I started being a pastor in June of 1982. I had mostly grown up in the church and had been working as waitress after college as my husband was working on finishing his degree. I felt the “call” at fifteen and knew it was only a matter of time before I began seminary.
Without any experience at all, I ended up as the pastor of a small church in rural Kansas in a town named Alden. It was eye opening and a shock to this city girl. I had no formal training, and no idea what to do or what to expect.
My first surprise was that I was expected to do a bulletin and make sure there were copies for Sunday morning on a MIMEOGRAPH machine, that of course including cutting the stencils. For those of you who have no idea what I am referring to, the stencils and machine look like this:
Needless to say I had no idea how to do any of that. I had taken no basic “secretarial” classes because I had no intention of being a secretary! I was at a loss as to what to do or how to begin and I would not have the basic “licensing” school for another two months. I would not take my first seminary class for another year.
There are people who are saints because they are there when you need them the most. The first such saint at Alden was a woman by the name of Portteus Latimer. She served over 22 years as a pastor long before women clergy were the norm. She had been pastor at Alden for nineteen years and had retired nine before. When I showed up in town, young and clueless she was mayor.
Portteus, known as “Preach” was kind and generous and helpful. The first thing she did was help me put together a bulletin and learn how to cut a stencil and run that mimeograph machine. She had been in Alden a long time and could have cause havoc with my ministry as inexperienced as I was. Instead she encouraged me, gave me helpful tips when and if I asked for them and defended when the occasional person came to complain.
I could write volumes and think over the next month I will write several posts about this amazing woman who never was a “senior pastor” or a “district superintendent” or a “bishop” but her ministry made mine possible. Her willingness to serve in times and places that would have frightened others means I am able to do more ministry than she was ever allowed. Because of “Preach” and her witness, I am always graced to serve.