Pastoral changes on the Peninsula


Colleen Slater, KP News

Four pulpits in Key Peninsula churches have changed hands this past year, with at least one to undergo another change this spring.

Andy Larsen has been interim pastor at Lakebay Community Church for a year, and will move on in March, when a new pastor comes aboard. He says the Lakebay Community Church is a welcoming, friendly, unpretentious congregation that cares about its community.

Larsen, raised in University Place, has traveled the world in mission work, including 11 years with the Department of World Mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). In Monterrey, Mexico, a city of 4 million people, Larsen and his wife, Carol, started two congregations, working with a national missionary church-planting team. They also organized Bible studies, short-term mission projects and ecumenical outreach. Other cross-cultural mission work has taken them to Russia, Guatemala, Hawaii and Asia.

Larsen arrived in Lakebay last January, after serving as pastor of adult ministries to Newport Covenant Church in Bellevue for five years. This summer, Larsen, his wife and their youngest son, Erick, will travel to Spain to participate in the Mosaics Project, working with “unreached” immigrants.

Larsen’s experiences in missions and as a pastor, and Carol’s background of counseling and teaching English to speakers of other languages will serve them well in this new endeavor.

Richard Hermstad, interim pastor at Key Peninsula Lutheran Church, filled the pulpit in September, and was called in October to stay for a year. Hermstad, raised in Minnesota, has served 38 years as pastor in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, and Washington. He has special training for interim pastoring, to move the church forward and refocus as needed.

KPLC is a congregation that cares about the people in the community, and advocates for the hungry and needy, he says. He cites their sharing of extra food after services, participating in I.M.Pact dinners each month, the Giving Tree at Christmas, holding an Undie Sunday for local school children, and offering McColley Hall as a community resource.

Hermstad, an accomplished musician (piano, guitar, and voice), directed choirs in two former congregations, and occasionally doubled as accompanist for a worship service.

He spent 30 years as a volunteer fireman while pastoring in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. He says he’d always wanted to drive one of those big red fire trucks, but he also wanted to demonstrate to the community he was willing to risk his life for theirs.

Married 40 years, with three adult children, Hermstad considers himself semi-retired. This position, where he is available at least three days per week, meshes well with being a part-time chaplain at Tacoma Lutheran Home.

Tim Stobbe, the youngest pastor on the Key Peninsula, was elected as senior pastor of Vaughn Community Church in September. He and wife Tina, both Canadians, met while being involved in training for Venture Team International (VTI). They studied music, drama, preaching, puppetry and other tools to help them with missionary projects.

After five months overseas — he in Mexico, and she in the Philippines — they renewed their acquaintance and went on to minister together.

Stobbe called their time with VTI “the best pre-marital counseling” available because there were lots of people interacting, like a large family where one could share feelings and ask questions.

He received his bachelor’s degree in leadership and ministry, and by spring of 2001, they felt a sense it was time to move on in their ministry. Son Isaac was 1 year old at the time. Stobbe applied to several churches in an online job bank, and within three weeks had 10 offers. He narrowed the field to four, Vaughn one of them, although Tina did not want to leave Canada.

By fall, the other three churches had stopped communicating with him without explanation. Later, reasons were acceptable, such as a computer breaking down with all information lost.

On a visit to Stobbe’s sister in Washington, they agreed to stop by Vaughn. Pastor Chuck Odegaard drove them around the peninsula, and the Stobbes wondered where all the people lived.

In November 2001, they moved to Vaughn, and since then Stobbe has gone from youth pastor, through spiritual development associate, to now senior pastor.

Vaughn Community is a church “with their arms open, welcoming everyone,” Stobbe says. They are free to be as they are, to live out the scripture of “one another” with a strong missionary influence.

Arlyce Kretschman is the new permanent part-time pastor of Longbranch Comm-unity Church. A native of New York state, she and husband Jerry followed their daughter to Washington to be close to their youngest grandchildren.

She served as senior pastor in two American Baptist churches in New York state before coming to pastor the First Baptist Church in Tacoma from 2001-2004. Under her leadership, representatives from Associated Ministries and several different churches spent nearly six years in round-table discussions to establish a new ecumenical church in Tacoma — Urban Grace: The Downtown Church. Several denominations formed this new congregation, where diversity is a hallmark.

When Kretschman retired, a friend handed her a little slip of paper stating Longbranch Community Church was looking for a pastor. She applied. Kretschman calls these last years the culmination of her life’s work, and being pastor of Longbranch her reward.

“It’s a cohesive church family... intentionally compassionate,” she says. She admires the close community that extends outward and is not only open to diversity but appreciates and celebrates it.

She always told her parishioners they could call her anytime, and since her current phone number ends in 911, she says that’s a good example of her availability to her flock.

Her passions are children — from her own grandchildren to the worldwide community — and gardening.

Kretschman and her husband have always been active in their local communities, and plan to be so on the Key Peninsula. Her installation will be held on Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. and the church invites all community members to attend.