A heart for teaching: From Pennsylvania to Mississippi, a pastor answers the call

Published 9:15 am Sunday, May 5, 2024

Pastor Nathaniel Stamper found his way to the ministry almost by accident, and his way to the South directly from Pennsylvania.

July will mark one year since Stamper and his young family answered a call from Westminster Presbyterian Church to fill a vacancy in their pulpit. Originally from Hartford County, Pa., Stamper found his way into the ministry, he said, “sort of by accident.” As a newlywed, he found himself seeking ways to be a better husband and Christian, and enrolled in classes at Lancaster Bible College. He discovered an aptitude for ministry and obtained a degree in Biblical studies.

With the encouragement of his college professors and the support of his wife, Kelsey, Stamper decided to enroll in seminary. Unlike many people raised in a particular denomination, Stamper became a Christian at the age of 16, and didn’t have a particular faith connection. Unsure of which one was best for him, he studied the Bible and came to the conclusion that the Presbyterian ideology most closely matched his beliefs.

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Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America, Stamper spent the next years as a minister, and was teaching at a Classical Christian School when he was contacted by Dr. Gordon Sluis, an elder at Westminster.

Westminster was looking for a pastor, and Sluis wanted to discuss with Stamper the possibility of serving the church in Vicksburg. On paper, the church and Stamper seemed like a good match. After several virtual interviews, the Stamper family came to visit Vicksburg and the church. Making the decision to move to Mississippi was difficult, as it would require them to leave behind family, including the grandparents the children saw almost every day. Ultimately, the family accepted the position at the church and moved to Mississippi in July.

“Everyone we’ve met has just been so lovely,” Stamper said. 

Since settling in Mississippi, Stamper said they’ve been embraced by their church and community and feel like they’ve added to their extended family.

Stamper said he sees a role for everyone in the church. 

“I try to communicate in a way everyone can understand. One of my goals is to focus on families. I think the family is the core of the church.” 

He said he would also like to include older people in connecting with young families.

While teaching, Stamper found he had a passion for it that extends beyond the pulpit. He is launching the “Critical Thinkers Club” this summer. For ages twelve and up, the club will meet and begin with Level 1, to “learn informal and formal branches of logic to help inspire critical thinking.” The goal of the club is for children to learn “tools of logic and apologetics, not only to thoughtfully and winsomely defend their faith against unchristian ideas, but also see how their faith intersects with all of life.” Eventually the club will expand to include four levels of learning and reading classical literature.

“We look at different world views and religions and how Christians can defend their beliefs,” Stamper said of the club. “How can I inspire critical thinking?” 

Stamper said he wants children to be equipped to understand and defend their beliefs so that when they are confronted with world views, they can see the beauty in the Christian faith.

Additionally, Stamper hosts a Bible study for teenage boys every Friday at 2 p.m. at Parish Waterfowl & Espresso Bar on Washington Street in downtown Vicksburg. A class for teenage girls is currently in the planning stages.

Stamper’s wife, Kelsey, is a CPA who works remotely for an accounting firm in Pennsylvania. 

“She’s brilliant with numbers,” Stamper says. “I’m amazed by what she does.” 

She also home schools their four children, Moses, Eden Victoria, Elijah and Iris Elizabeth, although the boys attend a school in Ridgeland two days a week. Stamper said the children have adjusted to the move well and love playing with new friends in the park at Glenwood Circle. He added, with a smile, that he is looking forward to at least a couple of the children developing a Southern accent.

Stamper welcomes all to join the worship at Westminster. Dates and times for services can be found at wpcvicksburg.com. Anyone interested in enrolling their child in the Critical Thinkers Club may contact Stamper at wpcstamper@gmail.com.