Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer

“She brings a spark to any room she walks into,” said Janell Colgan, a member of the First Congregational Church of Eaton Rapids, about her new pastor, Jennifer Rouble. “She’s a great addition to the church.” After serving as interim pastor for less than a year, on January 1, 2021, Rouble became the part-time permanent pastor at The First Congregational Church.
“Part-time is what the church needs right now,” said Rouble, “both financially and due to COVID.
“I know this is where God wants me to be. I have a real heart for this church because I grew up here.” She not only grew up there, but her parents, her sisters, and she and her husband were all married there.
“It was not in my plan to be a pastor,” she explained, “although people told me my whole life I should be,” she added. “God laid out the plans. It was his plan, not mine, so I’m being obedient.”
Rouble grew up in Eaton Rapids and graduated from Eaton Rapids High School. She and her husband, Garth, live on a farm near Jackson. They have five adult children, and currently one foster child. Over the years they have cared for 16 foster children.
Rouble earned an associate degree in early childhood education and taught pre-school in Dewitt, Mason and Union City.  While in Union City she started a program for at-risk children and their families with a goal to help parents become “a child’s first and best teacher.” It was in Union City where she started her first diaper pantry after seeing the need there and knowing that diapers are expensive, an expense that is not covered by government assistance. She was instrumental in creating one for Eaton Rapids at her church, also, which currently is serving 20 families.
Rouble is an ordained life coach minister, she explained, a certification process that takes about a year and a half to achieve. COVID actually made it easier, she said, to study for the certification being forced to stay home. A life coach helps you make decisions for life, to empower you, she explained.
She also recently completed her Trauma and Resilience Trainer certification through Starr Commonwealth.
Rouble started out as a guest speaker at the church, giving occasional sermons to fill in until a new pastor was found. Reverend John Metcalf was the previous minister at the church. She was appointed as the interim pastor on February 1, 2020.
“But then on March 13, the whole world shut down,” she said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a sign that God put me here,” she said. “Someone was needed to lead the church through this crazy time.” The church was closed, but she checked on the members of the church, calling them and sending out cards. Her sermons were streamed on Facebook.
“COVID actually helped us to move forward,” Rouble said. Another sign from God that she should be there, she believes, was the memorial donation made to the church from her grandmother, Doreen Bush, a 50+ year member of the church.
“She donated the money to pay for video and sound system equipment for the church, which enabled us to move forward and get the congregation back in the church sooner,” she said.
With two large-screen televisions at the front of the church, there is no need for hymnals, bulletins, or bibles; things that we are not supposed to share due to COVID. “Bruce Harkness and my husband set up our system,” Rouble said, “which allows the congregation to return to the pews, still masked and socially distant, of course.”
“The leadership at the church worked together to make it happen and to be together again,” Rouble said. “We must keep moving forward so the church can thrive.”
The Congregational Church is located at 300 South Main Street. It is open daily from 9 a.m. until noon, and church services are at 11 a.m. on Sunday. You can find them on Facebook at FCCEatonRapids.