s divisiveness in the world, there are all sorts of other stuff going on in the world and I think that every Christian in their particular time period has to figure out ‘What does it mean for me to live as Jesus calls me to and what does it mean for me and what do I have to do in order to share this faith, to share this truth with the people around me?’” he said.
In this very unique age, he said it’s important for people to look back at history to see how the church has lived in the past and how Christians have lived and proclaimed the gospel in the past.
“How can we do that to the best of our ability, trusting in God and the holy spirit, how can we do that going forward so that we can as well as we can with the help of God live as Christians and also proclaim this faith and share it with others so that they might believe, too?” Morris said.
His first official service was July 24, and while it’s a big responsibility being the pastor of a church, Morris said it’s rewarding since he put in all of the time and effort to get to this point.
“Now I’m out of the classroom, I’m looking forward to getting back to what I was doing on vicarage and being able to build those relationships again, to serve people, to have these conversations with people and to reengage them, teaching and preaching and stuff like that that I like to do,” he said.
He’s also looking forward to the opportunities at the church.
“It has been such a long time without a pastor, so everybody is very excited,” he said. “There’s a lot of positive momentum going in our way, so I’m excited to see what possibilities might open up for us to give back and to make a difference in the community, too, to help out, just to be able to serve the people of Seymour because that’s what it comes down to for us is serving, loving people and then proclaiming the gospel, inviting people to come worship with us.”
Services are at 9:30 a.m. Sundays. Bible study is at 8:30 a.m. The church also serves free Peace Meals once a month.
“My wife and I are excited to be here in Seymour,” Morris said. “It’s a great community, and we’re looking forward to what lies ahead for Peace, and we’re trusting in God in all of that.”
Name: Alarik Morris
Hometown: Chaplin, Connecticut
Education: Parish Hill High School (2014); Concordia University Ann Arbor (bachelor’s degree in family life-community services, 2017); Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (Master of Divinity, 2022)
Occupation: New pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Seymour.
Family: Wife, Angela Morris; parents, David and Beth Morris; brother, Cianán Morris