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Jill Komura helps people address transitions as they age

The PNC’s delegates to the national UCC General Synod June 30 to July 4 in Baltimore bring varied backgrounds and perspectives of ministry.

Jill Komura was at Annual Meeting in 2015.

Along with Conference Minister Mike Denton, Church Vitality Minister Courtney Stange-Tregear and PNC moderator Peter Ilgenfritz, other delegates are Jill Komura of United Churches of Olympia, Nathaniel Malkberg of First Congregational UCC in Walla Walla, Kyna Shilling of Plymouth UCC in Seattle, and Emma Ritchie of Bellingham (who was not available).

As Jill Komura’s education and career path has taken her through teaching history, practicing law, seminary studies and chaplaincy, she now is settled in Olympia and involved with the United Churches of Olympia.

Along with concern about helping people address life changes as they age and addressing justice issues in the state capitol, her ministry with the United Churches is as administrative pastor, which focuses on the business and property management side of church life, as well as being available for pastoral needs of people in transition.

“Many move to Olympia to downsize and retire.  There is grief associated with the life transitions, particularly changes with aging, bodies deteriorating, spouses sick and dealing with dementia,” she said.

Focusing on people in one church, she said, is an extension of her goal to be a chaplain/pastoral counselor.

She also connects the downtown church across the street from the State Capitol building to the community, supporting groups doing justice and witness work.

Jill, who grew up in Ojai, Calif., earned a bachelor’s degree in 1985 in history and English at the University of California in Davis, followed by a law degree in 1988 at the University of Washington.

She worked at a law firm in Los Angeles, but found law not to her liking, so she moved to Baltimore, taught high school history and moved into counseling because of the emotional issues the students  faced.

Jill earned a master’s in counseling at Johns Hopkins University before going in 1998 to teach at Chewonki, an environmental education organization in Wiscasset, Maine, teaching high school juniors.

In her four years there, she connected students to stewardship of the natural world.

With grandparents and parents aging and dying, she returned to the West Coast to be near them. In 2002, he settled in Seattle, where she joined University Congregational UCC, having been involved in Congregational churches in Maine.

While there, she began seminary at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, working on a master of divinity degree and in care with a number of others who attended that church.  She taught part time at a private nonprofit school, while attending seminary, graduating in 2009.

After Seattle University, she began in the clinical pastoral education program with the goal of being a chaplain.

After being ordained she moved to Olympia in 2010, following love and marrying Debbie Leung.  She began at United Churches of Olympia as interim associate part time and is now administrative pastor.  She completed clinical pastoral education and became a board certified chaplain in 2013.  Her goal had been to be a pastoral counselor, but she decided to stay at United Churches, serving through several pastoral transitions.

“Many chaplains focus on health care or the institutional world in which they work—hospitals or prisons—rather than denominational polity matters,” she said.  “It’s more an issue for chaplains in the current health care environment. As health care providers consolidate and merge, chaplains are caught in a constantly changing work place. In many hospitals, chaplain positions have been cut or downgraded to per diem on contract employees, with spiritual care seen as ‘fat’ that needs to be cut.

“Many health care decision makers in our secular society have no idea what chaplains do,” she said.

Even some of the health care systems with faith-based origins have shifted their commitment to spiritual care.  Some have eliminated spiritual care as an independently managed department and now manage their chaplains under nursing or social work.

“Too often, chaplains don’t have the opportunity to justify their professional existence or have time to provide evidence of how spiritual care is contributing ‘added value’ to positive patient outcomes,” Jill said.

Jill also facilitates one of the Clergy Communities of Practice, a group of chaplains and pastoral counselors.

“In addition to dealing with increased pressures from changes in health care, they deal with people in crisis and need all day, and really need time to share—a safe, healthy place to decompress away from their work place with folks doing similar work,” she said. “I hope the PNC will continue to support the Communities of Practice program to support professional sustainability for ministers.”

At General Synod, she expects to learn more about the realities of changing UCC polity at the national level, ahd she looks forward to gathering with UCC people from across the country, representing the PNC.

For information, call 360-701-6735.or email jill@theunited

For information, call 360-701-6735.or email jill@theunited


Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News © April 2017


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