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When people think about clergy and how they came to their calling, they might begin to think about their backgrounds, experiences, college majors and even what they did in earlier careers. Some might imagine a liberal arts major who studied history and religion. Others might think about a psychology major who spent time as a social worker. Chances are, though, that people may not think about individuals who majored in business and worked in the corporate world before feeling their call.

 

Rev_Dr_Jo_Forrest
Westminster Presbyterian Welcomes New Senior Pastor

At Westminster Presbyterian Church, in Upper St. Clair, that’s not only what happened to the new Senior Pastor and Head of Staff. It’s also the story of the Associate Pastor for Congregational Care.

As it moves toward its 75th anniversary, the Rev. Dr. Jo Forrest, newly arrived from a church in greater Chicago, was called to Westminster in January of this year. She is only the fifth senior pastor to serve in those 70+ years. Prior to her call to the ministry, Dr. Forrest consulted with banks in projects to increase profitability by becoming more attuned to the needs of their customers. In reflecting on the transition, Dr. Forrest explained the motivations for the change as well as the strengths that her former career lends to her church leadership.

“I never expected to make a mid-career change from management consulting to the ministry, but I appreciate how very challenging it may feel to be a capitalist and faithful Christian at the same time. No one need check his or her faith at the office door. Quite the contrary, faith equips us to excel.”

From the congregation’s point of view, this background is amplified by the fact that Rev. Louise Rogers, the pastor charged with Congregational Care, brings the same business mindset to running programs while always focusing on any organization’s greatest asset – its people. Rev. Rogers notes, “Jesus cared and listened to the stories people brought to him. Our opportunity, in any walk of life, is to listen well while showing compassion as we interact. People first – programs and productivity flow best when people are the priority.”

While it might raise eyebrows in some churches, the professional experience of these two pastors is reflective of a sizable share of Westminster’s congregation who share similar careers to their two ordained leaders. David Heilman, the new Treasurer of the church, noted how the pastors’ understanding of organizations, finances and operations is helpful to him and to the church as a whole. He notes that, “The ministry leadership bringing an understanding of business and financial processes to their roles, helps the financial leadership of the church function in a more effective and coordinated manner.”

As it turns out, Dr. Forrest is not the only relatively new member of the greater Westminster staff. Denise Burke is now the Executive Director of the Westminster Early Childhood Education Program (WECEP). Ms. Burke holds a Master of Education in Curriculum and Leadership and brings diverse experience to her new position. WECEP has also continued to adapt to COVID challenges.

Dr. Forrest’s consulting background lets her guide the congregation with four questions she would ask corporate clients in her earlier life: 1.) What are we called to do? 2.) What is unique about the way we serve this community? 3.) Is it sustainable? 4.) How do we steward our resources?

Fortunately, in answering those questions, Dr. Forrest and the congregation can start by looking to a key question asked by founding pastor Dr. John Galbreath. It closely mirrors a question he asked during his decades at the church: Where here do people hurt? The answer to that guided the early vision of Westminster’s call. It, and the other four questions, will continue to shape what Dr. Forrest, her team and her congregation will continue to do to serve members and the community in the church’s next 75 years.

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