The Rev. Kate Stangl, of Crosslake Presbyterian Church, doesn’t prefer to be called “pastor” or “reverend,” but rather just “Kate.”
She’s been an ordained minister for 32 years now, and has been working in Crosslake for just more than four years.
“I prefer Kate. Unless I have to have some clout,” she said with a smile.
Kate’s father was a preacher, and of the five children in her family, three are also preachers. She says she really grew up in the church.
She said that on Sunday afternoons, she’d line up her stuffed animals and preach to them.
“Some kids played teacher, I played preacher,” Kate said.
The Presbyterian Church first began allowing women into ministry in 1955. When Kate began seminary, 25 years later, it was still very unusual to see women becoming preachers.
Her older brother actually suggested against Kate becoming a minister. He said women had to work twice as hard and perform twice as well as men in order to simply be viewed as equal.
Before accepting the position at Crosslake Presbyterian, Kate worked in Sigourney, Iowa, and Ottumwa, Iowa, both southeast of Des Moines. Even so, Kate’s not exactly new to Crosslake.
Her family vacationed in Crosslake from the time she was 5 years old. In fact, she had attended church at Crosslake Presbyterian while visiting.
Kate lived in church-owned houses growing up, as her father was a preacher, but her family owned their Crosslake area cabin.
“I always felt most at home up here,” she said. “All five of us kids felt that way.”
Kate’s parents, incidentally, were instrumental in the start of Crosslake Presbyterian. While her father was never a pastor at the church, he did preach there sometimes.
Kate lives in Crosslake with her husband, Allan Brown. Each has two grown children. Allan is Kate’s third husband.
“I used to feel terribly ashamed that I was divorced,” Kate said. “But through the years I’ve come to believe the church needs me, because that’s such a reflection of the culture.”
She believes she has more empathy and relates better to others because of her experience.
“It’s been very different that I’ve been in two churches that have gone through a divorce with me, and they have been so supportive,” she said.
She explained that she kept the last name Stangl from her first marriage, both to match her kids and because she appreciated its uniqueness. She pointed out that there are three other preachers called Rev. Williams (Kate’s maiden name) in her family.
Kate’s religious work has gone beyond the church’s sanctuary. Kate is a certified pastoral counselor, though she no longer practices, and she worked in hospice for 15 years. Crosslake Presbyterian is the first church she’s worked at where she has only one job.
Kate worked in hospice in many roles. She’s worked as chaplain, social worker and grief counselor. She was first asked to take part in hospice as just a chaplain, a volunteer position.
“I just love hospice,” Kate said. “It’s a privilege to be allowed into people’s lives at such a critical point in their life. The focus really is on living, not dying.”
She said both hospice and therapy are large pieces of her personal identity.
Kate’s also a piano player, having played since second grade. In the winter, she plays for the church’s choir. In the summer, she sings in the choir.
Kate is known for her sense of humor and welcoming nature. On its website, the church identifies itself as a place, “Where faith is nurtured, curiosity is encouraged, diversity is welcomed and all are loved.”
Kate seems to be instrumental in that cause.