KENMARE Although Pastor Kathy Hammond has served her first parish less than a year, she has been ministering to people for much of her life.
Hammond, a North Dakota farm girl who went on to develop a long and diverse resume, considers her life experiences as valuable preparation for her work with the Des Lacs Valley Parish of the United Methodist Church. The parish has churches in Kenmare, Donnybrook and Bowbells.
"I feel like life has given me a certain amount of education. There's a practical wisdom in that," she said.
Jill Schramm/MDN •
Pastor Kathy Hammond opens a song book at the start of a Bible study at the Kenmare Community Hospital’s nursing home April 3.
Her first real-world education was in broadcasting after getting her degree from Brown Institute in Minneapolis.
"When I was college age, being a minister still wasn't something many women considered as a vocation. But there were lots of Christian radio stations at the time. I thought, well, I could get into Christian communications, but life took me in funny directions. I ended up in very secular broadcasting in California," she said.
Hammond worked as a disc jockey at a San Diego radio station. Over the years, she's lived in Nebraska, Wisconsin and Arizona. She's worked for a newspaper, a department store and in the office at a small college. She's been an optician, child-care provider, travel agent, student at Mayville State University and Minot State University and instructor teaching English as a second language. She worked for the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities, as church secretary for Faith United Methodist Church and as director for United Campus Ministries at Minot State University, all in Minot.
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Her experiences have shown her that ministry can happen anywhere, even in a J.C. Penney store. As a sales associate for a store in Minnesota, Hammond had been approached for help by a woman looking to buy burial clothes for her 18-year-old son who had died. Hammond's kindness and compassion in helping find the right clothes meant a great deal to the grieving mother and convinced Hammond that ministry is not limited to pastors.
"That's my call is to help people see that wherever you are, you are a minister," Hammond said.
The call that drew her into pastoral ministry began to form when her church in Minot, Vincent United Methodist, asked her to become a parish visitor. That led to conducting Sunday services at Bantry United Methodist Church for six years. She took a clinical pastoral course through Trinity Health and from there, she said, it was a natural progression into full-time ministry.
Hammond is nearing completion of a five-year, distance education course offered at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago. She takes a month of intensive training at the seminary in the summer and completes other readings and writings during the year from her home.
After United Campus Ministries closed, the United Methodist Church asked Hammond to take the position with Des Lacs Valley Parish. Becoming a pastor had interested her for some time, but family responsibilities had held her back. However, with her son, Chad, grown and enrolled at Minot State University, the offer of a parish seemed God-sent. Her husband, Wylie, who directs the Native American Center and Multicultural Center at MSU, encouraged her to take the new job.
Hammond joined the parish June 29, 2008. She lives in Bowbells, and she and her family commute regularly to see each other.
"If I am going to be a full-time minister, I need to live in the community I am working in. That's the only way you really become connected to the people," Hammond said.
Having grown-up in a three-point parish, Hammond is comfortable with the demands of serving in triplicate.
"It is very busy. I feel very blessed to be here. God is good," she said. She doesn't mind the driving between churches on Sunday mornings.
"It's such a beautiful drive, and you feel so connected with God's creation by the time you get to the next church," she said.
The drawback is having to rush out the door after one service to get the next because she misses the post-service fellowship.
"Sometimes you have to create opportunities," Hammond said of fellowship, citing the church-cleaning suppers and Wednesday night Sunday school that enable her to get to know her church family.
She's enjoyed seeing how the parish members support each other but also how the churches show their individuality.
"Every congregation is different," she added. "Their needs are different. The way I preach in Kenmare is not going to be the same way I relate to the other two churches."
Although the churches are small, each one is important, Hammond said. They are positioned to respond to needs in their communities and they give members a sense of connectedness, she said.
"We are communal people. I think it's very important that people have worship in their communities, in places that are familiar," she said. "A big part of belonging to a church is your sense of ownership."
Small churches also can have a big ministry through joining with other local congregations or by begin part of a larger denomination that can reach out to have an impact on the world, Hammond said. Her parish helps support a ministry on the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota and is part of larger Methodist relief efforts.
Hammond's biggest concern about the rural parish when she arrived was how it would accept its first female minister. She quickly found she had nothing to worry about.
As a woman, she said, she has unique opportunities to minister, especially to other women. She treasures those times when she is invited to care for people in times of deepest need or share their greatest joys.
"As a minister, one of the most humbling things is that you are trusted with people's most intimate moments," she said. "When someone dies in a family and you are called and you are present with people in the most personal moment of their lives, that's a real honor."