Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church

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Pastor Matt Nickel

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Early Family Life

Matt grew up (mostly) in Grosse Pointe, while some of his upbringing was in St. Clair Shores, Williamstown, MA, and Antwerp, Belgium. Matt and his family were active members of Lakeshore Presbyterian Church in St. Clair Shores until Matt entered high school, when his family joined Grosse Pointe Memorial Church. Matt’s Dad and his grandparents were raised in Detroit and his mother grew up in Ontario. His early family life included life on Lake St. Clair where his family enjoyed sailing. Matt grew up with one sister, Kristin, who lives with her husband and children in Hungary. Matt also has a sister, Sophie, who is twenty-two years younger, who lives with his parents in Traverse City.

Spiritual Life

“In my life of faith, I have found experiences that engage imagination, contemplation, and the natural world meaningful. Writing and the arts are valuable to my own practice of faith. I have found kindred spirits in my congregations where I have led groups in reading fiction, watching films, writing creatively, and using photography as practices of faith.  In my own prayer life, I appreciate the abundant resources of the Christian contemplative tradition that offers ways of seeking God’s presence through silence, wisdom, and discernment, as well as action. Similarly, I sense God’s nearness in the natural world: from trips to beautiful landscapes to local features of God’s creation.

The life of ministry has led me to walk alongside people through the full spectrum of life’s experiences. Those that gather together for worship and around the table to be part of the body of Christ continually open me to a profound sense of God’s grace. In our finest and darkest moments, the privilege of sharing the journey of faith with others invites stories, connections, wisdom, and hope that we cannot know so fully on our own. Every time this happens I remember that I belong to God, from whom my call came. These relationships continue to affirm and renew that sense of call.

A call to ministry is no small decision. In many ways, my call took shape over a long period of time. It developed through the encouragement of pastors, friends, and family who recognized and affirmed me in the decision to enter ordained ministry. A professor jokingly said pastoral ministry was my calling after she learned that I had worked in a bakery while in college and in a winery after graduation. Many years later when I stand at the communion table, this story still makes me smile. I feel a deep privilege to be a pastor because of the wondrous faith I witness as people live together in communion and community,” Matt states.

Current Family Life

Matt and his wife Emma have a two-year-old daughter Naomi. “Our kitchen is the heart of our family and social life. Gathering around the table to share food and stories is central to our lives,” says Matt. Emma is also a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She has served churches in Warren, MI, Greensburg, KY, and currently in Louisville, KY. She grew up in southwest Virginia where her parents still live. Naomi is lively child who enjoys being outside, going to the park, riding in her bike trailer, and being a helper in the kitchen.


Matt enjoys cycling, hiking and walking in parks, brewing beer, baking (notably granola and bread), reading fiction and poetry (favorite authors include Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, and W.S. Merwin), and watching the Detroit Red Wings.


McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL, Certificate in Executive Leadership, June 2014

Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, Master of Divinity, May 2009

Hope College, Holland, MI, Bachelor of Arts, English, May 2003