Rev. Tom VandeStadt, previous pastor (Retired February 28, 2021)
Our previous pastor, Thomas J. “Tom” VandeStadt, was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, and lived in Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York before moving to Austin, Texas in 2001. He holds a B.A. in political science from Moravian College in Pennsylvania, an M.A. in cultural anthropology from State University of New York in Buffalo, and an M. Div. in theology from Boston University in 1986. Before coming to Austin, Tom served as Minister of Mission Outreach at the Congregational Churches in Weston and Waltham, Massachusetts; co-pastor of the Manchester Parish UCC outside of Baltimore, Maryland; pastor of Arcade United Church of Christ outside of Buffalo, New York; and pastor of Fairmount Community Church UCC in Syracuse, New York.
Tom has been committed for many years to outreach and justice ministries. While in seminary, he spent a summer in Nicaragua and was active in several solidarity groups supporting popular movements for justice in Central America. He also worked in shelters for homeless adults and run-away youth in Boston, and after graduating from seminary, directed a shelter program for homeless men. In Baltimore and Syracuse, he worked weekly at the local Catholic Worker House. While serving churches in the New York Conference UCC, he worked with the Conference’s grass-roots development project with La Laguna, a village in Honduras, and he traveled extensively throughout Guatemala researching Mayan popular movements while earning his degree in cultural anthropology. In Austin, he’s been active with groups working on workplace justice, direct care and affordable housing for the homeless, and climate change.
Tom’s spiritual practice incudes silent meditation and prayer. For years, he’s been drawn to the contemplative side of Christianity, as well as to the practice of Zen meditation. While in Syracuse, he was a member of the Spiritual Renewal Center where he practiced Christian centering prayer, studied spiritual mentoring, and participated in a number of Christian spiritual retreats. In Austin, he’s a member of the Appamada Zen Center, where he sits regularly, takes classes, and participates in meditation retreats.
Tom enjoys reading, writing, cycling, traveling, hiking in the mountains, and camping where it’s really quiet. He’s married to Robin Chapman, has a daughter named Alex, and a black lab named Hastings, seen at right with Tom.
After 20 years of service as pastor of the Congregational Church of Austin, Tom retired and will pursue other interest.