The 38-year-old former associate pastor from Kirk-in-the-Hills Church in Bloomfield Hills was formally installed at the Grand Haven church on May 28.
“The installation service went fabulously,” Brydon said. “There were people from many places in my life — my parents, other family, people connected with my previous congregations in Georgia and Detroit, people connected with Calvin College and Princeton Seminary.
“I felt incredibly loved and supported in commencing my ministry at First Presbyterian Church,” he continued. “There was a palpable excitement in the sanctuary, and it continues to spill over into the wider life of the congregation. The installation service truly was an affirmation of God’s calling of me to this ministry. I count myself as very blessed to be here.”
In the two months that he has been serving the local congregation, Brydon said, “Worship is noticeably fuller.”
He credits interim pastor Linda Male with sowing the ground and planting the seeds for the transition over the past two years since former the Rev. Tom Cook retired. Brydon said that it is his plan to water the seeds and watch them grow.
“There’s a lot of positivity here,” Brydon said. “People are telling their friends” and former members of the congregation are starting to return.
Brydon confirmed that many members left the Grand Haven church during the years when a couple of former staff members faced allegations of sexual and physical abuse. Both of those men were formally charged in the court system and left the church at that time. One of them was a part-time church organist, who was sentenced in 2012; the other was an associate family pastor, who was sentenced in 2015.
But the structure of the church is sound, Brydon said.
“They love their church,” the new pastor said of the congregation. “They love their city.”
And, “if the church isn’t about second chances, who is,” he asked?
Brydon was raised in the American Baptist denomination in Erie, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids in 2000 with a degree in English and a minor in music.
He said he’s not really sure how he ended up at a college in West Michigan, other than he was looking for a school with strong academics that also took Christianity very serious.
“That’s what got me in that direction (the Reformed Church),” he said.
Brydon and his wife, Jessica, a native of the Chicago area, moved to Ann Arbor, where she continued her schooling at the University of Michigan. Brydon went to Bowling Green University and obtained a Master of Arts degree in American culture studies.
While in Ann Arbor, the young couple became involved in their church and decided to fill a need for campus ministers.
“We realized pretty quick in the job that we both got a call to the ministry,” Brydon said.
So, while starting to raise a family, Brydon continued his schooling at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. He obtained his Master of Divinity degree in 2007.
He became associate pastor at St. Simons Presbyterian Church at St. Simons Island, Georgia, in July 2007. He left there in January 2013 to become an associate pastor for mission renewal at the Bloomfield Hills church.
Brydon said he was not looking for a new position when he became aware of the opportunity in Grand Haven.
“Within the church there are online postings,” he said. “Our stuff got matched online. They contacted me.”
Brydon said that he had no intention of uprooting his family that also includes their three children. But after several meetings with committee members, he realized that Grand Haven is a place they want to be.
“I like the small town that I can walk to the church and walk downtown,” Brydon said. “Coming from Detroit, you’re anonymous. It takes half an hour to get everywhere.”
Brydon said he loves the church and he loves the town.
“The church has a real heart for Grand Haven,” he said. “It’s the right size — as a pastor, you can know a lot of people in the congregation and their stories, but it’s big enough to do a lot of things.”
Brydon said there’s no changes planned while he gets to know his new church community. For now, it’s about having a community presence, he said.