Steve Boorsma, the new pastor of St. John United Church of Christ in Valmeyer, is a man who readily admits his faults, being a Cubs fan chief among them.
The Valmeyer church recently selected the Chicago area native after two and a half years of being without a resident pastor. Former St. John UCC pastor David Riebeling retired after nearly 30 years of pastoring there.
“I’m no more faithful than anyone else,” Boorsma said, but knows he “can walk with this congregation.”
Boorsma’s down-to-earth nature is part of what made the St. John UCC selection committee take notice.
“It was just like he was one of us,” said Pat Garleb, a member of the committee who chose Boorsma. “It’s like he was family. He stood what we stood for.”
“I’m just glad we got Pastor Steve,” Garleb continued. “We always knew the Lord was driving us in the right direction,” she said, referring to the church’s decision to carry on after the Flood of 1993 devastated the village and now the decision to hire Boorsma. “He will be good for our church family.”
Boorsma is no stranger to church calamity. He pastored a small church that was destroyed by a fire. He sees similarities in the Valmeyer congregation.
“These are a group of people who saw ‘this is not the end’” after the flood, Boorsma said of his new flock.
He was a physical education teacher for a short time and a social worker before attending seminary at the age of 30.
During his time as a “family development specialist” case worker, he saw a common theme that inspired him to seek a role in ministry.
“Family plus church equals success,” Boorsma said, explaining that “God guides our lives but gives us wisdom to make choices.”
He also credits his wife of 38 years for guidance. They have three children.
During seminary, he was a student pastor at Zion-St. Paul UCC in Bay, Mo., a rural community near Hermann, Mo. After that he pastored in two churches in northern Illinois and one in Trenton.
“I’ve lived a lot of places, but I’m always from Chicago,” Boorsma said, also clarifying he will be a Valmeyer Pirates fan despite residing in Waterloo.
He was being courted by a church in Salt Lake City near where one of his sons lives, but Boorsma said the church “really didn’t need him.”
Besides feeling “like home” to him, he said “his experience will bring something to this church” in Valmeyer.
Church member Gayle McCarthy, who led the church for over a month before the decision to hire Boorsma was made, agreed wholeheartedly.
“We are ready,” McCarthy said. “It took two and a half years to find Steve, but it’s all God’s timing.”
She also gave thanks to interim pastor Elizabeth Terrill, who is now serving in Columbia.
“She lifted us,” McCarthy said, admitting the congregation leaned heavily on Riebeling for direction. “We came through stronger” as a result of the long search for a pastor, she noted.
Garleb added the committee had “to be in total agreement” when selecting a new pastor, and they all found Boorsma to be the voice they needed.
Boorsma was glad that the search committee was not looking for a pastor who would replicate Riebeling’s leadership style.
“I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a different set of eyes. Ministry is often a lonely business because you need to establish boundaries,” Boorsma said.
He described himself as a collaborative pastor that will guide the church with the help of the congregation.
“My job is to bring ideas,” Boorsma said. “We will thrive and fail together.”
He also wants to bring people together, no matter the background.
“In the climate today, it’s easy to find differences. Like (the apostle) Paul said, let’s find what we have in common.”
Boorsma also said his job is to create a safe space for all.
“No matter who you are,” he wants St. John’s to be a place “where folks can come and know God.”
Boorsma preached his first sermon as new pastor on Sunday.