WESTMINSTER -- For the Rev. David R. Bare, leaving the family oil business for the seminary wasn't a step of faith or an act of courage.
It was simply moving into a job that he liked better.
"People act like this was some big, great thing that I did," said Bare, who was installed as pastor at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Hampstead on May 31. "To be honest, I did it for selfish reasons. I like this job better."
In fact, Bare, 48, said he had no real intention of becoming a pastor when he entered the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg part time in 1986. He was simply curious about theological issues.
"I was still running the business, so I just never put any pressure on myself to complete the program," said the former owner of S. L. Bare Petroleum in Westminster. "If it happened, it happened."
At the same time, his wife, Kathy -- who never had an
opportunity to complete her nursing degree -- decided that she would like to return to school.
"She said, 'This is great, you going back to get another degree,' " Bare said, referring to the fact that he already had a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech and a master's of business administration from the University of Wisconsin.
"So, I told her, 'If you want to go, go do it.' "
At that, she enrolled in Western Maryland College and began working on a bachelor's degree in English. In addition, their eldest child, Laura, began pursuing an English degree at the University of Delaware.
Their son, Adam, began studying for a mechanical engineering degree at Georgia Tech three years later. He is now a sophomore.
"At one point, we had all four of us in college," Bare said. "It was really good for the kids, because we had a lot more sympathy for their problems. Kathy really understood what they were going through."
But mom's college enrollment had a negative side as well, Bare said. Calling his wife a "curve-buster," he said her success, in a way, intimidated the children.
"She did so well, she set a target they couldn't reach," he said.
Two years into his program, Bare sold the family business, which had become a 60-hour-a-week, 24-hour-a-day, on-call job that he really didn't enjoy.
After spending time completing his requirement in clinical pastoring at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore, Bare said he realized that he enjoyed counseling other people.
"It was a real eye-opener," he said, acknowledging that an engineer becoming a pastor is an unusual metamorphosis. "I found out that I really liked this stuff. Helping people, counseling them, being there to listen is real rewarding -- a lot better than fixing oil burners."
In 1988, Bare enrolled in the seminary full time, gearing all of his elective credits toward pastoral counseling. He also accepted two more 420-hour counseling assignments at Sheppard Pratt.
"From an academic standpoint and a personal growth standpoint, I realized that people who are mentally ill are not stupid," he said. "Very often, they are very bright. Just troubled by many, many problems that came about in their childhood."
Now, Bare is pursuing a master's degree in pastoral counseling from Loyola College in Baltimore and will begin 1,000 hours of counseling for credit at the Youth Services Bureau this fall.
"Again, I'm trying not to put any pressure on myself," he said. "If I don't get this completed, then I will have still learned something along the way."