By DAN MUCKELBAUER Daily News
Consider it a mother daughter bonding with ministers asking questions while the whole church watches.
With about a dozen Congregational Church delegates conducting the ordination exam from throughout southern Wisconsin, “it’s kind of a big deal for our church,” said Bob Laubenheimer, a St. Jacobi council member.
Should she be approved Saturday during the vicinage council, Associate Pastor Pam Viets will share the title of “reverend” with her daughter, the Rev. Hillary Bowser, 34, who happens to be her senior at the church.
Don’t expect tiffs between the part-time pastors. “My mom and I are very close. Things work very well,” Bowser said.
The working relationship began about 16 months ago with the birth of Bowser’s second child. She lives in Muskego with her husband and works roughly 20 hours a week in a widely varying schedule that gives her time with her young family.
“I was in the church for about seven years before she started getting involved. She was looking for a place for her skills to grow and I needed the help,” said Bowser, who was hired about nine years ago.
“We started talking about the needs of the church and her needs and it all fell into place.”
For Viets, it was continuing ministering opportunities that began in 2000 after talking with her pastor’s wife from North Shore Congregational Church in Fox Point. She began with a ministry on dying and worked with Alzheimer’s patients.
“I have always been called to ministering older people,” Viets said. She began delivering sermons at Tudor Oaks nursing home.
“I love leading worship,” Viets said. “I never thought I would love writing sermons so much.”
The daughter-mother team has given the church security in its pastoral leadership, said Laubenheimer, who has been on the council for almost 20 years.
Like at many other small churches, he said the duties include leading worship service, visiting members at home and in the hospital, planning Bible studies, helping with youth education, and contributing to local mission work and church activities, such as the recent fundraiser for the Griebel children, whose parents died April 25 in a car crash.
Viets, who lives in Shorewood with her husband, preaches once or twice a month, Bowser said.
“And she’s available for counsel. Some members are more comfortable with her than me, which I understand because she’s where I go to first for counsel,” Bowser said.
Viets, who brought up her four children in a Christian home, encouraged Bowser’s decision to continue her education at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Both of her parents helped her in every way into the ministry after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks left Bowser reflecting about what’s important in life during her final year of earning a bachelor’s in international business at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
Meanwhile, her mother pursued a clinical pastoral education over the years, receiving her divinity degree last month from Central Baptist Theological Seminary based in Shawnee, Kansas, with a satellite in Elm Grove.
“I’m 70 years old. At that time most people are retired, but it is refreshing to study at that age,” said Viets, a former school teacher, who moved often with her academic husband, Hermann Viets, president of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, “And I’ve been involved in ministry my whole life. My whole goal was to make myself better at each step.”
Her mom’s journey into pastoral care was “probably imprinted in her DNA,” Bowser said.
Sue Laubenheimer, wife of Bob Laubenheimer, said she sees how smoothly the schedule functions for the two women and the benefit for the church.
It’s also reflective of the church. “At St. Jacobi, everyone truly loves each other. We are a family,” Sue Laubenheimer said.
With the pastoral team, that’s a truth.