Posted 3/22/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Wehrman
The town of Westby’s faith community is being bolstered by the work of two pastors who are new to the area.
Rev. John Marmon, who moved to Westby with his wife, Jean, at the beginning of the year is the first full time pastor the Assembly of God has had in more than 20 years.
Rev. Stan Hoobing, who arrived in November, is the interim pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, following the retirement of Rev. Barb Westhoff, who had served the church for 28 years.
Bringing many talents
Maybe it was destiny that brought the Marmons to Westby, or maybe it was the pull of a 100-years earlier foothold of John’s grandfather, who established the post office in the community located south of Grenora that still retains the family name.
“I knew it was over here somewhere,” said John. “It’s a small world.”
John pastored the Assembly in Terry, Mont. for seven years while still working for the Montana Department of Transportation.
Once retired from his 24-year highway maintenance job, John prayed about serving a congregation that could use a full time pastor but could not afford one.
Though the Marmons envisioned themselves going south from their longtime home in Wolf Point, they wound up heading north, to Westby.
When he accepted the position, John said, his philosophy was “to be the pastor to the church and an evangelist to the community.”
He said it’s not that he wants to tell people which church to go to, just get them going. Along with that is a goal of getting people to access scripture directly.
In today’s world, he said, “We have so many people who go to church, but scripturally, they’re illiterate . . . If I err, you should be knowledgeable enough to tell me I made a mistake.”
If he ever does, he said, he’ll report it in church the following week.
Jean sees her role as helping in the background and she will also do the bookkeeping. Both of the Marmons are also advanced EMTs and EMT instructors. Jean is qualified to teach CPR, among other certifications. She is subbing at the school, too.
Though the couple is not yet well enough versed in the local geography to head out on their own for emergency calls, they hope to partner with existing volunteers in the future to supplement the pool of responders.
As well, John plans to teach roping to 4H youngsters.
In their free time, the couple loves to fish.
“We both are ornery about fishing,” said Jean, and they are looking forward to making forays to fishing holes in North Dakota as well as Canada.
If their approach to ministry is based on scripture, their fashion is based on what makes sense in an ag and ranch-based community.
“We put on jeans and a shirt and call ourselves dressed,” said Jean.
A calling to interim help
Hoobing, who has been a pastor for 50 years, began serving as an interim pastor for churches about 14 years ago. He served multiple parishes as a resident pastor in Washington State, Oregon and Idaho, before getting his first interim post in Boise, when his mother needed care to stay in her home there.
Since then, he’s helped congregations awaiting the call of new resident pastors in nearly a dozen places in three states, including two stints in Circle, Mont., as well as postings in Havre and Glendive. Some churches have kept him just a few weeks, but others have needed him for a year or more.
Immanuel could turn out to be on the longer end of that spectrum, he said, only because it can be difficult to attract pastors to a rural area.
As well, he said, the congregation is in the process of remodeling the parsonage, now that it is vacant for the first time in nearly 30 years. Hoobing, meanwhile, has housing on a farm near the rural St. John’s parish, where he also ministers.
While Hoobing finds the weather colder than he’s used to, “the people make the difference.”
His role, he said, is to help the congregation deal with change and new ideas. Not only his ideas -- such as looking at an update of St. John’s Constitution or having a table with other ministers at a farm show in Plentywood -- but in preparation for the new ideas a new permanent pastor is bound to bring.
Easter week service times for both churches can be found on Page 5.