Steve Paulson1

why westminster-Steve1
Westminster Is As Good As It Gets


Before I retired, a part of my job was to work with the Spokane

Alliance. While doing that work I met members of Westminster who were representing their church.  I had known and worked with Joe Chrastil for about ten years, but he never said much about his church. I got to know Karen Hyvonnen and Margaret Ennis through Spokane Alliance meetings.  It was through relational meetings with them that I began to admire their values. I started going to worship there and began to understand Westminster as a place where people not only declared that they believed in serving others, they actually went out and worked at serving them. They showed values that they not only talked about, but lived. These were values of inclusion, justice, service.  This certainly was a different kind of church from what I had known in the past.



Steve as past Moderator at Westminster UCC

I grew up unchurched. When Sande and I got married, we went to a Lutheran church occasionally. Later, when we moved to Spokane, we became members of a Methodist church. As my arthritis worsened, I began to need an entire weekend just to rest up to go back to work on Monday. Our church attendance was the casualty of that need. After I started a Remicade regimen for my arthritis I ceased being so exhausted and we started to go to church again. I told Sande that I wanted to go to Westminster and she agreed. It was difficult for her; she really missed the Lutheran Liturgy in which she was raised, and, finally she started to attend St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.  For quite a while, we would go to Westminster on one Sunday and St. Mark’s the next. When I became a Deacon at Westminster, that arrangement just became unworkable. So now we each have our own church and that works perfectly for us.


When I retired from the Washington Education Association, I still hung around the Spokane Alliance, but I didn’t have an affiliated institution with which I was connected. I remember sitting at a meeting at Covenant United Methodist Church. I was going to be speaking about something and I turned to Karen and asked her if it was okay that I stated I was from Westminster. She said yes and that is how I came to be connected with WestCAT.


When I began to attend Westminster full time, I began to go to the adult forum each Sunday. What I saw and heard was such a turnabout from the mental model of church that I carried in my head. I used to think that a church was all about telling you what to think; here was a church that was turning to me and saying “What do YOU think?” The message was clear: No matter where you are on your faith journey, you are welcome here. I began to realize how really diverse our faith backgrounds were and I understood that I was going to have to work out what I thought. It is a journey! Every week I come away with another facet of my faith that I had to think about and work on. There isn’t anyone to do the journey for me, but there are all sorts of people who will do the journey with me and help me along the way.



One of Steve’s hobbies is creating hand-turned writing instruments on his lathe. Here, he works his booth during the Christmas Mini-Mart


When I retired, I took up golf. I am no good at it, but I like the company of my friends and it gets me out walking, which I otherwise wouldn’t do. I began to talk with one of my golfing buddies about my church and my adult Sunday School. He decided to come and check it out. Roger is still coming and we still talk about church out on the golf course. One of the other guys that used to golf with us went to one of the modern big box churches. He once walked up to us and asked us what we were talking about we told him that we were discussing the Council of Nicea. He shook his head and walked away. It appeared to us that at his church you could just hang up your faith as you were going out the door and not think about it until the next Sunday. Westminster just isn’t like that. You have to think.


There is a line in a movie that explains a lot about why I love Westminster. It is a Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt movie and I can’t remember the name of it. Jack plays a misfit, socially inept, at times despicable character, but he falls in love with the Helen Hunt character. She gets so irritated with him sometimes that she just wants to get away from him. When she asks him why he is even interested in her he tells her “You make me want to be a much better person.” For me, that is it in a nutshell: Westminster makes me want to be a much better person.

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