Medical laboratory sales may not be the usual path to ministry, but it is the path followed by the Rev. James "Jim" Kirk, a former associate pastor at Ken Mawr United Presbyterian Church in Kennedy.
For 26 years, Rev. Kirk worked in sales before he "followed God's plan" and entered Pittsburgh Theological Seminary to pursue a master's degree in divinity.
After graduating from Plum High School, Rev. Kirk pursued a bachelor of science in biology from Westminster College. In his junior year, he started weighing career options.
"I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to go to dental school when I decided to pursue something else," he said. "I wanted to work with people, but knew I didn't want to teach." It was then he learned about medical sales and landed a job fairly soon after graduation with Gilford Instruments in Cleveland.
From there, he moved with his wife to Minneapolis, where he was in charge of his own sales territory.
"We were there for 10 years when I was offered a job back in Pittsburgh," he said.
His wife, Kathy, also was from Pittsburgh, so they considered it a move back home.
When she was able to transfer to a better job with the company that she worked with, the couple considered it all part of "God's hand" in leading them to their future in the ministry.
"It took me eight years for God to convince me that I should pursue the ministry. I had a very successful career that I loved, but the more money that I made, the more uncomfortable I became," he said.
Although he felt drawn to the ministry, Rev. Kirk said he kept "coming up with excuses" on why he shouldn't make such a major career change.
"I kept saying I couldn't afford it, I had a daughter going to college, I couldn't go back to school, I had two cars to pay off, I had a house -- etc., etc.," he said.
Despite the excuses, his wife persuaded him to visit Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and both of them instantly "felt at home."
"I went ahead and applied and found out three days later they accepted me. I had no background in ministry, no background in anything that seemed similar, but they accepted me," he said. "I thought, 'OK, Lord, you have my attention now.' "
Since he had been active at their home church of Presbyterian Church of Plum Creek, Rev. Kirk was not totally unfamiliar with ministry work, but it wasn't something he had planned on.
"There were a lot of little things that just lined up," he said.
Rev. Kirk worked as a student pastor at Ken Mawr United Presbyterian Church while he attended the seminary and then as an associate pastor after graduation.
"I was very comfortable there and thought I'd retire there," he said, but after updating his information on a website for ministers, he was approached by several churches, including Valencia Presbyterian Church in Butler County.
"I kept telling them no, but they called back several times, and I finally decided to go to a one-on-one meeting," he said.
Much to his surprise, the church seemed to be the next step in his ministry career.
"Just like my call to the ministry, I felt like it was where God was leading me," he said.
Rev. Kirk was installed at the 150-member church in late January after serving five years at Ken Mawr. He will lead the church in reaching out to the local community while serving the families who already worship at the church.
"We are in an area that is exploding, but few people know we are here -- we want to be a place for families of all ages to worship," he said.neigh_west
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published June 7, 2012 5:30 AM