First Presbyterian Church of Gouverneur welcomes new Pastor.

by Rachel Hunter - Gouverneur Tribune Press, Friday, June 25, 2021


The First Presbyterian Church of Gouverneur has welcomed a new pastor. The Rev. Betsy Westman was installed at the Theresa Presbyterian Church in 2018. It is a three-quarter time call. In June, she began her pastoral role at the First Presbyterian Church of Gouverneur, a quarter-time under contract.


The Rev. Betsy Westman has a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Food and Business and minoring in Business Economics, from SUNY Oneonta. "The leap over to ministry is not that big of a leap," she said. "It takes that same type of skillset of leadership and training and those types of things."

The Rev. Westman was ordained in the Reformed Church of America. Through ordination in the RCA, according to the Formula of Agreement between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, the Rev. Westman said she could serve in any of the aforementioned churches. "I did all my training through the Reformed Church," she said. "I started out as a preaching elder. I did three years of training, and had a commission, and was doing pulpit supply mostly in the Mohawk Valley.

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), they have what is called presbyteries of the Reformed Church, and we have what is called "classis," the old Dutch word meaning "fleet of ships." So, the churches composed that classis, and so I would pulpit supply within the Montgomery classis as well as Schoharie and sometimes Schenectady. It was fun, it was good ... however, it always felt like God was calling me to do more."

The Rev. Westman said she used the non-traditional route, the RCA's Approved Alternate Route, which recognizes a candidate's call to ministry as well as life experience, age, and more.


"It did take three years through Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich.," the Rev. Westman said. "So, I had masters-level training and skill. I tested within my classes with the committee for the approved alternate route. There are eight sections that you have to test out on. They are both written and verbal. Basically, you can do everything in writing. Everything gets critiqued, if you will, and then you have this final interview process where basically you defend yourself. Even though you could test out really well in one of those sections, that didn't mean that you weren't going to be asked questions. So any eight of those topics were fair game. "So, all of that being done, I did receive my Certificate of Fitness for Ministry, and that's what all pastors, all reverends need. The second piece of that is that in order to receive your ordination, you need to have a call. You have to have a place to go to. That search went on, and it was a match between Theresa and me after going through that search committee process. My ordination was July 22, 2018."


The Rev. Westman said she enjoys village life, and meeting people in the local community.

In an interview this week with the Gouverneur Tribune Press, the Rev. Westman said: "I now have my feet on the ground here, and look forward to meeting more of the community, hearing more of the needs and the stories of what is happening."


The Rev. Westman said she looks forward to leading the church in "living out the gospel" by following Jesus' directive in Matthew 28:18-20, which says the following: "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age."


In this time of assessment, the Rev. Westman said she'll be asking how First Presbyterian Church is being faithful in following Jesus' directive as well as the mission statement of the church. "How  are we faithfully living out our command to go?" she asked. "How are we sharing God's love, sharing God's grace. How are we building relationships in Gouverneur and the surrounding communities?"


"How are we going to engage with the community and the world in the reality that U.S. is a mission field? That is to say, people are coming here to do the mission. Well, we have churches here ... What are we missing? The world goes in a fast trajectory while the church sometimes comes along after the fact. So, how are we going to connect? If people aren't looking for a church... Churches are seen as an organization. lf that is not something that people are looking for, what does that mean for the life of the church? My wheels are always spinning...


"What does it mean to maybe rent out one of the storefronts, and offer it up as a coffee shop where people could just drop in? There's coffee, tea, maybe baked goods and there's a time for people to gather and have community fellowship. What does it mean for people in the area to go in and bring their bagged lunch, to go over and sit and read or whatever?


"I am trying to make some connections ... What are the needs in Gouverneur? How do we have conversations with school districts, case workers and Social Services, and say: “What do we need?” I just met with the fellow from Job Corps, and he’s been in the area. So, how do we make those partnerships? How do we get a safety net out and under before there is something disastrous that we have to respond to…


“Right now, it is just all about assessing things, and saying: Where are we? Change is difficult. It ruffles feathers. It becomes a challenge. It becomes a resistance, as opposed to being prayer and saying, “God where are you sending us, what are you calling us to do?” How are we going to be going forward as First Presbyterian Church of Gouverneur?”


The Rev. Westman said she is excited about all the possibilities that are in the future for the First Presbyterian Church of Gouverneur.


The First Presbyterian Church of Gouverneur was founded in 1817, and the congregation is celebrating over 200 years of God’s blessing. In 2015, the church and the Manse (Gouverneur Museum) received a designation on the National Register of Historical Places. Worship service starts at 10 AM on Sundays. The Rev. Westman will also hold office hours during the week. For more information, call the church office at 315-287-0560.