Church: Neillsville UCC - Pastor Jacoba Koppert (30th Anniv. - 2016)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Koppert, Perkl, Vornholt

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 4/27/2016

Pastor Jacoba Marks 30th (Anniversary - 2016)

Pastor Jacoba Koppert on the left and on the right: Sue Vornholt presenting Pastor Jacoba (l) with a special gift at the dinner. (Photos by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)

By Todd Schmidt

Pastor Jacoba Koppert has had a wonderful spiritual ride.

She celebrated her 30th anniversary in the ministry with a sentimental service April 17 at the Neillsville United Church of Christ (UCC), where she has served as pastor since 2013.

The church service included special performances by the handbells, adult choir and children’s singers. Many of Jacoba’s family members attended the celebration, which featured a wonderful anniversary dinner after the service. Moderator Mike Perkl and Sue Vornholt presented several nice fits on behalf of the congregation.

“I can acknowledge in a nutshell what Pastor Jacoba’s presence means here,” Perkl said. “She brings energy, enthusiasm, commitment, thoughtfulness, knowledge and friendship.”

Jacoba said she feels very much at home in Neillsville.

“It has been very clear to me that I was called to be here,” she said. “We still have a lot more work to do. I really appreciate the work this church does in missions, with youth and in the community. We have a love for one another.”

Jacoba said she is excited by her service with the Clark County Health Department’s Mental Health Task Force, the Neillsville Ministerial Association and her volunteer work as a chaplain for Memorial Medical Center.

In her anniversary day sermon, Jacoba touted the new Memory Café the UCC will soon be hosting to benefit those affected by various stages of dementia.

“We are going to work together on this ministry to the community,” she said.

Jacoba originally became a special education teacher. She taught for a short time before resigning.

Shortly afterward, she spent a restless night at a faith retreat at a church camp.

“Much like Jacob, I wrestled in the night,” she said. “In the morning I told my pastor I was going to seminary. God had called me, a woman.”

She took many pastoral care classes at Eden Seminary in St. Louis. She received her Master’s of Divinity degree in 1986.

She was placed for a year as an intern as a hospital chaplain. She spent a summer interning as a student pastor in Burlington, IA.

“I was left in charge of the church while my supervisor went on a four-week vacation,” she said with a smile. When he returned, I knew God had called me into the parish rather than into pastoral counseling or a hospital setting.”

She said the years in seminary were not easy. There have been plenty of challenges for her since her ordination 30 years ago.

“God’s call was constant, even when I had my doubts,” she said. God did not give me a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power, and of love, and of self-discipline.”

Her first pastoral assignment was Catawissa Union Protestant Church and UCC churches in Catawissa, MO (1985-1988). During that time, she became chaplain for the local fire department and worked one day per week as pastor of visitation at Zion UCC in Union, MO.

Her second church was St. John’s UCC in Fort Madison, IA (1988-1995).

Jacoba’s attitude began to slowly evolve due to the Mississippi River Flood of 1993.

“I learned in that flood that my community service, mission work, if you will, needed to include the congregation I was called to serve,” she said.

Her third church was Plattsburg UCC in Plattsburg, OH (1995-2006). She returned to the country living lifestyle.

“I rode my bike out into the fields and jumped onto tractors and combines,” she said. “It was a great way to have conversations with farmers. I loved the county fair, most of my youth was in 4-H and showed animals.”

At that church, she ministered to about a dozen members who suffered with varying degrees of dementia.

“I was with many of them from the beginning to the end of the illness,” she said.

Her fourth assignment was at Eden UCC in St. Louis (2006-2012). The church took on the police department in outreach ministry. Jacoba became a chaplain to the police department and rode with officers at times, talking with them about their work and families.

Prior to coming to Neillsville, Jacoba took an unpaid sabbatical, serving in various capacities as a supply pastor and chaplain.

“God has really blessed me,” Jacoba said. “So many lives have touched mine. There is still so much to do; expressing my faith in the pulpit, in homes and on the streets; bringing hope to God’s children; teaching the faith, doing mission; and working for justice and peace for all God’s people.



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