Jan Everhart returning to California to be a pastor


Photo courtesy of Jonathan Cox

by Zoe Seiler, News Editor

Students know Jan Everhart as a warm, welcoming, intelligent professor. Some even notice that she is also an ordained pastor.

Jan grew up in California and was a pastor there for 17 years, during which time she served at three churches.

“I loved being a pastor. It’s a great point of privilege to share the richest and hardest and best times of life with people. I loved reading the Bible with youth and adults in the church,” Jan said.

She served at a church in Fresno for nine years. It was the second reconciling congregation in the country, meaning the church welcomed people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, according to the Reconciling Ministries Network.

Jan came to Simpson in 2003 to administer the Lilly Grant. She helped implement programs such as the Call of Service trip, Wesley Service Scholars, CO-OP 119, Exploring Ministry and others.

“The Call of Service was one of the many programs that Jim Hayes and I implemented as part of the Lilly Grant,” she said. “Of course, people who were here and planned that grant long before I ever came were very much a part of that, so I’m not saying I did that. I just got to implement those programs and finesse them.”  

She was eventually hired as a professor and is now tenured.

“What happened was, midway through the grant, there was an opening in the religion department,” Jan said. “I did not apply because they were looking for a religion and culture person and I’m a Bible person. But after a couple failed searches, and I was already teaching a couple classes, so I think it was kind of like OK, yeah.”

At Simpson, Jan teaches all the Bible classes, an SC class, Greek and leads the Call of Service May term trip.

“Her classes are usually fun because they’re discussion-based a lot of the times,” senior religion major Rachel Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth described Jan as welcoming, intelligent and timely. She also said Jan pushes her students.

“She does a good job at challenging students where they’re at but then not trying to push them so hard that they don’t want to be in the class,” Hollingsworth said. “She expects a lot of her students. She wants them to do well.”

Jan said she has learned a lot from her students over the years and has learned how to change classes to fit their needs. She also gets to know her students well, especially the religion majors and minors.

“On multiple occasions, she’s helped her students with things in their personal lives or outside of academics,” Hollingsworth said. “On the Call of Service last year, I was having an emotional time, and Jan offered to pray with me. It was one of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever heard. After she was done praying, I said ‘Wow, Jan it’s almost like you were trained to be a pastor or something.’ She thought that was really funny.”

Jan has made many memories while teaching, especially during her Call of Service trips and Greek classes.

“I love teaching Greek because it’s usually students who are really interested in working with the New Testament and we often can talk about okay, if you were preaching on this text, what would it (say), so for me that’s kind of bringing all the parts of my experience together,” she said.

She has also accomplished many tasks during her tenure, such as donating the initial gift with her spouse to the fund that is now the endowment for the Matthew Simpson lectures.

Jan is also committed to making sure the Call of Service trip continues.

“Eric (Rucker) and I have worked on it together the last couple years and he’s going to teach it next spring, so I feel like we’ve made a plan to have that as a catalog course now,” Jan said.

While Jan loves her job at Simpson, she asked her bishop in the United Methodist Church for an appointment to be able to lead a church, a decision she was considering a few years ago.

“Well, I’m going to be senior pastor at a great church in Stockton. It’s across the street from a United Methodist-related college that’s even older than Simpson,” she said. “It’s what they call the flagship church for that area, meaning it’s a bigger church. It’s got a great staff and they’ve been reconciling for 20 years and they’ve never had a woman pastor, which is very unusual in my conference.”

Jan and her spouse will move back to California over the summer and will be able to reconnect with friends.

“Jan and I feel like we’re going home,” she said. “We have a lot of friends still even though we’ve been gone 21 years.”

While reflecting on her time at Simpson, Jan said she was going to miss her students.

“I’ve loved my time at Simpson,” Jan said. “I’ll definitely miss being in the classroom and interacting with students informally. Those conversations that happen when they drop by my office or sitting here. I’ll miss that.”