by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Mike Smith is the new pastor at Woodburn Christian Church.Mike Smith has been named the new pastor of Woodburn Christian Church six months after David Fitch retired.

Smith is a native Oregonian, but is just now returning after 36 years in Tennessee.

Originally from Eugene, Smith attended Northwest Christian College (now University), where he met his future wife, Sheryl. He graduated and was ordained at Harrisburg Christian Church in June 1978, they married in July and 10 days later they left for Tennessee, where Smith attended Emmanuel Christian Seminary.

“We told our parents we’d only be four or five years, but we got sidetracked,” he said.

To support his schooling, Smith got a job in the mail room at nearby Milligan College. What started out as a part-time job expanded into a career, as Smith would eventually become information technologies director for the college. But, after 20 years, he decided to leave that post in 2005.

“I considered it as part of serving,” he said. “There was always something new to do. I never felt there was an opportunity to step away.”

Having been heavily involved in church as an elder and Sunday school teacher, Smith was moved into the pastoral role at Lifebridge Christian Church in Kingsport, Tennessee.

“We were happy there but I felt in the last year the urge to come back (to Oregon),” Smith said, attributing his mother’s death for making him think of moving back. “My desire has always been to come back home. I’ve always considered myself a displaced Oregonian.”

So after 36 years in Tennessee, The Smiths packed up and headed back out to Oregon.

The transition has been more difficult than Smith anticipated.

“It’s good to be back with family,” he said, “but I didn’t imagine how difficult it would be to uproot and leave friendships.”

While he and his wife are still adjusting, they’re pleased with their congregation.

“We’re very much encouraged by them,” Smith said. “It’s a good fit in character and my style of ministry. I consider the pastor the shepherd. I’m one who walks with people, not ahead of them. I’m a pastor who will be there.”

With Fitch retiring in January, Tom Shepherd of Milwaukie served as an interim pastor, until a replacement was found.

Fitch continues to serve in the church, along with his wife, Darcy, who is the church office coordinator.

“We are both pleased and excited that Pastor Mike Smith has joined us, and look forward to a new spirit of growth and harmony in God’s word at the church,” Bill Coleman, the church’s music minister, said.

While the church is music heavy, Smith said he can’t carry a tune, but he can appreciate the music.

“I’m here just to watch and walk in step with these guys,” he said about the congregation. “I model it after the thought that the Spirit walks with us, not just as a buddy, but as an encourager, a guide and a shepherd.”

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