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Springwater pastor to retire

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Rev. Eileen Parfrey has been the pastor at Springwater Presbyterian Church for 15 years. She will retire at the end of October.

Rev. Eileen Parfrey has helped people from all over the Portland metro area find a spiritual home at Springwater Presbyterian Church in Estacada. At the end of the month, Parfrey will retire after 15 years as Springwater’s pastor.

Parfrey welcomes all people into the church’s congregation, and she’s also found a home for herself in her ministry.

When asked what inspired her to become a pastor, Parfrey said she “couldn’t not be a pastor.”

She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris, with a degree in English. She spent 20 years working in construction, but eventually became dissatisfied with her work. One day, her future husband asked what she would do if she could do anything.

“It was like being hit by a bolt of lightning,” Parfrey said. “I told him, I would have gone to seminary. And I never would have thought of that before, but it was the truest thing I’ve ever said in my whole life.”

Parfrey was raised Baptist, but was not religious for a large period of her life.

“In the Baptist church, the pastor would say ‘You’re a sinner,’ but you never heard that were forgiven,” she said. “Then I went to a Lutheran church, where they confessed sin and heard forgiveness weekly.”

Inspired by this, she became involved in the church again and eventually joined the Presbyterian church.

“I went to my grandparents’ Presbyterian church,” she said. “It was so amazingly wonderful. It felt like home.”

Six years after realizing she wanted to be a pastor, she enrolled in McCormick Theological Seminary. She was ordained in 2000, and has served as Springwater’s pastor since then.

“This has been my place,” Parfrey said. “This is the thing I was meant to do.”

The church has expanded under Parfrey’s leadership. There are currently 70 members of the congregation spread across the Portland metro area.

“When I first came, we were essentially a local congregation,” Parfrey said. “Since then, we have people who live 60 miles apart. It’s a huge parish. People drive from Milwaukie, Canby, Oregon City and West Linn.”

The congregation has a strong commitment to hunger ministries in Estacada and other cities. They often support the Estacada Food Bank as well as the nearby community by providing a vacation bible school every year.

Because the congregation is so spread out, members provide services to many localities.

“We’re not just paying it forward in Estacada,” Parfrey said. “We’re paying it forward in Oregon City, West Linn, Milwaukie, Eagle Creek and Canby.”

In addition to their commitment to specific ministries, Parfrey is inspired by the congregation’s compassion for others.

“I see people in this congregation quietly and compassionately supporting their neighbors and those around them,” Parfrey said. “I think that’s a really important thing.”

Parfrey is also inspired by the congregation’s open-mindedness and willingness to listen to one another.

“There’s a real commitment to each other,” she said. “Springwater covers the entire political and theological gambit. We’re hugely diverse, but we’re committed to the good of the whole community, so we learn ways to minister together, and serve together. We have our own opinions but still value one another.”

Parfrey believes this is somewhat unusual in today’s culture.

“A lot of the time, people are more interested in talking heads, and feel that civil discourse is talking louder than the other person, but it’s not. I think it’s the long-term, steadfast showing up and being there for the whole community — and that’s what inspires me about Springwater,” she said.

Parfrey believes that commitment to one another is an important element of a spiritual community, particularly when someone is struggling with faith.

“To care to wonder where God is in your life, that itself is an act of faith,” she said. “And maybe that’s the role of the church — to provide a place where people can ask those questions.”

It’s the people of Springwater who have inspired Parfrey, and they’re what she will miss most upon retirement.

“I love the whole body of Springwater, because it’s a distinctive body,” she said. “But I also love people one at a time. I love each person for who they are, and I will miss that so much.”

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