“I am going to miss Pam. She knows and loves this church and has always understood her work as ministry. She is a very energetic and creative person, and brought that energy and creativity to her work.”
— Dr. Tim Bruster, Senior Pastor
Pleasant, helpful, talented, organized, creative, efficient, fun, committed, flexible, kind, amazing . . . always. These are some of the many words Pam Erlandson’s colleagues use to describe her. Even so, there are not enough words to fully capture the impact she’s had on the FUMCFW staff and church members.
How It All Started
Pam joined us in 1995 after working as an assistant in other capacities for many years. She says she knew right off the bat that FUMCFW was going to be a wonderful place to work, and she never had any reservations about taking the job or considering that she might have done something different. As Assistant to Senior Pastor & Executive Pastor, Pam has been front and center in the life of the church. “We’ve had some beautiful worship services and seasons, and some exhilarating things that have happened, and it’s always fun to be in on the planning and right there by the senior pastor as things unfold,” Pam exclaims. “Being part of the history of the church from that perspective has been very satisfying.”
Pam even had the opportunity to travel in support of the clergy on a couple of church trips, which she sees as a great benefit and a huge gift. For Dr. Lamar Smith, Part-Time Associate Pastor of Evangelism, one trip in particular stands out among the rest. “There’s an old saying that you really get to know someone when you travel with them,” he says. “We hosted a trip to the Holy Land, and Pam organized the group and was immensely helpful to me. Our traveling together really did help me get to know her better and appreciate her even more. She was one of the chief reasons the trip was so successful.”
Lamar describes Pam as always pleasant, always organized, always helpful — and always properly attired. Her co-workers have a shared appreciation for her ability to blend appropriate with fashionable when it comes to the workplace. However, there was one time when she broke the stricter set of dress code rules in Israel. As Lamar tells the story, “She was ‘arrested’ for not being absolutely completely covered at the Church of the Nativity.”Years later, Pam and Lamar still have good laughs over the day she was “busted in Bethlehem.”
Mark Burrows, Director of Children’s Ministries, feels like Pam has added kindnesses and warm touches to FUMCFW events and gatherings. Mark says he has always valued Pam’s work ethic. “She can anticipate what needs doing and makes sure it gets done,” he explains. “If Pam said she would take care of something, it was a done deal — period.” On top of that, he doesn’t ever remember her saying, “That’s not part of my job.”
The Church is a People
It’s evident that Pam has worn a lot of hats in her position. Out of everything, she says what she enjoys the most about her job is the people. From the church members to the staff and beyond, she has spent a lot of time with the people of FUMCFW and become very close to them over the years. As Pam sees it, “It’s always the people who make every job what it turns out to be.” She believes all of her co-workers are committed to faith and ministry. “It’s wonderful to be around that and be part of it and get to know those kinds of people,” she adds. “I love so many people here and will miss them a lot.” This sentiment goes both ways. As Senior Pastor Dr. Tim Bruster points out, “Pam knows and loves this church and has always understood her work as ministry.”
Pam thinks one of the biggest changes in her retirement will be adjusting to not being around the people she’s used to seeing every day. For instance, Pam and Dr. Bruster enjoy a great sense of humor together. “One day we were laughing about some jokes and cartoons we both love so much, and I realized how much I’m going to miss that camaraderie,” Pam declares. “I’ve enjoyed working for him and with him so much.” Dr. Bruster agrees that he will always remember the laughs they have shared over cartoons, jokes, and funny circumstances. “We have laughed a lot, and that makes for a great working environment and relationship,” he adds. “I have treasured Pam’s ability to work with people and her wonderful sense of humor. She is a professional, she is creative, she is organized, and she deeply cares about people.”
A Simple Life — with Creative Juices
On the other hand, Pam is looking forward to having more time at ease in her retirement. “I’ve had kind of a yearning for a simpler life in the last four or five years, so that’s my goal in retiring and moving,” Pam says. She and her husband, Craig, plan to live in the country and establish a less demanding lifestyle. Even though Pam grew up in a small town, she has never really lived in the country. “My husband has a beautiful place that I expect will keep us as busy as we want to be,” she adds. “It’s just very soothing, and we enjoy being around changing seasons and everything outdoors. That’s what I’m looking forward to — experiencing a simple country life.”
Pam is also looking forward to having more time to spend with her family and pursue her many creative interests. Pam and Craig have seven grandchildren all together, and she is famous for planning family events. “I have ‘Grammy Camp’ with my grandchildren, and I plan it out to the nth degree,” Pam says with a big smile. In addition to event planning, she also enjoys home decorating and staging, floral and gardening, and much more.
Pam’s family members aren’t the only ones who benefit from what she calls her “creative juices.” She is also known for using her imagination on the job. Dr. Bruster describes Pam as a very energetic and creative person who brings that energy and creativity to her work. And Dr. Mike Marshall, Associate Pastor of Leadership Development, claims he’s convinced there is a picture of Pam next to the word “presentation” in the dictionary. “There is no one I know who can do more with colored markers, multicolored folders, and all manner of arts and crafts items,” Mike explains. “The creations she has made for her grandchildren are off the charts — and even more importantly, the ‘experiences’ she has put together for her family are without equal!”
Mike says he and his wife, Jan, will always be grateful for the creativity and care Pam put into transforming Wesley Hall for their wedding day. Their ceremony was supposed to be in the Garden. Unfortunately, it had to be moved inside due to a long day of rain. As Mike put it, Pam turned a potential problem into an opportunity for an even more beautiful and meaningful setting for their wedding.
Bittersweet Farewell, Promising Hello
To her co-workers, Pam is more than a colleague — she is also a friend. Take it from Mark, who came to FUMCFW within one month of Pam. According to Mark, “She’s a true friend, and has supported me through so much. She has been there for our girls; she’s been a neighbor. Pam’s not a colleague. She’s family.”
Pam has worked at FUMCFW for almost 21 years, and she will be greatly missed. “I will always cherish the times I have had to laugh with Pam, and to talk seriously about the great topics of life that all of us consider,” Mike proclaims. “I will miss Pam terribly at ‘her place’ in our church office suite. However, that emotion is far overshadowed by my happiness for all that God has in store for Pam, Craig, and their family!” Although Pam is retiring, she will continue to be dear to the heart of our First Church family.
Though it will take a lot to fill Pam’s shoes, we are pleased to announce that Elizabeth Becker will replace Pam as Assistant to Senior Pastor & Executive Pastor. Elizabeth says she is very excited to begin her new role and adds that, while the work is quite different for her, she welcomes these new challenges and looks forward to learning and growing into this new opportunity. Dr. Bruster shares her excitement and is confident that Elizabeth will be a blessing to him and to the church in this new role. “Elizabeth has demonstrated so many gifts and graces in her work as Director of First Street Methodist Mission,” he adds. “She works very well with people, she is organized, she has a strong work ethic, she is creative, and she is energetic. I look forward to working with her as she continues to build on Pam’s excellent work.”
Linda Murphy will take Elizabeth’s place as Director of First Street Methodist Mission, and Elizabeth believes Linda will be a good fit for the role. “Linda has a kind heart and a gentle spirit which makes her the perfect person to be the Mission’s new Director,” Elizabeth declares. “Linda has worked for the Mission for 18 months now and has demonstrated great care and concern for the demands of the job. With Linda’s direction, the Mission will continue to grow in service with our neighbors and friends.”
Please join us in congratulating Pam on her retirement, and welcoming Elizabeth and Linda into their new places among the FUMCFW staff.