Leadership change is nothing new to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Generally, every five years, a new bishop is called from the congregation to serve as the ecclesiastical leader. Jerey Wilson of the Buckley 1st Ward (similar to a parish) and Gene Spader from the Buckley 2nd Ward are the newest members to receive the calling of bishop. Wilson replaces Arlin Satterthwaite of Buckley and Spader replaces McKay Kunz of South Prairie.
It’s an equally emotional time for the men coming in as for the men being replaced as the responsibilities they bear are monumental and their lives are touched in giving service to the members of their ward and their community.
“Serving others is where I have found great joy and satisfaction‚“ Kunz said. “When I look beyond my own challenges and focus more on others and how I might help in some small way, then I find greater meaning and purpose in life and feel that maybe I’m doing things the lord would want me to do.”
Members do not vie for positions in the church. Local church leaders prayerfully consider who should serve in any capacity within the church’s organizations. As a recently called bishop, Spader mentions that, “this is not a position I aspired to, but am extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve my fellow man and provide help spiritually where I can. I love the people I serve and in turn feel the love they offer me.”
Because ward membership is based on a geographical area, a bishop’s responsibility not only encompasses the members of the ward, but also the care of the community within their boundaries. And it’s a job they take seriously. There is no theological training for these men, other than many of them have served as full-time missionaries as young men or have gained knowledge and experience through other leadership positions in the church. A bishop is called, through fasting and prayer, by the stake president, who is inspired and has the authority to make such a call.
One of the unique aspects about any calling extended in the church, is that the members of the congregations fill them, and without pay. It is no different for bishops. Bishops either hold down a full-time job in addition to the 20-plus hours devoted to their callings, or are retired, and they do this without compensation. Otherwise known as a “lay ministry,” the blessings that come through their service are more than adequate than any monetary value and it is a service they are more than willing to offer.
For many of these men, this is getting them out of their comfort zone and learning to make adjustments in their lives and new schedules. As Spader stated after having been extended the call the first of January, “I feel overwhelmed, excited, humbled, scared, eager, deer in the headlights feeling, willing, and everything in between.” Also, he’s learning that he’s “not as shy anymore and [I] am honing my organizational skills.”
Because it’s like having a second job in addition to their full time jobs, they have to learn to balance their schedules so that valuable time with their families remains a priority.
Members are invited to sustain and support their bishops by doing their respective callings effectively so that it helps ease the burdens that these men shoulder.
Wards typically average 350 to 400 members and though it may seem like a daunting endeavor, each bishop prayerfully considers, then chooses, two men from the congregation to serve alongside him to help with his duties and responsibilities. These men are sustained as his counselors and help oversee, counsel with the bishop and administer the temporal and spiritual needs of the ward.
Other responsibilities that bishop’s have include making sure that the programs of the church are implemented effectively and appropriately within their wards. There are many auxiliaries within a ward and each has their own president and two counselors.
Wilson and his wife Michelle live in the Buckley area with their two children. He works as a commercial real estate appraiser and is excited for this new challenge.
Satterthwaite works in the sheet metal industry and lives in Buckley. He and his wife Leslie are the parents of four grown children. He served as Bishop to the Buckley 1st Ward for five years.
Spader and his wife Kathryn are the parents of five children and live on the outskirts of South Prairie and Orting. He is a pharmaceutical rep for Ovation Pharmaceuticals. Fairly new to the area, the Spaders moved into the ward about a year and a half ago and love the country life.
Kunz and his wife, Linda, live in South Prairie with their two children. He is an engineer for Boeing and his son recently returned from a two-year mission to Pennsylvania. Kunz served as bishop of the Buckley 2nd Ward for a little more than five years.
For information about the church, visit www.mormon.org.