Pastor’s role much more than an act

Published 1:36 pm Saturday, February 20, 2010

Before attending seminary The Rev. Tom Ogilvie learned some valuable lessons about being a pastor from an unlikely source: the theater.

“As a pastor, you’re up in front of people on a weekly basis,” he said. “It’s not performance, but the theatrical things, at least for me, helped me get a little more comfortable being up in front of people presenting things and have an understanding of how to do that.”

Ogilvie was active in the theater in the high school and college. He and his wife, Becky, both acted in a performance of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” when Ogilvie pastored at another church.

Ogilvie also performed “Greater Tuna” with a friend in high school, and he remembers the play as challenging, as it is designed to have multiple characters performed by two people.

Ogilvie became the pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in August. While Ogilvie described himself as quiet and reflective, he was still attracted to the theater.

“By nature I’m somewhat of an introvert,” Ogilvie said. “I tell people that, and they say, ‘How can you be an introvert and a pastor?’ It’s not necessarily that hard.”

Along with presenting what Ogilvie described as a “right and true” message out to the congregation, he said it’s also important to present it in an interesting way that will stick with those who hear it.

“There is some dramatic nature to a sermon delivery,” he said. “You kind of think about pauses. You think about voice levels and delivery.”

In the past, Ogilvie has used acting skills directly by giving a sermon from a character’s perspective or other ways as a unique approach to a sermon. He’s also been able to arrange some skits and performances in his churches.

When he’s performing in theater, he said he has the chance to be someone else.

“You’re putting on a different persona,” he said.”… You get to escape out of yourself. I think that’s the difference. When you’re on stage, when you’re in theater, you’re not you. You’re getting to be someone else.”

‘If you want me somewhere, make it clear’

Ogilvie was born in Minneapolis, but he said he was born the day his family was moving out of the Twin Cities to Springfield and then Mankato. Ogilvie considers southeast Iowa home, as he spent much of his childhood living in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Ogilvie majored in broadcast communication at Western Illinois University and then attended seminary at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

Before starting at St. John’s Lutheran Church in August, Ogilvie previously served at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in West Des Moines, Iowa, for more than two years. Before that, he spent 10 years at a church in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and he served at a church in Gregory, S.D., briefly before that.

Last July, Ogilvie received a call from St. John’s Lutheran Church, and he said he relied on God’s direction when deciding whether or not to accept the call. After time of prayer and deliberation, Ogilvie said he felt the move to St. John’s was the right step.

“One of my constant prayers to God has been: If you want me to go somewhere, make it clear,” Ogilvie said.

“It seemed pretty clear that this was the place for me to be,” he added.

Ogilvie and his wife, Becky, have five children: Sydney, 15; Sam, 14; Fred, 10; Frannie, 4; and Frank, 2. Much of his free time is spent with his family, and he said it can be busy with five children ranging from high school to diapers.

Ogilvie said his family enjoys music. Becky has performed with the Riverland Community College Theater program, and she’s performed with the Austin Symphony as a vocalist and actress. Becky also composes music. She composed an oratorio based on the biblical Exodus, and she’s composed piano and chamber orchestra pieces. She’s composed pieces of music for church performances in the past.

A move to a new church and community can be challenging when a pastor has children, but Ogilvie said his children are happy in Austin, and it helped that they were able to move to town before the start of the school year.

West Des Moines and Austin offer two different communities and two different churches, Ogilvie said. While at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Ogilvie said he was part of a team ministry, and he said the church had a suburban setting.

While working to become acclimated with the new city, Ogilvie said he’s focused on learning about the church in his time at St. John’s.

While he’s learned a lot about the church in his six months in Austin, Ogilvie said it often takes about year to have a full grasp of a new church and town. He plans to spend more time learning about the community and being active in the coming months. One way to get more involved could include performing in some local theatrical productions, Ogilvie said.

Looking to the future

Ogilvie and the entire St. John’s community is currently outlining a congregational vision for the future. Ogilvie said the process incorporates the views of all the church’s members, and is taking the congregations heritage and beliefs to form a vision for the future.

“It’s going to be a long process, but we hope that at the end it’s going to open our eyes to some new directions in ministry,” he said.

Through the process, officials aim to identify the churches key values and “what makes St. John’s St. John’s,” Ogilvie said.

St. John’s has more than 350 members. The church has a Saturday service at 6 p.m. and Sunday morning service is at 9, followed by Sunday school and adult education at around 10:15 p.m.