Pastor Jan Kozak stands in the Margaret Dement Garden of Eatin', which the church operates. Hundreds of pounds of produce is donated to local food programs each year.After nine years of serving the combined Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Pastor Jan Kozak is retiring.

She preached her final sermon last Sunday, Oct. 20, and earlier in the week reflected on her journey into the priesthood and her years in Madras.

Before coming to Madras, Kozak worked for 14 years as the cosmetics manager for Meier and Frank at Washington Square in Portland, and her husband Al, was employed with Payless Drug Store.

“We attended the Episcopal congregation in Hillsboro and my faith had grown a lot, but I had no inkling of studying for the priesthood,” she said.

The Kozaks had owned property at Round Butte since the 1980s, and enjoyed coming to Central Oregon. When Rite Aid acquired Payless, and the staff was downsized, her husband started working for Bi-Mart and they moved to Madras in 1998.

They were attending St. Mark’s church in Madras in 1999, when Bishop Rustin Kimsey approached Kozak, asking her to study for the priesthood.

“It was a big surprise. I took preaching lessons, and long-distance seminary classes from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific at Berkeley, and took other courses from the bishop and local priests,” she said, adding, “I decided this would not have happened if God hadn’t wanted it to happen.”

She remembers she and fellow church member Larry Mahon were both ordained as church deacons in 2001, and Kozak was ordained a priest in April 2003.

“When I graduated from college, there weren’t any women priests,” she observed, noting even today, she and retired United Methodist Church Pastor Janet Farrell are the only female pastors in town.

In 2004, when the Lutheran and Episcopal congregations decided to blend, they moved into the larger Lutheran building and she became the pastor of both churches. Today, it is one congregation known as the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

Having a woman pastor was different, but she said previously, the Lutheran church had a female co-pastor, and woman interim pastor, and the Episcopal congregation had been served by a man and woman team who covered the Madras, Redmond and Prineville area.

“And the ministerial association fellows are dear. They haven’t shut us out at all, and it’s been a pleasure to co-minister with them,” she said of their reaction to herself and Farrell.

Highlights from Kozak’s time as a pastor include the establishment of the Margaret Dement Garden of Eatin’, which church members planted in 2011.

“Hundreds of pounds of healthy food for Jefferson County has been harvested from the garden and is distributed through the food bank and United Methodist Church’s food program,” she said.

She said the garden, next to the church, is available for anyone to come and plant, harvest or glean. “The gate is there to keep the deer out, not people,” she laughed.

Of changes during her time, she said their worship service music is all delivered electronically now. Through a connection with an Episcopal minister in Kauai, Hawaii, she said that pastor records the music she will be using each week and emails it to the Madras congregation.

“I’m not that tech savvy, but someone had to figure out how to set it up, and I got it done,” she admitted.

Through the years, she’s been pleased to see her congregation participate more with other congregations in Madras. Helping with the annual Lenten Week lunches, and Community Worship in the Park summer service are examples.

“The biggest change has been the congregation has moved toward being more interested in ministry than in maintaining the building, and I see that as healthy. Maintaining the building is important, but if ministry doesn’t happen, what’s the point?” she asked.

In the community, Kozak said, “I’m so grateful and excited to see what the faith-based network is accomplishing. The establishment of LINC (help center for the needy) in January 2012 is a huge work of that network.”

“It’s not about handing things out, but about walking alongside and helping people work out of the cycle of poverty,” she added.

After Kozak retires, the church council will select someone to act as an interim pastor, while the Madras church searches for a new pastor.

“It is a time for the congregation to do some exploring of what comes next, and to get a vision. I’m excited for them, but will miss everyone very much,” she said, noting that she is required to leave the congregation to give the new person a chance.

The Kozaks, now both retired, intend to remain in the area. “I promised my husband I won’t make any full commitments for a year. He’s been waiting six years for me to retire and we have places to go and people to see,” she said of their retirement plans.

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