Be The Church: Brent Neuschwander-Tetri


Brent Neuschwander-Tetri

So what’s with the name?
I know that it can be confusing. My name growing up was Brent Neuschwander which can be a bit hard to spell but was a perfectly fine name. When Päivi Tetri and I decided to marry, we decided to legally use Neuschwander-Tetri. However I’m not a big fan of hyphenated names, so I had to choose. I decided to use Tetri because it’s easier professionally and that way we could name our daughters Tetri to try to pass on that very unusual name. There are actually quite a few Neuschwanders around but Tetri is an unusual name, even in Finland where it comes from.

Background [Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? How did you come to St. Louis?]
I was born in the small town of Lompoc California, just up the coast from Santa Barbara. Actually west of Santa Barbara which seems odd for a state with a north-south coastline. At the time, Lompoc was known for growing flowers for florists and launching cold-war satellites into space. I remember Lompoc as being sandy and foggy with miles of fields that would explode with flowers in the summer. We left there when I was six for the bay area where I grew up until going off to college. I graduated from Leigh High School for the St. Louisans who like to know. That always gets a quizzical look from those who ask me now. My educational journey took me to Oregon, Connecticut, Wisconsin and back to San Francisco where Päivi and I lived until moving to Clayton in 1991.

Career [What do you do for a living? Where do you/have you worked?]
I’m a physician and I specialize in taking care of people with all forms of liver disease. I’ve been at Saint Louis University since coming to St. Louis and I love working there. My job is mix of seeing patients in clinic and the hospital, research and administration. I’m on too many committees.

How Did You Hear About Samuel? What Brought You to the Church for the First Time?
When we moved to Clayton, we lived on Stratford Drive just half a block from Samuel. This was when Chuck Mize was the pastor and since we lived across the street from what was the Samuel parsonage at the time, we would see each other often and talk about Samuel. We had been looking for a church in St. Louis and on his invitation, we began attending. We knew nothing of the UCC but it sounded like a good alternative to some of the other churches we had attended where we heard sermons belted out in vibrato voices or one where a communal book burning was being planned.

What Kept You Coming Back?
Many things have kept us coming back to Samuel:

    • We like the UCC idea that God really is still speaking in new ways and how Samuel seeks to listen and act on God’s message of welcome and inclusiveness.
    • Of course the people. We are all different and in different places in our relationships with God. But we listen to each other and respect our differences.
    • Samuel is faith community in which we are all safe to question, think and express our doubts and our confidence as we swing between the two.
    • As a church, we are not focused only on ourselves. We devote a substantial portion of our time, talent and resources to helping others in need and spreading the news of God’s unending love and acceptance to others outside of the Samuel community.
    • We are sociable, but Samuel is not a social club. We do our best to live out our mission. Resonating strongly with me is the part of our mission statement that says “In response to God’s grace, we believe we are called to be servants in the service of others, witnesses to God’s justice and love, and good stewards of the earth’s resources.”

When and Why Did You Decide to Become A Member?
I’m thinking we joined sometime in the 1990’s. The choice was easy because of the reasons above.

What Has Been Your Most Memorable Samuel Moment?
There was a time when we were between pastors and members were doing the children’s time. I got to do Psalm 23 one Sunday and got to talk about the comfort and peace of lying in green pastures (or a well cut thick lawn would be the modern version). It’s a nice image to think about.

What’s Your Favorite Samuel Tradition?
I love our Christmas Eve services. Both of them.

How Has the Church Changed In the Time You’ve Attended Samuel?
Somehow it seems like the young folks are now the old folks. I don’t know how that happened.

How has coming to Samuel changed you?
I would say that understanding the importance of being in relationship with others and seeing God in our relationships has been the biggest change that I’ve experienced by being part of Samuel. My tendency is to be more of a loner which is not good.

What Do You Like Best About the Church Today?
All of the above.