Diane Goulson is the new pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Belle Plaine.
Diane Goulson is the new pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Belle Plaine.
Pastor Diane Goulson had the time to spare in her schedule. A Belle Plaine church needed a pastor who could commit about 10 hours a week to the congregation, someone with the energy and passion to help the small congregation grow and continue its ministry of community service.
Goulson recently began her work with the First Presbyterian Church of Belle Plaine after the church’s membership overwhelming accepted the recommendation to call her. She’ll work on a quarter-time schedule. The rest of her schedule will be at Redeemer Lutheran on Highway 19, just east of Highway 169 in Blakeley Township.
Last fall, Goulson met Tom Bartholomew, a member of First Presbyterian’s church council, at a planning meeting for the annual community ecumenical service. As the two chatted, the congregation’s need for a quarter-time pastor and Goulson’s schedule seemingly meshed. Bartholomew was all too happy to suggest the congregation considering Goulson as its next pastor.
The church’s congregation overwhelmingly agreed. She’ll work two days a week, leading worship on Sunday, visiting congregation members one other day a week – her favorite parts of the job -- and handling administrative tasks.
Pastor Goulson replaces Pastor Don Genereux, who retired last year because of health concerns. The congregation was able to hire Goulson because the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Presbyterian churches has a reciprocity agreement permitting the two churches to share pastors.
“We are very similar in our theology,” Goulson said of the two churches.
She is looking forward to hitting the ground running. Getting to know Belle Plaine won’t be much of a problem. Goulson spent two years in training at St. John Lutheran in 2004 and ’05 before her ordination there March 25, 2006.
Her husband, Darryl, was a teacher and coach in Belle Plaine for several years. He retired from teaching in 2014. Pastor Diane, as she prefers, is well aware of First Presbyterian. She worked with the congregation representatives and other members of Belle Plaine churches setting up the annual ecumenical thanksgiving service.
“I think this church has so much to offer the community and they already give it,” Goulson said.

Plenty Going On
Along with participation in the ecumenical service, members of First Presbyterian are also actively involved in the Belle Plaine Food Shelf. Its members participate in Operation Christmas Child, helping to collect and donate hundreds of gift-wrapped boxes of Christmas gifts for children in underdeveloped nations. The congregation also hosts a Halloween open house and sloppy Joe dinner. First Presbyterian has also hosted homeless families in the Families Moving Forward program, a temporary housing program other Belle Plaine churches have participated in.
Goulson’s goal is to bring new life to the tiny congregation that has been a part of Belle Plaine for over a century. She enjoys music and looking at the status quo in a new way.
“I want to make each person feel important, whether you are a guest or are here every Sunday,” Goulson said.
She is confident the opportunity is a good fit between a congregation needing a quarter-time pastor and three-quarters-time pastor who wants to work full-time. “What are the odds?” Goulson said.
She enjoys an ecumenical approach to Christianity. Goulson spent five years as a cantor during Masses at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in New Prague. She said her late parents attended both Methodist and Presbyterian churches over the years.
Goulson’s approach is both personable and open to new ideas. Not one to lecture from the pulpit, she said she “speaks from the heart” and works to establish eye contact with congregants during her sermons. Goulson works to be encouraging and brings energy to services. She addresses issues head-on.
“Sometimes I’m a little too honest,” she said.

Bring a Spark
Bartholomew and the other members of the First Presbyterian congregation are hoping Goulson can bring more life, and members, to the church on West Main Street. The church’s strengths are its financial transparency, friendly people and leadership. It is challenged by a need for younger members and, like many congregations, increased revenue. First Presbyterian has switched its Sunday worship service to 5 p.m. in an effort to appeal to younger families.
Working as a pastor is a second career for Goulson, one that brings her peace and fulfillment. She worked for years as a laboratory technician and technical writer at Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague. After her ordination, her first call was to a retirement community in Northfield. She had decided to follow a call to the ministry in 1993. But the arrival of Diane and Darryl’s second adopted child delayed the onset of her journey to seminary school until 1998. Today, the Goulsons have three children, ages 28, 23 and 15.
She entered the ministry as a way to help care for people’s spiritual needs. Goulson wants to share her gifts and talents of music and passion for the written and spoken word. “I feel like I have some good news to share,” she said.