Meet Bob Madsen
By Eugenia Gamble
Baptized in the UPC, confirmed in the PCUS and ordained in the PCUSA, new regional presbyter for South Alabama and Mississippi presbyteries, Bob Madsen has been steeped in the history and ethos of Presbyterians in the United States. It is a way of living the faith that has supported and nurtured him all of his life. His warmth, humor, appreciative spirit and theological insight create a natural aura of safety and camaraderie in even casual conversations.
Bob thinks theologically and finds in the spirituality of the intellect an impetus for ministry. Knowing the role of the executive is fairly recent in Presbyterian history, Bob welcomes these days as a time to think both backward and forward. In a time when the loudest voices in Christianity often become either strident or wishy washy, Bob asks, “How do we as Presbyterians amplify our story, share the best of the Reformed Tradition and allow it to speak into the times in which we live and the people with whom we live? When we are people unused to tooting our own horns, how do we break through the noise and legalism that seems to dominate in American Christianity and help people simply get about the business of being joyful?” In speaking of the Reformed tradition, Bob says, “We tell a different story. How do we communicate it? How do we move from a corporate model of church, that formed many of us, into a more nimble way of being the Body of Christ?” These questions animate Bob’s ministry.
One Sunday when Bob was pastor after he had taken a bad fall and shattered his heel, he led worship wearing a thick protective boot. At the appropriate time, he hobbled his way to the communion table directly in front of the pulpit. Celebrating the season, the pulpit was banked with poinsettias as was the table. A stool had been set up behind the table to allow Bob to sit while he consecrated the sacrament. Managing his boot and the stool were a challenge. When Bob went to sit he “overshot the stool and began to tip backwards into the poinsettias and the pulpit that rocked unsteadily. A quick thinking elder reached across the table and poinsettias and put two fingers on Bob’s shoulder. Not a grab and not a lot of pressure, but just enough to help him keep his balance. Isn’t that just like the church, he pondered, offering a bit of balance when life comes unglued? “That’s what I love about the church. When I fall on my keester, there is someone there to lend a hand.”
Bob is married to his sweetheart Linda. They met in his first pastorate in New Jersey where Bob says he decided he needed some support after attending a retreat where the ministers sat around a candle and chanted. “Not my way,” Bob says. He asked Linda to marry him as soon as he got home. Bob enjoys New Jersey style pizza and is an aspiring fly fisher. He and Linda are making their new home in Saraland, AL.