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Albright steps down as pastor of Marysville United Methodist Church
MARYSVILLE — As so many Sunday services are, it was a day of reflection, celebration, laughter and remembrance for the congregation of the Marysville United Methodist Church.
What made June 12 different from any other Sunday service at the church for the past 11 years was that it would be Dr. Tom Albright’s last one as pastor.
Although Albright assured the congregation that he planned to remain a member of the Marysville community, up to and including running for office in his current seat on the Marysville School District Board of Directors, he felt the time had come to conclude his 39 years as a pastor throughout the state of Washington.
“I was drawn to the ministry because I so often found myself in leadership roles when I hadn’t intended to be,” said Albright, a tall, stout gentleman whose gray hair contrasts his boyish face. “I see a pastor as serving four roles; a priestly officer of the church, a pastoral shepherd caring for his flock, a prophetic role of interpreting the word of the Lord, and a leader. I took that leadership role seriously not only within the church, but also in the broader community.”
Albright is glad to have been able to conduct church mission trips to Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, Kenya and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many of which a number of the parishioners at his June 12 service recalled almost as vividly as he did.
Just as he already had an entry point into the Marysville community, through his wife teaching there, before he became the Marysville United Methodist Church’s pastor, so too has his ongoing work in Kenya opened the door for his new career as the U.S. director of fundraising for the Kenya Methodist University.
“Moving to Marysville felt like going back to Bellingham, where I’d grown up,” Albright said. “In a small town, you can’t help but know a lot of people, and as I’ve become active in Rotary and the School Board and as the police chaplain, I’ve appreciated leading people toward being able to live in their faith.”
In addition to his increasingly hectic schedule on the Marysville School Board and on behalf of the Kenya Methodist University, Albright also felt his church was in a good place for him to leave it in the hands of a new pastor.
“This church is very strong,” Albright said. “I will miss its support, and the personal relationships I’ve developed with hundreds of people on a weekly basis. The wonderful challenge of preaching is trying to make sense out of life for others.”
Parishioners both young and old echoed Albright’s sentiments, saying they’d miss their former pastor for the year that he’ll be absent from the church, to allow its incoming pastor, Dr. Gloria Kymn, to develop her own bond with the congregation.
“He always had something to teach, even if it wasn’t what he originally proposed,” laughed Jack Lybyer, a 10-year member of the church. “He’s a learned man, but he can communicate it in ways that I can understand.”
Jim Johnson, a fellow “Top of the Hill Gang” member and a 14-year member of the church, credited Albright with inspiring his own streak of volunteerism. Don Whitfield and Larry Trivett, Albright’s fellow Rotarians and 25- and 35-year members of the church respectively, likewise lauded his community activism, both locally and globally.
“Any church has its good times and its bad times,” Trivett said. “Tom’s time was a very good time for this church.”
“He was the realest pastor I’ve ever met,” said 17-year-old Sam Ward, who’s been coming to the Marysville United Methodist Church since he was a small child. Now much bigger, he laughed as he recalled some good-natured ribbing Albright had given him. “I remember going to this retreat to become a counselor, and I said to Tom, ‘How am I supposed to be in charge of kids who are older then me?’ He told me, ‘Well, at least they won’t outweigh you.’”
Vicki Evensen has served at the Marysville United Methodist Church for 25 years and seen five pastors come and go in that time. As Albright’s assistant, she not only learned from him, but found him refreshingly consistent.
“He wasn’t a pastor who had a Sunday face and a rest-of-the-week face,” Evensen said. “No matter when or where you met Tom, he was always Tom, which was very comforting. He’s prepared us very well for this transition, and as much as we’ll miss him, we’re looking forward to our new pastor.”