God’s Call– Karen Palmatier


Karen Palmatier
Solo pastor, The Covenant Church of Quincy, Massachusetts
Ordained: 1983

My Journey

In grade school I told people I wanted to be a theology professor. When I realized that required a PhD, I decided I’d become a pastor instead. Then in ninth grade someone in my church told me I had to go to college before I could go to seminary—I was shocked and I would often pray, “God, if you don’t want me to become a pastor you better hurry up and get me interested in something else.”

I graduated from college in 1978 and entered seminary that same year. I just knew I was doing what God wanted me to do, and I assumed ordination would be the normal way of proceeding.

I did my seminary internship at First Covenant Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Following graduation from NPTS in 1982 I went back there and served for a one-year interim. After that I ended up working at Wendy’s for a year. Realizing it would probably be easier to find a church job in Chicago, we moved back there, and I worked at the library at North Park until I found part-time work at Edgebrook Covenant Church as their youth pastor.

The only job I got through the “normal” call process—a superintendent giving my resumé to a church—was my current position here in Quincy in 2002. All the other positions were opened up because people told me about them or advocated for me to get the position.


Before I got to seminary, no one had ever questioned my goal of being there. But once there, other students started telling me I didn’t belong. Suddenly the plans I had had since childhood were being questioned! A superintendent once said, “The Covenant probably should apologize to you women for deciding to ordain you and giving you hope you will find work.”

One Sunday during my internship I did pulpit supply at another Covenant church. A gentleman in the back of the sanctuary apparently couldn’t bring himself to look at me and held his bulletin up in front of his face throughout my entire sermon. For years I felt great guilt about this, wondering if he would have heard a word from God that day if I had been a man.


Despite all the difficulties, being in ministry is the only thing I ever wanted to do. I am privileged to be with people at the most important moments of their lives. I have been blessed by people who honor me by sharing confidences, joys, fears, questions, and so much more with me because I am their pastor. To think they trust me with such personal matters is amazing.

Quirkiest item in my office

: I have a miniature replica of Lambeau Stadium sitting on my desk. I’m a Green Bay Packer fan. There’s also a Packer coffee mug, several magnets, and a pennant. (Yes, I own a cheese head but I don’t keep it in my office.)


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