Sees compassion as a key to problem-solving
By Ashley Lodato
Rev. Kim Poole, who was appointed as pastor at the Methow Valley United Methodist Church last July, says her intention with her sermons at her new church is to inspire people through explanation and education.
“I like to ask the questions and continue the dialog,” says Poole.
Poole, who will celebrate 39 years of ordination in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this May, grew up thinking she would be a pharmacist. Indeed, she earned a pharmacy degree and over the years has worked on and off in pharmacies.
But after what she refers to as “preparation for the call”—the evolution of her faith beginning as a young child and continuing through working as a youth pastor—Poole was encouraged by a pastor to attend seminary.
“I thought about it for one day and then contacted the seminary,” she says, “and it turned out that classes were beginning two days later. That to me was a pretty clear sign.” Poole enrolled and soon became one of two female United Methodist ministers out of 228 in the entire Texas Panhandle.
Things are different now, Poole says, with the number of men and woman pastors in the United Methodist Church roughly equal. “It’s a sign of the times,” she says, “but also particular to this region of the country.” Northwest Texas, where Poole was raised, still has fewer than 20 clergywomen.
Poole is the first female pastor of the Methow Valley United Methodist Church, but doesn’t think that fact has been challenging to anyone in the congregation. “They’re progressive thinkers,” she adds, noting that in places like the Methow Valley, people are used to women rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done.
Before coming to the Methow Valley, Poole was a pastor in Everett for three years, after spending some time in Oklahoma working as a pharmacist “to see if I could live in that part of the country again.” (“I couldn’t,” she adds.) Before that, Poole spent 20 years as a missionary for the UMC in Juneau, Alaska.
Poole loved her work in Juneau, but says “in Juneau we had two seasons: rain and not rain.” Poole missed a four-season climate and thus is delighted to be in the Methow Valley, where she has so far experienced summer, fall and winter, and eagerly anticipates spring.
Poole appreciates the small Methow Valley community and her intimate congregation. But the wider community outside her congregation is something she thinks about a lot as well.
“One of my goals everywhere I go is to try to work within the larger area population to strengthen individual communities,” she says, noting that “every community has its challenges and its assets.”
Poole says she sees compassion as a state of being that we need to work towards embodying. Poole envisions a Methow Valley that is renowned for its compassion, the evidence of which would be some of our greatest challenges simply ceasing to be problems.
“If we were all compassionate the way I understand compassion,” says Poole, “the drug problem we have here would not exist and affordable housing would be in place. The biggest threats to our community would fall away. I’m passionate enough to believe that’s possible.”
Poole notes that as she is a relative newcomer to the Methow Valley, she’s still figuring things out. “In small communities, you’re either new or you’re not,” she says, “and I’m not sure when you stop being new.” She’s been here long enough to have identified some places she can fit in, but not long enough to know all the people who can be key players in her goals for her church and the community.
When asked about the role of the church in people’s lives today, Poole asks a question: “Where do we go in today’s society to learn to do better and be better?” Poole believes that this practice should begin in schools and continue into churches and other community groups, supported by families. “We’re certainly not learning to be better through social media,” she adds.
Poole’s view of practicing her faith is encompassing. She sees her calling to God as a mandate to be a prophetic voice in whatever she does: sharing God’s voice in a contemporary world. Although Poole has spent several short stints in retirement and has kept current as a pharmacist, she says she has never really left the church. “Even when you retire or work in a different field,” she says, “the call to ministry is something you never really lose.”
Service at the Methow Valley United Methodist Church is held Sundays at 10 a.m. All are welcome to attend.