By RICK COUSINS – Galveston Daily News
A tautology is a statement that cannot be false. One common example is the rhetorical question, “Is the Pope Catholic?” But asking whether the new interim minister of Galveston’s 175-year-old First Lutheran Church is Lutheran is an exception to this pattern. That’s because the Rev. Helen Rose Moore, who now leads First Lutheran was born and bred Presbyterian. She has recently led both Presbyterian and Methodist churches before stepping into the historic pulpit here.
“The PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA) and the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) are in full communion with each other, so our churches fully recognize each other’s sacraments and clergy,” Moore said. “I’m on my third ecumenical assignment here.”
Moore did not initially aim for a career in ministry. The touchstone for her was a summer volunteer slot between her sophomore and junior years in college when she noticed that her immediate supervisors in church work were, for the first time, other women.
“That opened up a whole new world for me,” she said. “I wanted to invest in seminary after that, but when I graduated I didn’t pursue it immediately, because raising my children was my first priority. After they were both in school, I became a candidate (for ordination.)”
Kurt Koopmann is one of the reasons Moore is here. He is president of the vestry or leadership council at First Lutheran. He went to great lengths to find just the right person to take the reins when the longtime pastor, Doug Guthier, retired last year.
“I must say I was taken aback when the synod first informed me that the person they were recommending for interim was an ordained Presbyterian minister,” Koopmann said. “Knowing this, I called many references and received nothing but glowing comments.”
“The local Presbyterian leaders also highly recommended her. It has been one of my greatest pleasures getting to know Helen Rose. She has a calming nature in all of her interactions with members.”
If that’s not enough, Moore holds master’s degrees in both theology and family therapy. She’s also a licensed counselor and a hospital chaplain, a vocation she recommends to other clergy.
“As a hospital chaplain, I look back to my father who was a surgeon and my mother who was a registered nurse,” she said. “I’ve also been a hospice chaplain for years and I’m comfortable being around intensive care and part of the team.
“Pastors can become comfortable with these situations through specialized training.”
Moore lives in Clear Lake and commutes to the island, but said that when she is here she loves both the beautiful beach and abundant restaurants.
Longtime church vestry member George Black said Moore was taking on one of the toughest assignments that clergy could ever face.
“Helping a congregation transition to a new faith leader — that is the role, the calling that she has chosen for her life and ministry,” Black said.
“The first thing a congregation in this situation must realize is that they, and not the minister, are responsible for their future.”
“Helen Rose is uniquely qualified to empower the people of First Lutheran to ascend to that role. She is kind, loving, a bit lighthearted and joking, but also very strong and forceful in guiding folks to the proper direction.”
So it is the nature of Moore’s calling that no matter how well she does here, she will be on to another interim assignment, probably in a year or so. She’s already told her new congregation, “The Good Lord has already selected the next pastor for First. It is just up to you, the membership, to find that person and issue the call.”
As for her future here at First Lutheran, Moore said, “I’m on steep learning curve here, but the people have been incredibly welcoming. There is much more at First than its Oktoberfest. It’s a community of faithful folks. There is a place of all people here and a commitment to expand our ministry to the community here. All who want to help are welcome to become a part of this wonderful church.”
Rick Cousins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org