HULL – The Rev. Loren Kotman is still in the listening and learning stage as the new pastor for First Christian Reformed Church, 515 Fifth St. He said he firmly believes he and his wife, Norma, belong here.
“We prayed about it a lot,” he said in a Dec. 31 conversation with the Index-Reporter. “We heard good things. Meeting the people, it just seemed like a good place. I did a phone interview in April. I preached here June 10, and they extended a call to me.” Five months later — on Nov. 8 — the couple was moving into their home in Hull.
With a congregation of more than 500 members — and growing due to new babies — Kotman continues working to get to know everyone and learn each one’s name, he said.
“I’ve only been here a few months. I really have to listen and learn,” Rev. Kotman said when asked about his goals here. “I have no agenda but to seek God’s will — for all of us together to seek God’s will.”
`I had this feeling …’
Kotman did not come to the ministry by a direct route, but it seems God had whispered to him about it for a while.
Kotman said he did not acknowledge the divine call to ministry until several years after graduating from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. With a business degree in hand, he had gone to work for Prince Corp., a manufacturing firm, where he began as a shift supervisor and worked up into quality control.
“For many years I had this feeling I was supposed to go into ministry, but pushed it off,” Kotman acknowledged.
Now he is serving his fourth congregation and his second in Iowa. His first call after earning his master’s of divinity degree from Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, took him to Holland, Iowa. It’s a small town of 200 northwest of Grundy and about 30 miles south of Cedar Falls. Coincidentally, he and Norma are both native to the Holland, Mich., area.
The Kotmans’ next call took them to Fresno, Calif., where Kotman served in several roles, including that of associate pastor and youth pastor.
Although the family moved away from Fresno when the Kotmans’ children were in the eighth-, sixth- and fourth-grades, all three have returned to Fresno as adults. Kotman sees that as a plus; now he and Norma can visit their children and grandchild all in one place and on the same trip.
Their son, Tim, works in law enforcement. He and his wife, Katy, have a son, Austin, who is nearly five months old. Kotmans’ son, Jon, and his wife, Mandy, also live in Fresno, where Jon has a small computer business. Daughter, Maria, a Hope College graduate, works as a financial advisor in that city.
From Fresno, Kotman accepted a third call — to Kalamazoo, Mich. Both his and Norma’s parents lived there. Each of them passed away during the six years the Kotmans spent in that city, allowing the couple to spend time with them and care for them in their last years.
“That was a huge blessing for us,” the pastor recalled.
Kotman said that, although he knew no one in Hull when the invitation to visit First CRC here was extended, he has recently learned that he and Norma both have distant relatives in this area.
He also recently learned that a man he used to work for in Michigan is from the Hull area. Kotman said he wrote a letter to the man and pointed out its Hull postmark. He hadn’t heard back at the time of this interview, however.
Norma Kotman will no doubt become involved in the church and community according to her interests. In Kalamazoo, she was one of 20 people from their church who volunteered as mentors at the public school across the street. She paired up with a second-grader.
The mentors met needs of all kinds — social, academic, a stable adult presence — depending on the child’s circumstances.
“It’s one student, one day a week, with one adult,” Norma Kotman explained. “So, when you come to the school, you’re there just for them. And they knew that.”
Empty boxes is one goal
Norma Kotman noted that she and Rev. Kotman have lived in Hull for less than two months and she has spent that time learning names and visiting different organizations and activities. That includes the women’s Bible study and fellowship group, Coffee Break. In Kalamazoo, she was the director and a leader of a Coffee Break group similar to the one in Hull.
But right now, she is still busy unpacking.
“My goal was to make sure all the boxes are not only opened, but also emptied,” she said. “And, I like to read. I like to sew. For downtime, it’s one of those.”’
Norma Kotman hasn’t worked outside the home since their first child, now 28, was born. “I usually find a lot of opportunities to volunteer and to just be part of Loren’s ministry,” she said.
And for now, she, like her husband, has lots of new names and faces to learn.
New First Christian Reformed
Church pastor seeks God’s will