Trailblazing female Presbyterian minister, tireless volunteer
The Rev. Barbara M. Stout died February 15 in Claremont, after a long illness.
She was born Barbara Ann Mullen in 1926 in Los Angeles, to Calvin Mullen and Dorothy Reynolds Mullen.
She grew up during the Depression, learning the value of thrift. Both her parents were schoolteachers.
Barbara, along with younger sister Dorothy Jean and her parents, enjoyed camping in Yosemite in the summertime. She recounted working at the Broadway department store in Hollywood at age 14 due to work force law changes during World War II.
She attended Occidental College for one year before transferring to what was then known as Whitworth College, a Presbyterian school in Spokane, Washington where she majored in Christian education. There she met her future husband, George, who was at Whitworth following World War II. They shared a love of the outdoors, and honeymooned in Olympic National Park, and also in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho.
After starting a family in Spokane while Mr. Stout finished college on the GI Bill, she was volunteer director of Christian education at the First Presbyterian Church, Spokane.
The family moved back to Southern California after her husband’s graduation, and in 1955, Mrs. Stout was hired at Pomona First Presbyterian Church as director of Christian education. Mr. Stout directed the choir there.
In 1960 she was hired as director of Christian education at Claremont Presbyterian Church, arriving at the beginning of a significant expansion in membership. She served for 16 years in this capacity.
Her family life was full, and she accompanied her husband and children on adventurous summer trips to the national parks of the western states, and also on other trips to Canada and the East Coast. In later years, she and Mr. Stout enjoyed staying in the Northwest for the better parts of many summers.
She also shared Mr. Stout’s love of music, and would attend many concerts and other performances with him throughout their life together. As busy as she was in professional and volunteer life, she always had time to be a great wife and mother to her family, her family shared.
When the proverbial nest emptied, she returned to school for graduate studies, earning her master’s degree in education for human values at San Francisco Theological Seminary, where a mentor challenged her to consider preaching.
She took course requirements for ordination to the ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary, the School of Theology Claremont, and Claremont Graduate School.
In Claremont, she studied with noted professors Henry Kuizenga and John Cobb. Preparation for ordination was transformative for her, and ideas from great teachers such as Mr. Cobb challenged and inspired her to grow and stretch her wings as a person in the middle of life.
She was ordained in 1977. Prior to ordination, her work as a lay church employee amounted to 21 years.
In 1977, Barbara Stout became the first woman in the Presbytery of Riverside to be installed as a minister in a called position, at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Ontario, where she served as assistant pastor. Following three years of service in Ontario, she served as supply pastor and interim associate pastor in Inland Empire churches in Yucca Valley and Riverside.
In 1980, Mrs. Stout was called by the congregation of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Pasadena to become their pastor. She served in this role faithfully and productively until her retirement in 1996. She forged ecumenical partnerships in that community, just as she had previously in Claremont, and mentored seminary students in the Pasadena area. She was named Pastor Emerita of Trinity in 1998.
She rounded out her career as a minister as a volunteer parish associate pastor at Claremont Presbyterian Church, beginning in 1999. Her career in ministry had come full circle to the place she had served in a lay capacity for so many years, and families that knew her from that previous time would often ask for her to be with them in times of need.
She was also sought out by foreign ministerial students to be an informal mentor to them as they navigated their studies in a strange land, in preparation for ministry. She continued her love of study with various study and book groups in Claremont in later years.
All throughout her adult life she served on various church and community committees and boards. They included, but weren’t limited to, The Presbytery of San Gabriel Education Committee (vice chair), 1970-1977; Ontario Ministerial Association (chair), 1978-1979; The Synod of Los Angeles General Council, and Ecclesiastical Concerns Committee (chair), 1979; Presbytery of San Gabriel Committee on Ministry, 1981-2001; Presbyterian Church in the USA (national) Board of Pensions, 1982; Commissioner to the Presbyterian Church General Assembly, 1984; and Interim Associate Executive of the Presbytery of San Gabriel, 1996-1997.
She also served on the national Presbyterian Church Hymnal Committee, beginning in 1985 and which culminated in the publication of a new churchwide hymnal in 1990. It is still in use in some churches around the country, and in an ecumenical version in other church denominations.
Her work with several community agencies was a natural outgrowth of what began with her positions as a church youth leader. Teens and families in crisis trusted her and would turn to her to assist them during times of challenge and crisis.
She was involved in these community service agencies while both a layperson and an ordained minister, including Claremont Coordinating Council from 1963 to 1969, board member and chair; Claremont Our House Crisis Intervention Center from 1970 to 1975, board member;
Claremont Human Resources Commission, 1974 to 1977; Pastoral Counseling Center, Claremont: board member and chair, 1978 to 1980; West End Family Counseling, Ontario, board member, 1979 to 1980; and the Claremont Committee on Aging.
Her last volunteer effort brought her back to her lifelong love of being with and educating children, serving as a tutor with the Claremont After School Program (CLASP) for elementary school students from the city's public elementary schools. She found this particularly fulfilling.
Her willingness to be there for others continued even into her own aging process, with fellow residents of her retirement home and assisted living facility.
She is survived by her children, Marjorie Ludwig and Gregory Stout, both of La Verne, and Richard Stout, of New York City; loving nephews; a niece; grandnieces and grandnephews.
She was predeceased by her husband, sister and son-in-law.