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Washington Voices

From High-Tech Job To A Higher Calling

Sat., May 4, 1996

Jim Catlin, in his T-shirt, jeans and court shoes, doesn’t come off as a fast-track big-business type. His casual style doesn’t convey evangelical preacher, either.

But fashion can be deceiving.

Catlin worked for Hewlett-Packard for 18 years, most recently holding the title of manager of integrated circuit development at H-P’s Liberty Lake plant.

Earlier this year he gave it all up, along with half of his income, to become co-pastor of Valley Bible Church.

Catlin, 42, had helped out at the church for years. A self-taught musician, he regularly planned and led the music portion of worship services at Valley Bible with his wife, Dorothy. The decision to give up his career, though, didn’t come easily.

He thought about it for three years before he actually switched jobs. The family prepared for the change in income by paying off debt.

“I’d call it a calling,” Catlin says. “It was a pretty radical change.”

He grew up in a religious family. But while growing up in Maryland, he saw his future in capacitors, not the clergy.

“I always did the strange bell and wires things when I was a kid,” he says, referring to the do-it-yourself electronics kits popular when he was growing up. Catlin says he never considered becoming a preacher.

But he remembers once, back in third grade, another little boy asked him what he wanted to be.

“I want to be a pastor,” came the reply.”I don’t really know why I said that,” Catlin says, adding that he never really thought about it before, and did’t for many years afterward.

Catlin studied engineering at the University of California at Davis, and afterward went to work for H-P in the Bay Area. He got married and joined a gospel quartet with his wife. After about 10 years, the couple moved here after being transferred by H-P.

Catlin’s career steadily advanced. As it did, he got further from the hands-on work with gadgets that he loved. Management was different.

But he did like working with people. In recent years, he helped negotiate big deals with companies in Scotland and other parts of the world. He also became increasingly involved with Valley Bible Church, even delivering sermons on occasion.

When one of the two co-pastors left, Catlin decided it was time to change jobs. “The opportunity came along, and he went for it,” says the Rev. Paul Winslow, VBC’s other pastor.

“It’s certainly true he had a great career at H-P … but I think Jim has always had a real interest in helping people and caring for them in a spiritual sense.”

And in some ways, it’s not entirely different. Catlin says supervising employees and negotiating deals was good people training. He uses many of the same skills when he works with young people at the church, which is the biggest part of his job.

The job-related stresses didn’t go away, they just stopped following a schedule, Catlin said. These days, someone in need can call him anytime, not just from 9 to 5.

But the new job has other bonuses. Catlin helps people in different ways. He can have a photo of himself dressed as Elvis (a shot taken at an H-P function) on the wall. He can spend a day at the office dressed in jeans.

“And I don’t have to do a lot of international flying,” the preacher says with a laugh. “It’s fun the first couple times you do it, after that it gets old.”

, DataTimes

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