Veteran pastor seeks to help Northminster map a path to future

It was around 1980 when Rev. Paul Eckel discovered a woman in his congregation at the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta living in a cardboard box behind a hospital.

It broke his heart, but moved him to take action, and his church opened a shelter for women in downtown Atlanta that is still open today.

“That initial start has ministered to thousands of women for almost 30 years now,” said Eckel. “That’s the kind of thing I look back on and say that is good.”

Experiences like the 11 years he spent in Atlanta molded Eckel into the minister he is today. And just 80 days ago, he took over as interim pastor at Northminister Presbyterian Church at 3131 61st. St. in Sarasota.

Church elders chose Eckel as their interim pastor after looking at a number of resumes. They liked his reputation, his good nature, his dynamic personality and his devotion to God.

“I think what impressed me most is that he is able to craft a message that is very meaningful and deliver it in a positive way,” said Mark Goslin, chairman of the pastoral nominating committee. “His message is right on target.”

Eckel was the person many in the congregation felt was needed to move them in a new direction, said Joan Shirey, communications chairwoman for the church and a nominating committee member.

“He brings continuity,” she said. “He’s a dynamic man. He has lots of experience. He’s just got this personality. We love him dearly.”

Northminster Presbyterian Church has been around for 51 years, and Eckel hopes to help the congregation put into perspective their history and help them envision the future. It’s all about finding “purpose” and “reclaiming a vision,” he said.

Sunday worship begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday Bible study is at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.