GREENVILLE — Pastor at the First Congregational Christian Church on West Fifth Street here for the past eight months has been Japheth Bear.
It’s his first pastorate, but he is no stranger to the church. He was married there Aug. 10. 2014, to Brittany Bowers, who grew up in the church.
She is the daughter of Mike and Kim Bowers of Greenville. Yes, Bear’s father-in-law is the former mayor of Greenville and now director of Economic Development.
The Bears met at St. Louis Christian College in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2011, but didn’t start dating until a year and a half later. He was studying to be a minister and she was also studying the ministry, specializing in children’s ministry. Brittany was awarded her bachelor’s degree.
“I went a couple of years to St. Louis, and then I finished my bachelor of science degree in preaching online at Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee,” Japheth said. “We were in Ormond Beach, Florida, and Brittany was working at a church and I finished my degree. Now, I will begin working on my master’s at Cedarville University. I’ll start with classes online and then will be spending a couple of days a week on campus in the fall to get my Master of Divinity.”
Originally from Newton, Illinois, he is the son of a minister. His parents, Cord and Carmen Bear, live in Ormond Beach. He has an older brother and two younger sisters.
“My father is a minister, so I was in church my whole life in different places,” Japheth said.
Has his father been helpful in Japheth’s quest for the ministry?
“Dad and I have had conversations,” he said. “Our styles are a little different. He has a big personality.”
Japheth said it was about halfway through his bachelor’s degree that the ministry was what he was geared to do.
Is his first pastorate in Greenville what he thought it was going to be?
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “The people here are great to me and Brittany. They are encouraging and helpful. It’s a new experience and I’ve seen a lot happen.”
He said attendance averages 40, mostly older people, but pointed out that there are a couple of families with young children attending there.
Since Bear began at First Congregational, he said everything is pretty much the same as it always had been.
“I did bring back the Sunday 9 a.m. Bible study,” he said. “We still have the 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning worship and Wednesday night Bible Study.”
In his spare time, Bear said he likes to read.
“Mainly theology,” he went on to say. “But, I am trying to branch out into history.”
He also said he is a Chicago Bears fan and follows that. He doesn’t watch baseball, but said if he did, he would cheer for the Chicago Cubs.
Wife Brittany, a 2009 graduate of Greenville High School, is doing the administrative work at the church office and is involved in anything to do with the youth at church, whether it be AWANA or setting up Sunday morning activities for the youth.
The pastor is enjoying Greenville.
“I grew up in town smaller than Greenville so I am used to the hometown feel,” he said. “I like to go to the Coffee Pot [on South Broadway] with my laptop and drink some coffee.”
It is said that the pastor was named after a Biblical character, Japheth, who was one of the three sons of Noah.