Although women have been ordained in The United Methodist Church for more than 60 years, it wasn’t very common in western Pennsylvania until more recently, according to Pastor Kendra Balliet, who is the new pastor of the three-point charge consisting of Home Camp, Luthersburg and Salem United Methodist churches.
“I didn’t know women could be pastors until about my mid-20s,” said Balliet. “But at that time I didn’t feel called to ministry, other than ministry as a lay person. I was a Sunday school teacher, I’ve been a Vacation Bible School teacher, director of Vacation Bible School and sang in choir since the time I was in second grade. I’ve always been very involved in the church, but I never thought women could do vocational ministry in The United Methodist Church.”
By the time she realized that, Balliet thought her call was in education.
“And it was in education, it was for a period of time, and I’m still in education. But I always thought I wouldn’t be in the classroom later, I would be in administration. Well I’m doing both now, just not in the traditional sense of the word,” she said.
A graduate of DuBois Area High School, Balliet received her master’s degree in special education from Clarion University. Eventually, she began becoming more involved in the church in lay positions.
“The pastor asked me if I would consider filling in for him a couple of Sundays while he was away on vacation,” she said. “And then he started using me as liturgist, and I’ve never had a problem speaking publicly. So it just became a natural fit. I became a worship leader. And helping with worship design, with pastors.”
At one point, Balliet thought she was called into ministry “but things and life kind of a got in the way.”
“I refocused everything back into teaching, and my children, and I still did lay things, like teaching Sunday school and choir and so forth,” Balliet said. “But a few years ago at an Ash Wednesday service, my pastor at the time decided that instead of giving something up, we were going to work on our spiritual discipline and prayer. And he had us write on a note card a few things that we were going to pray specifically for over the 40 days of Lent.”
Balliet said she wasn’t feeling as called to teaching anymore, but she had applied for a transfer to three different positions within special education.
“I was going to pray about that, and if that wasn’t the direction I was supposed to go, I asked God to make it very clear to me what path God wanted me to take,” she said. “The very next day I was passed over for all three positions, and later that evening I got a phone call from ... an interim pastor, so he really didn’t even know me, he’d only been there for two months. And he said to me, ‘Kendra, I want you to start thinking about candidacy, and going into vocational ministry. Have you ever thought about that?’”
Surprised, Balliet asked him who told him that because she had considered, at one time, starting the candidacy process. The pastor replied, “‘Nobody. God’s telling me to ask you about this.’ The next thing you know somebody shows up at my farm and offers to buy the cows. And the then somebody wants to buy my farm. Within five months time, I was enrolled full time in seminary, and started my first appointment.”
Before becoming the pastor of the three-point charge on July 1, Balliet was pastoring in the Clymer area for a four-point charge. She has been a pastor since 2014 and just finished work toward her Master of Divinity degree at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
“I never thought I’d be back in this area, honestly,” said Balliet. “Because in The United Methodist Church wherever the Bishop sends you is where you go. It’s very unusual to ever get sent back to your home area. This is not my home church, Lakeside United Methodist Church in DuBois is where I was baptized and confirmed, but it’s my home area.”
Balliet believes she was called for small church ministry.
“My concentration in seminary was revitalization and leadership, and I believe that that’s part of why I’ve been called to this area,” she said.
She is married to John Balliet, who is pastor of a two-point charge in southern Clearfield County, Harmony and Westover Grace United Methodist churches. She has three grown children, Alex, Marisa and Daniel, along with two stepchildren, J. David and Amanda, and two grandchildren.
Balliet calls herself a lifelong learner.
“I love to learn to new things, I like to work with people. I love to cook. I love to sing, and that’s one of the exciting things about being here at Home Camp United Methodist Church because they host two very large cantatas every year. One is for Christmas, and one is for Easter, and so I’m excited about that.”
In addition, Home Camp participates in a ministry where they bring in all the choirs of the area and sing at Lakeside United Methodist Church at Christmastime.
“I’m excited about that because I was in Dynamics back when Esther Hawkins was the director, and so I did all the musicals back then and the singing, and now to have a return to musical,” she said.
Balliet said while the most fulfilling part of being a pastor is the worship, and building relationships with people is the next best thing.
“I see people in the worst of times, and the best of times in their lives,” she said. “You know, when people are sick or passing away, I’m there. When people are getting married, there’s a new baby, there’s a baptism, there’s a profession of faith, there’s confirmation, I’m there. So I see all the highs and the lows and everything in between, and it’s real life. And that’s the whole part of it. It’s real life, and life can be joyful and it can be messy. And just being able to build a relationship with folks on that level is probably one of the most fulfilling things that I can think of.”