Back in West Liberty for a second time, Betsey Neipert has a new role in the community – serving as pastor of the West Liberty United Methodist Church.
After raising her family here as Betsey Rothermel before her first husband, Alan, died in 1981, she married Cliff Neipert in 1984 and the nearly 80-year-old pastor got her first appointment in 2000 to serve Methodist parishes in Cedar Valley, Conesville and Nichols in the area before eight years later, getting short assignments all over the Des Moines district, taking orders from Bishop Laurie Hollar.
Then a partner in her husband’s Seagull Seed Corn business, Niepert first came to West Liberty in 1973 from just east of the Quad-Cities in rural Illinois, growing up in a Lutheran church in Polo, where she was commissioned to play the pipe organ, getting her first involvement in the church.
“When we first came here to town, we came to this church,” said Neipert, noting West Liberty was an “excellent place” to raise her two sons, Jeff and Doug, who both graduated from West Liberty High School.
Although having to mandatory retire from the church at age 72, she served at interim appointments before getting selected to lead the West Liberty parish in a full-time position that started Oct. 1.
Neipert believes she’ll fit right in for her “aging congregation,” although the church doesn’t have live services these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now promoting a service and sermon every Sunday through virtual media on You-Tube.
Neipert, who had been in the corporate insurance world earlier in life, said she left a great job to follow her mission to become a pastor. “I let the doors open and started walking through them,” she said of her calling, noting there’s always been a shortage of ministers and when Pastors Don and Mary Timmermann left the West Liberty church, she felt fortunate to be called to the pulpit.
She is a “licensed local pastor,” doing her seminary work in Kansas City at the St. Paul Theological Seminary.
She hopes to bring “encouragement and vision” to the parish, noting the parish has “always been extremely generous” and she hopes to continue a lot of the things the parish has started in the community, from hosting seasonal bazaars to the community “Infant Closet,” where struggling young families can get baby supplies, clothes, blankets and more.
She also hopes, once the COVID-19 pandemic settles down, to begin small group Bible studies, noting, “that’s how we learn and grow from each other.”
A resident of rural Conesville where the couple raises mules, Neipert says she does a lot of counseling and listening to parishioner concerns on the phone, but is also present at the church now every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
“I like talking to people to help them fill their needs,” she said, noting those who may want to talk don’t always have to be members of the parish. “I’ll help anyone,” she said, noting residents with personal problems, addiction, health, marital struggles or whatever are always welcome.
“I want to have an un-anxious presence,” she said. “I want to walk beside them.”
The new pastor said she felt she was “always called” to the ministry. “I just know God wants me to be doing something important,” she said, noting she’s always felt a “call to preach.”
“I consider it one of my gifts,” she said of giving a memorable sermon, noting she’s even helped provide funeral services for local citizens that were members of her parish.
The pastor says she loves the proximity and diversity of West Liberty and welcomes everyone to her parish.
Services are available through YouTube at WLunitedmethodistchurch.