BANGOR, Maine — The man who predicted that he and his fellow graduates would be sweating under their robes Friday was one of 20 students to be awarded degrees by the Bangor Theological Seminary.
Steven W. Smith, better known as WLBZ 2 weatherman Steve McKay, received his Master of Arts degree in a ceremony at First United Methodist Church on Essex Street.
For the past few years, the meteorologist has been Pastor Smith to two United Methodist congregations in Washington County. That will change on July 5 when Smith becomes the part-time pastor of Orono United Methodist Church.
It will be a kind of homecoming for Smith, 49, who was confirmed as a teenager at the Oak Street Church and still lives in Orono.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said of his new assignment after the graduation ceremony.
McKay will not give up his night job at WLBZ 2, his alter ego said.
Smith has been a licensed pastor with the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church for the past five years, which allowed him to serve two small congregations while completing his education.
In 2005, Smith accepted the challenge of serving as the part-time pastor for Milbridge-Wyman United Methodist Church in Milbridge. Two year later, he added Faith United Methodist Church in Columbia to his workload.
The congregations are about 15 miles apart, so services have been at 9 a.m. at Milbridge-Wyman and at 10:45 a.m. at Faith UMC. He has kept in touch with his flocks through weekly newsletters, but it has been difficult to serve as an administrator and pastor to his congregants during emergencies from two hours away.
Smith was not the only graduate whose journey to graduation was long and winding.
Pamela Gross first heard the call to ministry 24 years ago when she was pregnant with her first child. It took her a dozen years to answer it and another 12 to complete her education.
Gross, 53, of Bangor earned her Master of Divinity degree Friday. She will be ordained Sunday at the Belfast Unitarian Universalist Church by the congregation she has been serving as a part-time pastor for the past nine years.
This summer, she will begin a new job as a full-time chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She said Friday that the way in which the Unitarian Universalist denomination has embraced other faiths has prepared her well to be a chaplain in a metropolitan area with a diverse population.
“I’m willing to sit with people wherever they are,” she said. “I’ve prayed the rosary and read the Old Testament with patients at [Eastern Maine Medical Center] during my chaplaincy training.”
BTS awarded 11 Master of Divinity degrees, seven Master of Arts degrees and one diploma to a student who must complete her undergraduate work before receiving her graduate degree.
The seminary alternates where it holds its commencement ceremonies between its Portland campus at State Street Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, and a church in Bangor. The seminary is located on the campus of Husson University in Bangor.