New Durango minister once a doubting Thomas

Pastor to be at First Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Beau Tanner Smith and his wife, Kristin; son, Asher, 8; and daughter, Eden, 5, have moved to Durango from San Luis Obispo, Calif. Smith is the new pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Durango. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Durango

The Rev. Beau Tanner Smith and his wife, Kristin; son, Asher, 8; and daughter, Eden, 5, have moved to Durango from San Luis Obispo, Calif. Smith is the new pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Durango.

There will be a new face in the pulpit at First Presbyterian Church of Durango on Sunday.

The Rev. Beau Tanner Smith and his family are moving to Durango from San Luis Obispo, Calif., where Smith has been a campus pastor working with students at California Polytechnic State University, director of Front Porch Ministry and an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of San Luis Obispo.

“In some senses, the position at First Presbyterian is very similar in terms of expectations,” he said. “But the multigenerational congregation will be new.”

A California native, Smith, 34, didn’t grow up in a church-going family.

“I was very resistant at first,” he said. “I came to my faith through a friend, who’s still my best friend to this day. The faithfulness of his friendship and the way he talked about his beliefs got me into a youth group, and I came to believe.”

Smith didn’t always know he wanted to be a minister.

“I did have the idea that I would somehow be working in the church when I became a Christian at 17,” he said. “I had no idea what you had to do to be a pastor.”

He went on to graduate from Whitworth University, a liberal arts college in Spokane, Wash., that is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, before attending Princeton Theological Seminary for three years to earn his Master of Divinity. After graduation, the Smith family moved to Colorado, where he had his first experience as youth director and associate pastor for the First Presbyterian Church of Montrose.

“My wife and I wanted something west of the Mississippi River,” he said about how they ended up in Montrose.

Smith comes to his new Durango job through his friend the Rev. Dale Ridenour, who had been serving as the interim pastor.

“I wasn’t really looking,” he said. “While I have a passion for working with college students, I’m fully invested in helping this church realize a bright future.”

First Presbyterian has faced challenges on the ministerial front since the Rev. Bill Postler retired several years ago, discharging one pastor and getting by with several interim pastors.

“Beau is a compassionate and gifted preacher with a special gift for bridging generations,” church elder Virginia Miller Cavanagh said. “We joyfully and unanimously called him to be our new pastor.”

Smith is aware of the uncertainty and conflict the congregation has faced in the last few years.

“My hope is to be a healing presence,” Smith said. “This is a very warm and welcoming group of people who have a very good heart. The journey for the next few years is putting that great heart to use.”

abutler@durangoherald.com