Little did Rev. Dr. Peter-Michael Preble realize when he and his wife, Nicolette, drove by St. Nicholas United Methodist Church on Hull’s Spring Street during the recent town-wide “Stem to Stern” yard sale that he would soon be serving the congregation as its next pastor.
He was recently appointed to that position, effective Aug. 1, by the bishop of the New England Conference, with whom those appointive decisions rest. He replaces Pastor David Weekley, who, after serving the congregation for seven years, recently headed back home to Oregon with his wife, Deborah, to spend time with their family.
As he drove by the church, Reverend Preble recalls saying jokingly to his wife, “This is the time of year when Methodist clergy are appointed,” although he was not aware at that time that Weekley had retired.
He then decided to look up the church’s Facebook page and realized that was the case.
“One thing led to another, and I was appointed as the new pastor,” he says, adding, “My wife grew up in Hull, and I was familiar with the church from when we visited here, but I had never been inside the building and didn’t know the parishioners.”
He readily admits to having been surprised at being chosen to lead the congregation. “I’m a minister in the United Church of Christ [Congregational], serving in a Methodist church, but I called to express an interest at the right time,” he explains. “No one had yet been appointed after David left, so I was the proverbial round peg in a round hole.”
Part of what drew him to St. Nicholas was the church’s close proximity to Weymouth, where the Prebles reside, and the fact that he enjoys spending time in Hull.
“St Nicholas is a strong church community that’s involved with the local community, and we’re looking forward to re-engaging with local organizations and groups such as Wellspring and Hull No Place for Hate post-COVID and becoming a resource for the community again,” he says. “There’s a closeness [among Hull residents] – that this is where they live and work – and we would like the church to be part of that.”
St. Nicholas continues to be “open, affirming, and welcoming to LGBTQ folks, which is one of our hallmarks,” he notes.
While he has been serving in his new role for less than two weeks, so far it has been a good experience, he reports. “I’m still learning what is needed and about the life of the church community, and the congregation is learning, too.
“Coming off a year and a half of COVID, everything is changing for churches. They are reimagining themselves and looking for a different way, and that’s part of the journey in which our church will be involved.”
In his role as pastor, he sees himself as helping the congregation find its vision “and what their calling is in the community.”
During the height of the pandemic, St. Nicholas offered virtual services, returning to in-person at the end of June. “We’re hoping to be able to offer hybrid services – a combination of the two – in the future” so as to meet the different needs of the church community.
As for how he came to be a minister, he started casually thinking about a career in the ministry when he was in elementary school. Yet it was not until he was in his mid-30s that he decided to pursue such a career, starting at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton (which is Catholic) and graduating from Holy Cross Seminary (which is Greek Orthodox). He was ordained in 2004 and went on to serve congregations in Southbridge, Quincy, Salem, Beverly, and Salem, N.H.
He is currently a chaplain with the Quincy Fire Department, trained in critical incident stress management to provide what is referred to as “psychological first aid” to firefighters who have been involved in fire-related incidents. He also serves as a chaplain with the Massachusetts National Guard. He plans to continue his work as a hospice chaplain for the Brockton Visiting Nurse Association.
Reverend Preble also writes a blog focused on “Christian spirituality” and occasional other subjects as he sees them through the lens of the Christian Church. They could include sermons, photos, stories about his garden, and other topics he finds “worthy to write about.”
Demonstrating that the South Shore can be a small world, former Hull Public Library director Daniel Johnson is his cousin and also lives in Weymouth.