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A people's pastor

For 30 years, Bob Droullard has pastored the flock at Dover Community Church
by: Jim Hart Dover Community Church Pastor Bob Droullard stands in front of the church he’s called home for the past 30 years. The bell in the church’s tower was installed in the original church building in 1899, and now rings every Sunday just before the 10:30 a.m. service.

If Pastor Bob Droullard of Dover Community Church is reminiscent of anyone, it would have to be the Rev. Alden, pastor of the congregational church in Walnut Grove, Minn. - the Dakota Territory church featured in the 'Little House on the Prairie' series of books and Western TV drama starring Michael Landon.

Even though the personalities of Droullard and Dabbs Greer, who portrayed the Rev. Alden on the small screen, are quite different, they both pastored a church in rural America, both had a large 19th-century bell to ring and both tried to teach the Good Book.

But the similarities have to end somewhere, and it is when Droullard's flock of believers at Dover Community Church wants to celebrate the 30 years he has served his church family on Kleinsmith Road, southeast of Sandy.

The festivities begin during the 10:30 a.m. church service Sunday, Nov. 6, when the congregation will honor the man who has shared their sorrows and joys for three decades.

For the rest of the community unable to attend the service, an open house will be held at the church from 1-3 p.m., with an open mic to offer testimony about how the pastor's presence has been a blessing.

Church with a history

When the 29-year-old pastor arrived at Dover in 1981, the building looked like a warehouse (without a bell tower), except for two things: the hand-hewn cross, made from wood saved from the original 19th-century building, and the old bell (stored in the basement) that was cast in 1898 and hung in the original church in 1899.

Now at 59, Droullard says being a Christian minister has kept him busy and at times discouraged, but he has always felt called to minister at Dover.

One of his roles is to interpret Scripture, explore its meaning and make it relevant to people's lives in the 21st century. He also shares the joys and trials of his church members.

Sig Runyon, who has been at Dover for 20 years, says Droullard is a compassionate member of the community.

'Bob has always been biblically-minded and follows the Bible,' Runyon said. 'He just loves people, and when anyone is in need he's the first one there (to help).'

A 12-year member of the Dover church, Shari Veenker says her pastor is approachable and can talk to people in any walk of life.

'You can talk to him and ask him questions,' she said, 'and not feel like he's beyond your reach.'

An everyday person

Droullard tends to brush the compliments aside and just continue ministering to people.

'I've never seen ministry or pastoring as a job,' he said. 'It's just something that God has called me to be involved in, and it's a real privilege.'

Even though pastoring the Dover flock has been a 24-7 responsibility, Droullard has had to work part-time at another job three days a week for the entire 30 years to avoid what he called 'abject poverty.' But now he is free of his weekday job, trusting that he and his wife, Janet, can make ends meet.

Those part-time jobs, however, turned out to be a blessing for Droullard in more than one way.

In addition to bolstering the family budget, Droullard was able to understand what it feels like after a hard day's work and to understand the type of politics that occurs in corporate America.

'That experience enabled me to relate (to my congregation) a whole lot better,' he said.

Runyon says his pastor sets a Christian example.

'Bob is very consistent,' he said, 'in his ministry and his daily life.'

The Dover pastor gets involved in people's lives, and that is one trait that makes him approachable.

'Pastor Bob is not just your pastor,' said church member Larry Ulrich, 'he's also your friend. He's there for you, no matter what the problem is.'

Called to teach

Droullard has kept coming back to the non-denominational Bible church because he feels called to teach and pastor.

'I enjoy teaching and being involved with people,' he said. 'It's a real privilege to minister to those who come and be involved in their lives.'

But it's not just Droullard who's involved in the lives of Dover churchgoers. His wife teaches Sunday School, and has done so for longer than they have been married.

Veenker likes the way the pastor and his wife work together.

'They're a good team,' she said. 'Bob may be the pastor and teacher, but Janet also helps us understand what he's saying.'

Droullard agrees his wife is a part of pastoral ministry.

'Janet has a good listening ear and has the time to hear people out,' he said. 'She has a good sensitive heart, and she is a good balance for me; she smoothes some of my rough edges at times.'

Droullard's daughters, Sarah and Rachel, and three young grandchildren are members of the Dover congregation. He also has a son, Joshua, who lives with his family in Medford.

Paying it forward

The Dover pastor - who will have been married to Janet for 35 years next month - is excited about the fact one of the people he and Janet have been teaching since the age of 4 (Gabe Stice) has graduated from the Multnomah Bible University in Portland.

Stice, who is an intern with Droullard at Dover, and several others have followed a path to full-time ministry.

'That's very exciting,' Droullard said.

The Dover pastor admits being transparent to the people who come when the old bell is rung in the new church tower, but he doesn't feel he is better than anyone.

'I'm part of the congregation,' he said. 'I just have the privilege of being able to teach.'