The former mercy and justice coordinator for the Great Plains Conference will become the district superintendent for the Wichita area beginning July 1.
Rev. Dr. Kalaba Chali, 45, will succeed Rev. Dr. Mitch Reece, who will reach his eight-year limit on the appointive cabinet. Reece will be appointed as senior pastor of Wichita Aldersgate United Methodist Church.
“Kalaba Chali will be a great superintendent for the people of the Wichita districts. He is very familiar with the churches and ministries there, and I know he will do a great job,” Bishop David Wilson wrote in a statement. “He is such a talented and gifted pastor, and he will carry that with him in this new role.”
After positions at churches in Dallas and outside St. Louis, Chali moved to the Great Plains Conference in 2014, when he was hired as mercy and justice coordinator. He left the position in 2021 to become pastor at Wichita Pleasant Valley UMC.
Chali said the call to become a district superintendent came as a surprise, as he was expecting the phone call from Bishop Wilson to be about another topic.
“I had no idea this was coming,” he said. “It was very humbling and makes me realize I can play roles in this season of the church, and I’m excited to see what God has in store.”
Chali said he sees himself as a strategic thinker and strategic leader.
“I challenge myself to say, ‘What are the questions we’re not asking?’” he said. Especially in a time of disaffiliations, he added, “What are the questions in this season of The United Methodist Church that we are not asking ourselves?”
A native of Zambia who received his call to ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo and who earned his undergraduate degree in Zimbabwe, Chali said Pleasant Valley made progress during his nearly two years there, including increasing average attendance from 75 in 2021 to 92 in 2022, increasing the number of children from five to eight, and expanding the youth group from five to 12.
“We have made progress toward financial stability,” he said. “When I had arrived we were struggling to pay our bills. And we ended 2022 with a surplus.”
Chali said helped create a larger online presence for the church and moved Pleasant Valley’s administrative system to a single-board model.
“Those small things brought a lot of excitement to the church,” he said. “We’ve become more team-oriented, not only the staff but the lay leaders. We’re unified in moving forward, so this is bittersweet for me.”
A graduate of Africa University with a bachelor’s degree in theology, Chali earned his master’s in theology from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and his doctorate in intercultural studies from Evangel University. He is married to the Rev. Jill Sander-Chali, who serves as pastor at College Hill UMC in Wichita.
Chali called Reece “one of the most beloved district superintendents.”
“I have admired Mitch Reece. I call him a brother,” he said. “Mitch and I both have a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ both in word and in action.”
Reece praised Chali for his twin passions of justice ministries and evangelism.
“Marrying those two things together now is very important, because we get too focused on one side or the other,” Reece said.
“We know Chali has real connectedness with not only the conference and churches in the Wichita area … but a connection with the broader church beyond the Great Plains Conference,” he added. Reece, 59, has been superintendent of the Wichita East District since 2015 and added the Wichita West District in 2017. He has been dean of the cabinet since 2019 and has been the interim assistant to the bishop since the beginning of 2023.
Prior to those appointments, he was pastor for churches in Gypsum, Jetmore-Hanston, Shawnee LifeBridge and Kechi.
At his new church, Reece will succeed the Rev. Gary Brooks, who is retiring after 43 years of ministry, the last nine of which were at Aldersgate, on July 1.
“I have a heart for the area where the church is and believe there’s great opportunity to not only connect with people who may be dechurched, but people who are unchurched,” Reece said. “West Wichita is a region that’s continuing to grow. We don’t have a large amount of Methodist churches in the west Wichita area, so there’s definitely a great opportunity.”
Reece said he looks forward to returning to church ministry.
“I really enjoy the personal interaction with people within the church,” he said. “I have a heart for spiritual growth, and I can’t wait to interact and walk aside people to foster spiritual growth.”
He said he enjoyed the collegiality of his time on the cabinet with fellow district superintendents.
“There’s a great team of pastors and other DSes to work with. I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to know the clergy at a deeper level within not only my district but beyond,” he said. “It’s been good to be able to be part of the process that’s seen a lot of new persons enter our conference, whether they be from other conferences or other parts of the world.”
Being on the cabinet, Reece said, allowed him to gain a broader perspective of the church.
“It allows you to rub shoulders with people who have diverse views and how we’re all trying to serve Christ faithfully and figure out what that looks like in a very diverse world,” he said.
Bishop Wilson said that although he has only worked with Reece for a short time, “I have witnessed his passion for Christ and service and the meticulous work he has done as dean and as the interim assistant to the bishop.
“He will be a great pastor to the people at Aldersgate UMC, and I am excited for this next journey of his life,” the bishop added.
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