New pastor brings wealth of experience to Williston

Observer photo by Jason Starr Pastor Paul Eyer takes over spiritual leadership at Williston Federated Church this week. He moved from Pennsylvania.
Observer photo by Jason Starr
Pastor Paul Eyer takes over spiritual leadership at Williston Federated Church this week. He moved from Pennsylvania.

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Williston’s newest faith leader came to the ministry in his mid-40s as a second career after a decade of practicing law in Lancaster, Penn.

Prior to that, Paul Eyer, who will deliver his first sermon at Williston Federated Church on North Williston Road this Sunday, worked in Washington, D.C. for then Sen. David Boren, a Democrat from Oklahoma who is currently president of the University of Oklahoma — Eyer’s home state.

“I sensed a clear call to a new direction in my life,” he said of his 2002 transition to faith leadership. “God was calling me to seminary and to serve the church.”

A committee of congregants chose Eyer after a national search. The church had been without a full-time pastor for two years, relying on interim pastors to fill the void until church leaders determined it was time for a permanent successor to popular former pastor Joan O’Gorman.

Eyer was raised Baptist, transitioned to Lutheranism during his law practicing days, then followed a Congregationalist track at Lancaster Theological Seminary. The Williston Federated Church is a combination of Williston’s United Church of Christ congregation — which has its roots in Congregationalism — and Methodist congregation.

It has about 200 members, according to Tony Lamb, a long-time congregant who worked on the pastor hiring committee.

“He is a person of faith and he is genuinely a nice guy,” Lamb said of Eyer. “He’s very easy to talk to.”

After graduating from the seminary with a master’s of divinity, Eyer pastored a church in Pennsylvania for about five years before being recruited back to the seminary to become its director of alumni and church relations. He held that job until moving to Vermont earlier this week.

Eyer’s wife, Jackie Lingelbach, also a pastor, is a native of Burlington. She plans to work as a hospice chaplain for the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle counties, according to Eyer.

“I am very excited about being here in Vermont, and my wife is especially excited about returning to her home area,” Eyer said. “Getting to know the members of the church, I’ve become enamored with the people. I’m excited about serving a church that is committed to being an active part of the wider community and the wider world.”

Eyer, who once wrote a curriculum for an adult Sunday school entitled “Questions Christians Should Ask in an Election Year,” said his background working for a U.S. Senator and practicing law gives him an understanding of the intersection of religion and politics.

“If one seriously studies scripture, one will confront questions of justice and responsible human behavior and how we relate to one another, and there is inevitably a political component to these questions,” he said. “A person of faith cannot ignore the public sphere in living out their faith.

“Our faith can touch every aspect of our lives.”