2014-08-21 / Front Page

Central Baptist pastor resigns, accepts position in Iowa

By Tim Riel

After more than seven years preaching at Central Baptist Church, the Rev. Kathryn Palen will give her final sermon to the congregation next month.

Palen announced in a letter last week that she accepted a position in Des Moines, Iowa. She will serve as the minister of discipleship at Plymouth United Church of Christ. Her last day in Jamestown will be Sunday, Sept. 21.

“I am blessed to have so many joyful moments and places along the journey to which I have been called,” she wrote. “There, however, are also some bittersweet steps.”

Palen took over in January 2007 for Robert Morton-Ranney, who served the previous 17 years as minister of Central Baptist. A native of Tulsa, Palen graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University before accepting a position in public relations with a Christian advocacy group in Washington, D.C. She left her career to pursue a life as a pastor; Palen graduated from the Yale Divinity School.

Palen said in her resignation letter that there is “amazing leadership in place” at the church. “You will hear more about the plans for the transition in the weeks ahead, but for now, please trust that you have leaders who will serve you well.”

Palen said Deb Nordstrom and Tom Wiles will help with the changeover. Nordstrom is the church moderator, and Wiles is the executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island.

“While change brings with it uncertainty and sometimes fear or anxiety, it also offers new opportunities to discern who God is calling you to be as a community of faith,” she wrote. “So please remember that you will not face this time of change alone. God indeed will travel each step of this journey with you.”

The Plymouth congregation first gathered in Des Moines in 1857. There are 3,217 members as of May 1. The annual weekend attendance has ranged from 47,743 to 35,205 over the last decade; last year’s worship attendance was 41,030. During the 2013-14 fiscal year, Plymouth United Church of Christ hosted 46 baptisms, 18 funerals and eight weddings.

Palen finished her letter by saying that it was a “delight” to serve as pastor of Central Baptist. “You have invited me into your lives and shared yourselves in ways that have amazed and humbled me.”

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