New pastor brings ‘pep’ to Gaylordsville church
NEW MILFORD — Growing up, Jacob Eun considered following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a pastor.
But while on a youth church retreat in high school, he felt in his heart God was calling him for a greater purpose. Years passed and he began to doubt this feeling, so he asked God for a sign — something like the burning bush he showed Moses.
“But then I realized that God’s presence is anywhere — everywhere I go,” Eun said. “That’s when I realized I don’t need any sign.”
Now 26, Eun is the new pastor of a tight-knit parish of about 50 people at Gaylorsdville United Methodist Church, established in the mid-1800s.
“Our church is very loving, very caring, very welcoming,” Eun said. “It’s like my family. They were so kind and they really do appreciate me being here. And I do, too. I am so blessed by this church.”
Heidi Haug, who has been going to the church on and off since childhood, said she loves Eun’s spirit and excitement.
“He’s kind and thoughtful and has great ideas,” she said. “He loves everybody. You can tell when he’s doing a service, it’s really coming from his heart.”
Eun may be young, but he is “wise beyond his years,” said Kathleen Weinzierl, who has been a parishioner for four years. She said he brings a younger perspective that is critical.
“He is very humble,” Weinzierl said. “He is very intelligent. He has really been a blessing to the church. He is very spirtual. Any decision he makes, he prays about it first. He’s the real deal.”
Eun describes himself as a “born-and-bred Methodist.” His father, John Higon Eun, was the pastor at a church in South Korea until Jacob was 12 and the family moved to America. The senior Eun was seeking better educational opportunities for his two sons.
“He had to sacrifice a lot,” Eun said. “He actually gave up everything he built in South Korea.”
For Eun’s teenage years, the family lived in Fairfield and Easton, as his father served as a pastor at Fairfield Grace Korean Methodist Church. John Higon Eun then became the pastor at the Chamsarang Korean Methodist Church in Long Island.
When Eun told his father he wanted to be a pastor, his dad had a piece of advice.
“He said being a pastor is not just being a pastor for one day out of seven days,” Eun said. “You have to embody God’s ministry in all (your) life.”
Eun has tried to do that by keeping God at the center of his life, he said. Much of his day is spent praying and preparing for his Sunday sermon.
“Always, at the core of the sermon, there’s the love of God that is accessible to anyone who wants it,” he said.
Parishioners said his services are interactive, with the music, prayers and Scripture readings on a wall in front of the church so people do not need to follow along in their Bibles. He asks questions or has parishioners review the previous week’s sermon, Haug said.
“He’s really bringing a lot of pep to the church, a lot of excitement,” she said. “We’re learning from him. We weren’t sure how that was going to work because we’re all older than he is, pretty much. But it’s great because it’s all fresh with him. It’s new.”
Eun graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Arts in history and psychology in 2012. In 2015, he earned a Master of Divinity at the Drew Theological School in New Jersey. He attended Princeton Theological Seminary, last year earning a Master of Theology with a concentration in New Testament.
Before starting at Gaylordsville in July, Eun was the English ministry pastor and youth pastor at his father’s church and as the elementary pastor at Arcola United Methodist Church in New Jersey.
Few young people are at the Gaylordsville church, but Eun hopes to change that.
“That’s one of my passions,” he said. “I want to engage in more church ministry and bring more children (and) youth into the church, bring more livelihood into
He hopes to be a resource for Korean international students in nearby schools.
He is planning a “Holyween” event where attendees dress as Bible characters and play games and other activities at the church.
“I’m going to open the church door more to the community so they can come and enjoy the fellowship together,” Eun said.