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Lay leader emerges as pastor at Forks UCC

For three years, Warren Johnson, who grew up in Forks and has been in First Congregational UCC since 1980, has been lay pastor of the church.  Now he is working to be a licensed minister.

warren johnson

Warren Johnson serves as lay pastor of Forks Congregational UCC.

“The church was falling apart, needing a new roof, heat pump, windows, sheet rock, floors and more.  All our money was going to keep a pastor, and that money was going fast,” Warren said. “God called us to run the church ourselves.”

Since then, those repairs have been made, a new sound system was installed, and “we’re not done yet,” he said.

Warren and two other parishioners started sharing pulpit duties.  Since the others dropped off, Warren leads Sunday worship and does pastor duties 90 percent of the time.  People in town know him and that he represents the church.

With 16 churches in Forks, a town of 3500, with 7,000 in a 15-mile range, he said, more churches are going to part-time ministers who hold other jobs.

Warren is a corrections officer at the Olympic Correctional Center 25 miles south of Forks.  Before that, he worked in the woods industry, meat cutting, as teachers aide in basic skills classes and teaching computer classes at Peninsula College.  He does maintenance, paints houses and loves to cook in his spare time.    

He is one of 27 members in a nondenominational men’s fellowship called “Men in Action.” They clean lots, paint buildings and do other chores for people.  His goal is to have 100 involved in the group.

Like other congregations, Forks Congregational UCC serves more than its members—about 400 people—through Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Soroptimists, a preschool, Forks Grange, 12-step groups and Alcoholics Anonymous.  Some with no church affiliation come to the church for their weddings and funerals.

The church, which started in 1902, built its present building in the center of town in 1955 when 75 men raised $100,000 in a day to build it.

Members are involved in community volunteer work and are leaders in most organizations, he said.  About 85 percent are involved in the food bank, clothing bank, senior luncheons, animal shelter and Sarge’s Place. 

Sarge’s houses 16 families who come and go.  Many come in from the woods now there is a shelter.  About 10 stay in the common area, plus there are four units of transitional housing for families.  Mentally ill stay there while they go back.

For the 79th year, the church will hold a Harvest Dinner on Oct. 18, serving 350 to 400 people for a period of more than three hours before the homecoming game.  

“I subscribe to three websites to help me plan worship and sermons.  God guides me and our church,” he said.  “Our covenant is to be God’s church and to serve the community. 

He said he has support from fellow ministers, Con and Judi Edwards, and Mark Miller.

“I have been called by the church to be a minister,” he said, telling of applying to be licensed through the Church and Ministry Committee, writing why he feels called to ministry and what he believes about the sacraments. 

He said he has been learning everything from piety to church history.

“I have never been happier or more faithful.  I put God first in my life,” Warren said.  “I experience being a medium for God for the people.  What a life of blessing after blessing it is.”

For information, call 360-374-9382 or 640-8239 or email

Copyright © September 2013 - Pacific Northwest Conference UCC News


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