Men's Breakfast, December 12, 2015

The Men’s Breakfast Group net Saturday,  December 12th with Leslie Attema, associate pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, as featured guest.  Leslie was born in Massachusetts to an Irish-Italian family and was raised as a Catholic.  She started college studying math and science but changed over to business.  She had her own business when she graduated from college.  She subsequently worked for several years in the airline industry and retired from Delta with the privilege of flying standby for free. 

She married during this time.  Her husband died after a long illness, and she remained a widow for several years.  She met Lee Attema at a conference after his wife died.  She and Lee had gone to Seminary together so they knew each other well beforehand.  They then married and she moved down to Texas from Massachusetts. This was a major disruption to her life since she was a pastor at a church in Beverly, Massachusetts. 

While she was working in business Leslie felt a call to the ministry so she enrolled in seminary where she got a Masters in Divinity and met Lee Attema.  She became an assistant pastor of a Presbyterian church in Beverly and subsequently full pastor.  The church was near the seminary and several colleges so the membership included a number of theologically knowledgeable people.  This allowed Leslie to develop leadership in the congregation so the church could continue after she left. 

Leslie is most interested in the spiritual counseling aspect of ministry.  She conducts counseling sessions during the clinic when Lee addresses medical needs of the community.  She runs a Monday night Bible study and regularly participates in leading worship services at the church.

One of the topics discussed was the future of the church in Freeport.  The Presbyterian Church has shrunk drastically since its heyday in the 1950s and even since the 1980s.  Partially this is due to various traumas that the church has suffered, but also due to the general decline of churches in Freeport.  Freeport has undergone a demographic shift.  The upper middle class middle class has largely abandoned the city and the population is largely working class and poor and is now over fifty percent Hispanic.  There are about seventy churches in Freeport but few of them are prospering.  All membership organizations are losing members, from the Masons to the unions to the churches.  This is partially due to the rise of virtual communities produced by television and the Internet.  In Freeport the dominance of the working class means the relatively intellectual churches, such as the Presbyterian, are at a disadvantage.  Another obstacle is the rise of the nonreligious.  In religious surveys, more people identify as “none” than any denomination other than Catholic. The nones have a range of religious views.  A minority identifies as atheist but many declare that they are spiritual but not religious.  These people are probably the most susceptible to becoming church members since they are already partially believers.

Lee also said that the core of Christianity is the people that believe in Jesus as the means of salvation and who desire to bring the Gospel to others.  The church buildings and institutions are not necessary to the church’s mission and the church will still be present even if all the church buildings are demolished.

The men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast.  The next meeting will be Saturday, January 9th with County Commissioner Dude Payne as featured guest.