2007-01-18 / Front Page

Central Baptist Church welcomes Kathryn Palen as new pastor

By Michaela Kennedy

Kathryn Palen Kathryn Palen After a long and rigorous search, Central Baptist Church is pleased to announce the appointment of Rev. Kathryn Palen the church's new pastor. Palen arrived in Jamestown from Washington, D.C., earlier this week, and she will give her first sermon as pastor this Sunday, Jan. 21, at the church.

"I'm excited about being in this community," said Palen in an interview shortly after her arrival. She replaces Robert Morton-Ranney, who served 17 years as minister at CBC. Palen is already busy meeting church members, familiarizing herself with the office, and honing her opening address to the congregation.

Palen traveled to Rhode Island three times and gave two sermons, one in Wakefield and one here on the island, before her final move. "What impressed me most about the congregation was the amount of caring and introspection," Palen said of the Jamestown CBC members.

Palen reflected on her theological journey and expressed hopes for her ministry. "One thing I resonate is that everyone has a calling," she said, emphasizing the importance of listening to each individual and offering support. "I come with a hope that the congregation will continue to offer a place where people come and explore their own path."

Palen grew up in Tulsa, Okla., where she recognized a call to ministry early in her teens. With a bachelor's degree in journalism - with honors - from Oklahoma Baptist University, Palen began her career in public relations, moving on to become the director of information services for the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.

While serving on a search committee for a new pastor in the District of Columbia, Palen realized her calling. She left a job she loved and completed a Master of Divinity degree from the Divinity School, Yale. Her first experience serving a community was a pastoral internship in Connecticut. "Part of the graduation requirement is field placement, spending at least a year serving a congregation," she said.

John Andrews, chairman of the five-member search committee, explained the year-long journey CBC took to find a church leader. The search began with a self-study of the congregation, which included much analysis of the hopes and intentions held by every church member. Andrews said they started in January of last year with a "progressive dinner," where 40 to 50 people would meet for a first course, break into small groups that would go to different houses for the main meal, and then meet back together for dessert. The committee went on to interview each member of the congregation over the next few months. By April, the committee completed a self-study document, based on detailed individual and group conversations, which was then distributed to the congregation.

The committee continued the process by identifying places to post the opening. Palen found the posting through a divinity network, and sent a letter and resume to CBC.

Palen shined like a beacon through a prescreening of about 125 resumes. The search committee unanimously recommended Palen, chosen from a final list of 10 candidates.

The self-study document, which summarizes major themes gleaned from congregational dialogues, can be found in full on CBC's Web site at www.jamestownri.com/centralbaptist.

Palen is looking forward to settling on the island, and will bring her dog Max, a terrier mix, to live with her "when I have a house." Max is patiently waiting in Oklahoma with Palen's mother, who is caring for him.

The new minister may be reached at the CBC office, 423- 1651.

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