2006.11.29: November 29, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: Relgion: Gladwin County Record: Ethiopia RPCV Karen Blatt is Minister of Beavertonís First Presbyterian Church

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ethiopia: Peace Corps Ethiopia : Peace Corps Ethiopia: Newest Stories: 2006.11.29: November 29, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: Relgion: Gladwin County Record: Ethiopia RPCV Karen Blatt is Minister of Beavertonís First Presbyterian Church

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Ethiopia RPCV Karen Blatt is Minister of Beavertonís First Presbyterian Church

Ethiopia RPCV Karen Blatt is  Minister of Beavertonís First Presbyterian Church

"The language where I was in Ethiopia didnít translate well to English, but I learned it well enough to dream in their language. Try explaining a dream to someone that has no words and concepts that adequately describe your dream. Some people want everyone to believe in the Ďliteral translationí of the Bible. Yes, we have faith and believe in the words but we must also understand that those words were written in languages we are still literally translating today. And some of those words just donít translate very well or not at all."

Ethiopia RPCV Karen Blatt is Minister of Beavertonís First Presbyterian Church

Confronting the burning bush
Rick Off The Record

The Rev. Karen Blatt lights a candle at the altar at Beavertonís First Presbyterian Church.

By Rick Sigsby, sigsby@ejourney.com
Gladwin County Record

How does a girl born and raised in the corn country of Illinois end up the Minister of Beavertonís First Presbyterian Church? The answer is quite logical when you hear Karen Blattís adventuresome explanation.

Educated all the way to an advanced degree in the land of Lincoln, Karenís first adventure was as a teacher and social educator in central Africa with the Peace Corps. She followed that with a 37-year stint as a social studies teacher in the northwest suburbs of Chicago Ė by most standards, a nice career. But a new adventure loomed on the horizon.

When she finally, as she puts it, ďdecided what I really wanted to do when I grew up,Ē Karen made the decision at age 55 to go to the Seminary. Because that would require a full-time commitment, Karen took her retirement from teaching high school to pursue another teaching venue, that of a Presbyterian minister.

She enrolled in the McCormick Theologian Seminary in Chicago. Upon graduation and ordination she was "called" by the congregation in Beaverton. Another adventure beganÖ

ROR: Had you ever been to this area before coming to Beaverton?

Karen: (laughing) Iíve never even been to Detroit! My roots are in an agricultural community similar to Beaverton. They were celebrating a new traffic light in Beaverton the day I interviewed for the job here.

ROR: What is the biggest difference, other than size being the obvious, between the Chicago area and Beaverton?

Karen: I started teaching school in the Woodfield area of northwest Chicago, which never had a village. It was planned and developed for housing Ė a suburb. Most people there have no sense of community. They may only know their immediate neighbors. Here people identify with each other. Roads are named after founding families and people share a collective togetherness. Thatís what I love about this place.

ROR: Have you experienced any pleasant surprises since you moved here?

Karen: The congregation wanted someone who would be willing to get involved in the community. I enjoy that part of my job immensely which is why Iím involved with the Chamber of Commerce, the Human Services Coordinating Board and the Ministerial Association. But one of the perks of my job is automatic membership into the Beaverton Lions Club. Iím one of only two women members. I donít hunt but I go to every one of their wild game dinners.

ROR: Do you see a correlation between the sense of community and a level of faith?

Karen: Itís easy to just say yes but thereís really more to the issue. I moved to Elgin, Illinois in 1985 (still in the northwest Chicago area) and immediately saw this sense of community there. Churches play a major role in this development. In Gladwin County there are about 40 different groups that would be considered a faith community. Thatís a tremendous presence of faith here which I think is a significant underpinning reason why people care about each other.

ROR: Did this sense of community draw you to the Seminary or did you see and speak to the burning bush (God)?

Karen: No, I never saw the burning bush but I do speak to Him everyday. Several factors led me to the Seminary. One was I couldnít see myself retiring from teaching with nothing to do. Second, I am a people person Ė I studied the social sciences. So the fact that I love teaching and I love people made this service a great second career.

ROR: Despite a relatively large number of faith communities, why arenít more people going to church?

Karen: We live in a time period where there are more and more non-churched people, which brings up interesting problems. For instance, what do these people do when they want to get married or there is a death in the family? Where do they go to celebrate these lives? Humans are hard-wired for faith. But we also live in a busy time Ė people feel they are too busy for church. Give me a break! Get your priorities straight, people.

ROR: Is there a scripture that addresses this problem Ė being too busy for church?

Karen: Ephesians 3:20-21, ďNow to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or conceive, by the power which is at work among us, to him be glory in the churchÖĒ

What this says is itís good to value yourself, your family, your community but by working through Him and your church, you can receive abundance that far exceeds any goal you may attempt on your own.

ROR: What does faith mean to you?

Karen: In the Christian context, to believe is to understand you are on a faith journey, which leads to spiritual maturity. As we grow spiritually we ask questions Ė why am I here; where is God; what is death; why do bad things happen to good people? Faith helps us find and deal with the answers.

ROR: Being a woman, have you been confronted with problems in a profession dominated by men?

Karen: Not really. In our denomination, the Presbyterians allow women to be Elders, which run the church. There are however other denominations that feel being an ordained minister shouldnít be a womanís chosen profession. But the reality is that without women in the church, many congregations wouldnít have anyone to lead them. One concern I see with a woman in a leadership position is men may be stepping back and not fulfilling their roles in the church.

ROR: So is it possible God could be a woman?

Karen: Thatís actually a non-question because God is so far beyond anything we can imagine. God is everything; so letís not reduce it down to something God is not, like being a man or woman. You mentioned the burning bush earlier. When Moses saw it he said, ĎWho shall I tell them has sent me,í and He said, ĎI am who I am. I am.í Thatís enough for me.

ROR: People have always struggled with the literal translation of the Bible and languages in general. Did you have translation problems in the Peace Corps in Africa?

Karen: This is an interesting example of the problems we encounter with translating languages. The language where I was in Ethiopia didnít translate well to English, but I learned it well enough to dream in their language. Try explaining a dream to someone that has no words and concepts that adequately describe your dream. Some people want everyone to believe in the Ďliteral translationí of the Bible. Yes, we have faith and believe in the words but we must also understand that those words were written in languages we are still literally translating today. And some of those words just donít translate very well or not at all.

ROR: You mentioned people being hard-wired for faith. What did you mean?

Karen: Our DNA gives us the ability to learn. Children have the capacity for wonderment Ė thatís how you begin teaching them about faith. We are capable of learning about God even though we may not necessarily understand it all, but we still believe. A friend of mine has a slogan that I just love. It says ĎGod Doesnít Make Junk.í Isnít that a great place to start?

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Headlines: November, 2006; Peace Corps Ethiopia; Directory of Ethiopia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Ethiopia RPCVs; Religion; Michigan

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Story Source: Gladwin County Record

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