He arrived in Brooklyn on December 1 after going to seminary in Berkeley, California. He was ordained on December 3 by the Metropolitan New York Synods for the Greenpoint and Williamsburg area.
McKelahan currently works with St. Paul's church in Williamsburg, St. John's in Greenpoint, the Lutheran Church of the Messiah in Greenpoint, and St. Luke's in Clinton Hill.
“What I've been assigned to do is to create a congregation where the making and sharing of art is worship,” he said. “Specifically the goal is to make art that’s simple enough that anyone can do it, but that allows people to share something of themselves.”
It would allow people to share their own stories, “and then connect their individual stories with their neighbor's stories and to God's story, which ultimately is everyone's story.”
To test out his plan, on Christmas night, McKelahan went to Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan where he set up a two-by-four foot pegboard, using glow sticks as the pegs.
Participants dipped small balls into bowls of different-colored glow paint and dropped them down the pegboard.
“So it would leave a path of the color of the glow paint,” he said, “which means if you have several people doing this with different colors and different balls taking different paths you get sort of a pretty-colored pattern.”
Beneath the peg board were several dog bowls, and depending on which bowl a ball landed in, the person would win a prize.
The prizes, he said, were suggested random acts of kindness, such as complimenting a stranger.
As his congregation starts to develop, McKelahan will host similar events in McCarren Park.
“As a Lutheran pastor, my job is to communicate to people that God loves them unconditionally,” he said. “One of the best ways I know to do that is to let people express themselves, to share their own creativity and for me to honor that creativity, honor that story. To me that is worship.”