Seaside Remembers Pastor

December 13, 2019 | Church | Dick Duerksen

Editor’s Note: This Thanksgiving week we are thankful for all of our pastors who give selflessly to the congregations of the Oregon Conference. We are saddened by the loss of Bill Smith but are thankful for the legacy that he built.

Seaside (Ore.) Church's William Earl "Pastor Bill" Smith died peacefully early Thursday morning, Nov. 14, 2019, at the age of 84, following a heart attack at home. Bill is survived by his wife, Sue, of Tillamook, Ore.; son and daughter-in-law, Jordan and Joy, of Mountainview, Hawaii; son, Bill Jr., of Tillamook, Ore.; daughter and son-in-law, Bonnie and Tim Mayne, of Netarts, Ore.; sister, Marian Rieber, of College Place, Wash.; 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The Seaside Church was ready to become a vibrant Christian community, be a beacon of hope in the community and build a new church. But, they didn’t realize any of that until Smith arrived as their “interim” pastor in January 2016.

“I retired from official church ministry at 80, after 10 years pastoring in Tillamook," Smith said once. "But for me, retirement was about ‘change,’ not ‘rest.’”

Smith arrived in Seaside with his heart and Bible open and his truck filled with carpentry tools. He inherited his passion for “making things from wood” from his carpenter father and left a legacy of handmade churches and schools wherever he worked — Alaska, Sabah, Malacca, Malaysia, Indonesia, Colorado and Oregon.

“I probably worked a lot more than I should have,” Smith once admitted, “but the old Seaside church needed new bathrooms, a new sanctuary, a new kitchen, a paved parking lot and landscaping. We couldn’t afford to pay people to do the work, so we pitched in together to make it happen.”

Though ministry in Seaside quickly began centering on the building process, Smith's ministry was far more than construction. “Bill was amazing,” Dan Linrud, Oregon Conference president, remembers. “He could have seen this interim appointment as caring for church boards, a few prayer meetings and the weekly worship service. But not Bill! He would drive up from his home in Tillamook, help shingle the church roof, then visit several members, meet with Seaside leaders and spend time counseling new friends. He was amazing.”

Smith was integral the construction project. “Architect Don Kirkman drew us a plan, as he has for thousands of other congregations around the world, for remodeling and updating our building,” remembered Smith one time. “I thought it was too fancy, but the church board approved it and assigned me the role of general contractor for the job. We began work in May.”

Smith's background as a mission aviator, carpenter, outdoorsman and friend drew a circle of fellowship that included Seaside’s community leaders and the church’s neighbors. Right away the neighbors noticed new life in their Adventist neighbors, and many stopped by to see what was happening. Smith made quick friends with everyone, and some brought their tools and became crucial members of the construction team.

“The day we turned on the new electric signboard on the road beside the church, I had to smile," Smith recalled. “It did exactly what we had hoped. There’s a stoplight at the corner by the church, and everyone sat there reading our sign as they waited for the light to change. That sign has become a real asset for the church’s ministry in Seaside.”

Kirkman came to the church’s dedication service. “I am so pleased,” he said, “with how Bill and his team have been able to blend the old with the new so that the church has become one — all new.”

That’s also how the church members and community see the Seaside congregation. Smith's leadership brought them together as one, so they have become a gleaming beacon of hope in the community.