Fire­fighter turns sights on min­istry

Katie Orth joins L. Prov­i­dence church as as­so­ciate pas­tor

The Southern Berks News - - RELIGION - By Gil Cohen

LOWER PROV­I­DENCE » Would you be­lieve that Kathrine “Katie” Orth, newly or­dained as­so­ciate pas­tor of Lower Prov­i­dence Pres­by­te­rian Church, was once a fire­fighter and ear­lier yet as­pired to be a Blue An­gels jet pi­lot?

On a re­cent Sun­day morn­ing, in the sanc­tu­ary of the Lower Prov­i­dence Pres­by­te­rian Church, a ser­vice was held where fam­ily, friends and the con­gre­ga­tion wit­nessed the or­di­na­tion and in­stal­la­tion of Orth as As­so­ciate Pas­tor of Youth and Young Adults. Her du­ties in­clude per form­ing bap­tisms, lead­ing com­mu­nion ser­vices and of­fi­ci­at­ing at wed­dings.

Church work was not an early as­pi­ra­tion of Katie Orth, how­ever. When she was 4 years old, she re­called, her fam­ily took her to an air show.

“I was so taken by the planes; they were quick, they were loud and they were neat,” she said

Born and raised in the small South Carolina town of An­der­son, Orth at­tended West­side High School, where her in­ter­ests fo­cused on bal­let and other forms of dance. At the time, her mother, Sandy, who was a sec­re­tary at a lo­cal church, spent five days a week at the church and felt that it wasn’t nec­es­sary for her to go on Sun­days as well. As a re­sult, Orth was an in­fre­quent church-goer un­til her 8th grade when her best friend en­cour­aged her to at­tend on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

An­other event that helped shape the life and goals of the young Katie Orth was the tragedy of 9/11. Watch­ing the dis­as­trous events un­fold­ing on TV, she re­mem­bers feel­ing “help­less, scared and bro­ken.” A year later, at the age of 18, Orth de­cided it was time to shake off that help­less state and take some ac­tion. She joined the Due West Fire Com­pany in An­der­son. Dur­ing the three years she served, she rose through the ranks to be­come the com­pany’s first fe­male lieu­tenant.

A par­tic­u­larly heartwrench­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was the house fire that broke out on Christ­mas Day.

“The fam­ily lost ev­ery­thing,” she re­called. “I walked through the rub­ble. I saw stuffed an­i­mals, toy trucks and games. All of us at the fire com­pany felt so bad, we got to­gether and as­sisted in get­ting the fam­ily back on their feet by coun­sel­ing — and giv­ing en­cour­age­ment — to the par­ents and the chil­dren.”

A fire depart­ment, she said, is in many ways “an ex­ten­sion of the min­istry, where you serve the com­mu­nity. There’s some­thing hum­bling about help­ing some­one or a fam­ily in need. The fire depart­ment is also a kind of ex­ten­sion of the fam­ily. You feel close-knit with your fire­fight­ing friends as you sit at the din­ner ta­ble, dis­cussing fire calls and your per­sonal lives.”

In 2012, Orth moved to

Chero­kee County, Georgia, where she re­sumed her fire­fight­ing ac­tiv­ity, along with her new-found pas­sion for church work. Dur­ing her five years there, she joined the Chero­kee County Fire Depart­ment, even­tu­ally as­sum­ing the role of com­pany chap­lain, and also joined the First Pres­by­te­rian Church of nearby Cartersville where she be­came As­sis­tant Direc­tor of Youth and Chil­dren.

Be­fore join­ing LP Pres­by­te­rian Church in April 2017, Orth re­ceived a mas­ter of di­vin­ity de­gree from the Univer­sity of Dubuque (Ia) The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary.

One of the high points of her du­ties as As­so­ciate Pas­tor of Youth and Young Adults takes place at 6 a.m. on the first Fri­day of every month when she meets with eight stu­dents from Methac­ton High School. Over a con­ti­nen­tal break­fast, “we dis­cuss what’s on their minds. I like to think I have a ‘neu­tral ear’ so I lis­ten to what they have to say and give my best ad­vice.”

Orth, 34, lives in Skip­pack with her hus­band Brent and five chil­dren — 11-year-old twins Cole and Gage, 8-year-old Jonah, and re­cent ad­di­tions daugh­ters Kacey, 17, and Krys­tal, 18. Brent is an emer­gency man­age­ment spe­cial­ist for the Depart­ment of De­fense in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Kathrine “Katie” Orth, 34, newly or­dained As­so­ciate Pas­tor of Youth and Young Adults of Lower Prov­i­dence Pres­by­te­rian Church, dur­ing or­di­na­tion and in­stal­la­tion cer­e­mony at the church.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Kathrine “Katie” Orth started out as a fire­fighter but has found her call­ing as a youth min­is­ter.

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