Jim Keck
Senior Minister 2006-present

by Meg Lauerman

In the beginning was the Word—the idea, the spirit, the source of all, the ‘ground of all being.’ Here we celebrate the joy of knowing our ultimate connection to the ‘all’ and the grace that comes with knowing more fully a loving, creating God. Here we practice loving and being loved, as a ‘body of Christ’ together.  
-Dr. Jim Keck, Senior Minister

The Rev. Dr. James (Jim) Keck succeeded Otis Young as senior minister of First-Plymouth in 2006. Dr. Young had established a strong sense of social justice, serving as a national leader in evolving recognition and respect for members of the LGBT community, and Dr. Keck has amplified the bold work of leading the congregation in inclusivity. 

Keck previously served as senior minister at both the Congregational Church of San Mateo, California and before that, the West Concord Union Church in Massachusetts. He had also served churches in Berkeley and Corona Del Mar, California. He served as an adjunct faculty member at Pacific School of Religion and as president of the Peninsula Clergy Network that links 400 clergy with area civic leaders. Young knew Keck, and his reputation as a strong spiritual and intellectual minister capable of leading a church of the scope and scale of First-Plymouth. The transition of leadership was a celebration of respect and gratitude. 

Keck’s focus on the development of an expanded variety of worship opportunities led to the addition of new services at First-Plymouth including 11:59, a modern, casual service; Compline, a meditative evening prayer service; First-Plymouth East at Kloefkorn Elementary School that is accessible for families with young children; First-Plymouth Presents, a casual ‘bar scene’ discussion time in downtown Lincoln; Anybody/Everybody, a service for individuals with disabilities and their allies. These are in addition to the 5:30 Saturday casual chapel service and the traditional Sunday morning services. 

Programming outside of worship has grown enormously, as have opportunities for Bible study and outreach engagement by members of the congregation. First-Plymouth has hosted guest speakers including The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Samuel, The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor and Bishop Gene Robinson. 

In addition to worship development, Keck also focused on programs for children, youth and families; the care of the 20th and D St. building and on developing a stronger endowment in order to secure the future of First-Plymouth. 

In 2012 Keck led church leaders to assess the physical status of the iconic structure at 20th and D Streets, realizing that there was a considerable amount of deferred maintenance. An assessment of the total costs came in at $6.5 million. A consultant on fund-raising advised that the congregation could expect to raise $4 million over five years. But the compelling need to restore the architecturally significant church led to the Building Joy First campaign. The congregation raised $6.5 million in one year, and an additional $3.5 million in pledges for an endowment within one more year, for a total of $10 million pledged by the end of 2014. 

The restoration of the church, the expansion of worship and learning opportunities and the increased involvement in the community represent Keck’s bold ‘signature’ and have led to record growth in the congregation and record worship attendance. Of all United Churches of Christ in the nation, First-Plymouth is one of the fastest growing churches. The momentum is clearly founded on Keck’s commitment to invite, include and inspire. 

Dr. Keck encourages members of the congregation to grow both spiritually and intellectually, to develop a deeper sense of social justice and compassion, a richer sense of personal peace and to become involved in the life of the community in ways that express the love of God and neighbor.