Firefighter turns sights on ministry
Katie Orth joins L. Providence church as associate pastor
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.
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.
Kathrine “Katie” Orth started out as a firefighter but has found her calling as a youth minister.