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Looking out her car window, she gazed at the rolling hills blanketed in snow and the frosty trees glistening in the sun.
“This Elkhorn River valley is just gorgeous,” she said.
Rev. Dr. Becky McNeil admired the area’s beauty when she first visited Neligh and Elgin in January. That, along with the warm welcome she received from the people, ultimately led to her decision.
Last week, McNeil, 59, began her duties as the new pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Neligh and Park Congregational United Church of Christ in Elgin. She takes over for interim pastor Melanie Miller, who served the church after Janet Davis retired.
An Omaha native, she graduated from Benson High School and then attended Phillips University in Enid, Okla., earning a degree in humanities with an emphasis in religion. From there, McNeil entered the Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. She earned her master of divinity, and later, her doctor of ministry degree. McNeil’s pastoral duties took her to the mountains of central France for language school, as well as Bolenge, Zaire; Paris, Illinois; Findlay, Ohio; the Detroit metro area; Lincoln and Omaha.
She had three sons with her ex-husband—Benjamin, Daniel and Adam and has since remarried. McNeil and her husband Mike plan to sell their Omaha home and move to Neligh. She said their visits to the area made the position an easy one to accept.
“I was really charmed by these congregations,” McNeil said.
She said one of the things she is looking forward to most is becoming a part of the communities.
“I’m looking forward to a ministry that doesn’t take place just inside the church, where I can know people in the community and they can know who I am,” McNeil said.
She said both congregations offer “a progressive Christianity that is welcoming to everyone.”
“So my hope would be that if there are people who are spiritually hungry, but are turned off by institutional church, that they might find something refreshing here.”