The Rev. Dr. Kathleen Kind's call on her life surfaced in an unusual way.
The new superintendent for the Altoona District of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church grew up in a family that had a strong Christian faith.
"My father had us at church whenever the doors were open," Kind said.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) The Rev. Dr. Kathleen Kind works in her office at the Meadows Intersection, Duncansville. Kind is the new superintendent for the Altoona District of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Yet, when it came to considering a career, Christian ministry was not her first choice.
As a teenager, she had set her sights on being a lawyer.
She grew up in Chambersburg and attended Gettysburg High School where she was on the speech and debate team. During her junior year, a teacher approached her about an opportunity to go to California where she would learn the skills to do voice overs for TV and movies.
Kind still remembers the incident.
She blurted out, "I can't. I am going to work for the church."
The utterance surprised her. It almost seemed like it was someone else's voice. Yet, the words were heartfelt. Others who were close to her at the time her senior pastor, youth pastor and peers perceived that her future would involved Christian work.
During her days studying for her undergraduate degree at Huntington University in Huntington, Ind., the picture of her spiritual call became clearer.
She would be a pastor.
After acquiring her bachelor's degree, Kind attended Wesley Theological Seminary where she earned her Master of Divinity degree and eventually her Doctorate of Divinity.
She was at home in Selingsgrove working on her dissertation in the spring when she got another kind of call.
Her cell phone rang.
It was Bishop Jane Allen Middleton who informed Kind that she was being appointed as superintendent for the Altoona District.
"I began to stammer," Kind said. "It was a huge leap of faith for me."
She said she asked Middleton, who is now retired, what her role would be and what skill set she would need to do the job.
Middleton responded that Kind had the church experience and personality for the position. She told me it was the right time for me to serve in this way, Kind said.
Jerry Wolgemuth, director of communications for the Susquehanna Conference, said he has known Kind since 1997 and worked with her concerning responding to the media when some members of the Selingsgrove church were injured during an explosion on a missions trip to Uganda a few years ago.
"I have always admired Kathy's spirit and her abilities," he said. "And her graciousness. She is a very gracious person. People enjoy talking to her. She is well loved."
Kind, who has been under appointment of the United Methodist Church for 15 years, has pastored churches in Littlestown, Lock Haven and Selingsgrove where attendance ranged from about 100 to 260 people, depending on the church.
Now she oversees 140 United Methodist churches in the Altoona District which covers Blair and parts of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon and Clearfield counties.
Much of her work involves supporting pastors as they serve "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world," Kind said.
As a new superintendent, she is getting acquainted with them and their congregations by visiting a church or two every weekend, a task that is expected to take more than two years.
One of her goals is to make sure pastors are equipped to be the best leaders that they can be in their communities.
Kind said pastors are very bright and teachable, but the expectations for their roles have changed. "Pastors have to be skilled in many different ways. It is not sufficient for them to just be able to preach a sermon," she said.
They have to navigate how the economy impacts their churches' finances and to be able to manage their churches' responsibilities while taking care of themselves and devoting time to their families, she said.
"They have to balance their time so they don't burn out," Kind said."The increasing demands on their time is incredible."
Their roles as spiritual leaders also can be challenging in a society where people attend church irregularly or not at all.
"The need for Jesus Christ has not gone away. It is the acknowledgement of that need that has gone away," she said.
"Not everyone experiences a Christian worldview anymore," Kind said.
She said part of the problem is because people have perceived the church as judgmental and hypocritical.
"That's not who we are," she said. "All are welcome."
For those who do attend, she said being connected to a church is not what it once was. A cultural shift has occurred. The community of faith, like others in the culture, have little down time or family time which is so precious to them, Kind said.
"We get to church here and there. Attendance is not consistent," she said.
As a way of breaking down the misconceptions about a life of faith, she said churches in the district are reaching out to people. A church providing new shoes for children or one that offered a fantasy football league in their communities were two the examples that she recalled.
She also mentioned the district's outreaches through its Mission Central HUB, a division of Mission Central in Mechanicsburg that is affiliated with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Volunteers in Mission teams. The HUB assembles kits to assist victims of disasters and VIM teams help families rebuild their homes after a natural disaster.
Kind said she is proud of the churches in the Altoona District and the ways they support individuals and represent Christ in measurable and perhaps not so measurable ways.
She related how a 17-year-old girl wanted to join a church, but struggled with attending confirmation classes where most of the students were four or five years younger than she was.
The pastor addressed her concerns by meeting with her one-on-one, where the teen felt more comfortable and could ask questions she had about faith.
The teen did join the church.
"There are signs of life, vitality in the church," Kind said.