‘I preach a gospel of love and acceptance wherever I go’

By 
Story And Photo By Jaci Webb
Thursday, September 22, 2022
Rev. Jamielee Demske is the new pastor at Laurel United Methodist Church.

Rev. Jamielee Demske is the new pastor at Laurel United Methodist Church.

Laurel’s newest pastor loves the friendly town of Laurel

In our often contentious world, crippled by disagreements and isolation brought on by the pandemic, religious leaders look for ways to bring people together and share a message of hope and love.

Rev. Jamielee Demske, who took over as pastor of the Laurel United Methodist Church in July, is working to bring more people back to the church, and to preach “a gospel of love and acceptance wherever I go.”

Jamielee grew up attending church with her family in Wisconsin, “a cradle Methodist, baptized at 10 days old.” But in her teen years, she had a crisis of faith and left the church because she questioned how some people use religion to keep others away.

Jamielee went to work for Appalachia Service Project, working with some of the poorest people in the country in West Virginia from page 1 and Kentucky. That experience brought her back to the church.

“I experienced a call. I found myself called back because I saw people who loved and gave so much even though they had so little.”

The religious community of Laurel is a supportive one and connecting with other pastors and parishioners is just part of what Jamielee does. Serving as a parttime pastor in Laurel, Jamielee is also a resource minister for eastern Montana. In fact, she already helped out a Laurel Lutheran minister by conducting a recent Sunday service for him.

“I offer support in whatever capacity is needed. This weekend I am visiting Plentywood and a couple of other churches nearby. I’m a helper.”

It took Jamielee 10 years to become an ordained senior pastor, including earning a master’s degree from Iliff School of Theology at Denver University. The Laurel United Methodist Church is the fourth church Jamielee has been assigned to. She has been pleased with the support and kindness of the community.

When Jamielee first came to Laurel, she was short on staff and an 18-year-old congregant — Thomas Amestoy — jumped right in to help. That’s the way people are here — kind, she said.

“The people of Laurel United Methodists are helpers and they show it every single day.”

She has since hired an office administrator, Marci Polston, and a pianist, Paige Ingram.

Laurel is the perfect-sized town for Jamielee and her family, including husband Jordan Zitterkopf, 2-year-old daughter June, and 13-year old Addy, who is Jordan’s daughter from a previous marriage and lives in California during the school year. Laurel reminds them a bit of the midwestern towns Jamielee and Jordan grew up in. The pace of life is slower here than an urban city like Denver, where they lived and worked for eight years before moving to Laurel.

“Both of us talked about this as a homecoming,” she said.

Jamielee enjoys her leisurely walk every morning to the church at 407 W. Fourth St., stopping to chat with neighbors along the way. They live just a few blocks from the United Methodist Church.

“It’s a huge blessing to walk to work,” she said.

Jamielee is replacing the former pastor at Laurel United Methodist, Dolly Collins, who retired and moved to the Southwest. When Collins was appointed to the Laurel position, she was one of the first female pastors in Laurel, according to Jamielee.

Even though there are challenges facing organized religion with dwindling numbers, Jamielee is putting her best efforts into her new position in Laurel, and helping people find the hope and love that many seek.

Editor’s note: This is the first in

a series highlighting religious and spiritual leaders of Laurel. If you would like to suggest someone to feature contact us at editor@laureloutlook.com or call The Outlook at 406-6284412.

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