Coming of age in the south as a transplant from California was an experience that shaped me like no other. I was stunned when my Episcopal Sunday school teacher used the Bible to justify the segregation that still existed in 1969. If you were a person of color, you could not eat in certain restaurants downtown. I, at the tender age of 14, challenged her. She told me to go home and read my Bible. I did, from cover to cover, and I was shocked at some of the things I found in it. Seeking to make sense of the things I felt were not just, I went to the priest who simply told me “You can’t pick and choose.” While I continued to attend church to keep my mom happy, I checked out of organized religion. Yet I always maintained a firm belief that God was interested in the well being of ALL of creation and that the owning of other human beings was not God’s law, but the culture of the time. When I left home, I also left the church.
It wasn’t until I graduated from college with a political science degree (13 years later!) and was working for the California legislature that an office mate invited me to go to church with her. It was a Franciscan Catholic church in downtown Sacramento, and we walked in to the hymn, “Here I am Lord.” I wept. For the first time in my short life I had found a church that I felt lived the gospel in the world, welcomed questions and loved EVERYONE, no exceptions. Both our boys, Drew and Matthew were baptized in that church. From that point on I was always active in whatever church we belonged to, and when our boys were in 5th and 7th grade I finally realized that the place that I found my deepest joy was helping people experience God’s limitless and unconditional love. For seven years, I commuted 120 miles one way to San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, California. I was commissioned by the California Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in 2009 and was fully ordained as an elder in 2012. I served three churches over the span of 11 years.
In 2015, Victor and I came to Klamath Falls for the Winter Wings Bird Festival. We fell in love with the area being big birders and outdoors enthusiasts. We bought a lot for building our dream home when we retired. Victor retired from 30 years of service to the state of California as a hydrogeologist, protecting groundwater from pollution. I retired last summer partially so we could come up to Klamath Falls and partially because I felt God was calling me to work that just couldn’t be done within the institutional church. I have been working for Mills Elementary as an intervention teacher, helping kids who are behind grade level in reading and math. When I first said yes to be the pastor here at First United Methodist Church, little did I realize that we would become part of the Pacific Northwest Conference Rural Church Initiative that will seek to use community organizing as a way to better be the church in the world. God works in wonderful ways!
Our oldest son, Drew, is a computer science major who is hoping to transfer to OIT in January, and the youngest, Matthew, received his degree in anthropology from Pacific Lutheran University and enlisted in the Air Force. Victor and I celebrated our 39th anniversary June 20th.
We both look forward to getting to know all of you as we travel this faith journey together!
– Pastor Helen