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FAST FIVE Celebrate the spirit of the season with the Rev. Craig Sumey

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | December 19, 2020 1:00 AM

Meet the Rev. Craig Sumey, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in downtown Coeur d'Alene. He's a community leader, husband, father, passionate Kansas City Chiefs fan, always on the lookout for a good local microbrew and someone who can’t wait for his next camping trip.

Generation:

I’m in my early 50s so that puts me at the front end of Gen X.

Career and community involvement:

I’ve been a Presbyterian local church pastor for 28 years, serving congregations in Kansas, Nebraska, Florida and here. Each stop has been a unique and special adventure. I am just finishing a grant-funded sabbatical project exploring how churches can meet the challenges of the 21st century and be more a vital part of their community. I have felt really privileged to be able to serve the larger Coeur d'Alene community, serving in leadership roles with the Downtown Association, Chamber of Commerce, CDA2030 and United Way. Recently, I ended a term as chair of the ALICE task force, helping the community mobilize to surround those who have jobs but struggle to make ends meet with care and support. I’m really proud of how that effort raised the profile of these folks in our long-term hopes for our city and region.

Parental status:

My greatest accomplishments have been a wonderful 27-year marriage to Lynn and my two young adult children, one of whom lives and works in Coeur d'Alene and one who is off to college. Super proud!

1. When and how did you know you were meant to walk a pastor's path?

Between my first and second year in college I worked summer jobs in foundation repair (during the day) and washing pots in a restaurant (at night), had no free time, had no fun and had little money to show for it. I vowed to get a fun job the next summer and applied to be a summer middle school intern at the church I grew up in. Spending that summer helping a church inspire people to grow and become better humans, my calling just clicked in and I haven’t wanted to do anything else ever since. I get a courtside seat to transformation, healing and watching people change the world.

2. How can we be more like Christ in our daily lives and interactions?

Follow him. The basic instruction he gave his first disciples still applies today. Following Jesus led my life out of destructive selfishness and crippling fears in a way I couldn’t do for myself. I tried. And I’ve seen him do the same for many others. He’ll walk beside you no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or what you look like. But be warned! You will be changed if you follow him without agenda or resistance. You won’t be as satisfied with transient things, the suffering in the world will break your heart, and you’ll be continuously pushed out of your comfort zone. But the payoff is an extraordinary relationship with God and the equipping to, more and more, become truly human.

3. What Christmas miracles have you witnessed in your life?

I think it’s when people have told me that they’ve been celebrating a traditional Santa Claus-style holiday their whole life, but then the lights come on and they realize, sometimes months after the fact, “OOOH. THAT’s what it’s all about!” I love the traditions of the seasons as much as anyone and never would want to make people feel guilty or shallow for feeling the same. But coming to know the spiritual reality behind the holiday makes it truly miraculous.

4. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m an introvert doing an extrovert’s job. I love being around people, obviously, but at the end of the day I just want to be quiet, read a good history book or watch something with Lynn. Having to work at home because of COVID has been frustrating because it keeps me from doing what I do best, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it’s also been kind of nice!

5. As Christmas is almost here, what would you like people to remember about this sacred season?

God reached across a seemingly impassable divide to personally connect with us, purely out of love and desire for a relationship he knew would be better for us than what we can achieve for ourselves, even on our best days. Surely we could follow Jesus’ example and do the same for our fellow humans, especially with those we may not naturally agree with or understand. If you’re a Christian out there reading this, no matter your denominational tribe or flavor of faith, this season reminds us that Jesus didn’t just come to Earth to save us, but to make his mission our mission.