A new calling

Local couple has started a new church and life

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The Niles daughters are all actively involved in the worship service at their parents' new church. Here, from left to right, Savvy, Bethany and Jessica Niles perform at a youth retreat in Salem.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh. Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”

In “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost, he describes being at a crossroads in life, and making a difficult decision about what to do next.

Recently, the faltering economy forced a local pastor to do the same. He is on a road he didn’t imagine taking, but says he is enjoying the journey.

In the spring of 2009, Geoerl Niles was laid off from his job as a youth and music pastor at a local church.

“Everyone told me, ‘Pastors don’t get laid off.’ But it’s a job like any other. If the money isn’t there, it isn’t there,” Geoerl said.

After breaking the news to wife Julianne, they came up with a plan. Geoerl would go back to work for the Portland Spirit and they would help as needed in new churches.

After helping start The Bridge Church in Stevenson, and commuting back and forth with their seven children for services every Sunday, the Niles family decided again, to take a different path.

“We came back here and met with several people who had become disillusioned with traditional churches or had really bad church experiences,” Geoerl said. “We wanted to do something for them.”

After meeting in local homes for a few months, The Calling church found a temporary home at the Best Western conference room in Washougal Sunday evenings.

However, after several months, Geoerl and Julianne decided they wanted a more intimate worship setting. So they decided to rent space at the Debra Messinger Dance Studio in Washougal.

“Our big thing is relationships,” Geoerl said. “By doing that we were able to also have services Sunday mornings, when several people wanted to attend.”

A year after starting The Calling, there are 20 to 40 people who attend services regularly, according to Geoerl.

“It’s been a good experience,” he said. “It might get a little crazy at times trying to set everything up, and I might get impatient, but it works out.”

One unique aspect of the church is that instead of having a head pastor, the Niles and another couple work as a pastoral team.

“That way, any one of us can step up if needed,” Geoerl said.

Now that the church has regular attendees, the Niles have branched out and started having other events such as a luau, an art night and a pool party.

“We’ve been trying to encourage youth to come who normally wouldn’t,” Julianne said.

The theme of The Calling is “Restore, Relate, Rejuvenate.”

“It’s just an amazing time we have together,” Geoerl said. “We want people’s lives to change. We might offend some, but we are real.”

“People have nothing to hide here,” Julianne added. “We’re trying to show God’s love in every direction.”

This past spring, the Niles took their entire family to Cancun to do music ministry at local churches.

“After all the stress of the past two years, we really needed the time together to bond and restore our family,” Geoerl said.

All seven of their children are involved in the worship part of the service in some respect. Their oldest daughter, Bethany, is off at college now, but still comes back regularly to help out.

In addition to being a pastor, Geoerl is also a cruise manager at the Portland Spirit.

It was there he crossed paths with filmmaker Kyle Bryant, who was producing a documentary.

Bryant and his wife, MaryLou, are hoping to pitch the adventures of the crew of the Spirit as a reality television series.

“We’re doing back stories on the crew and Geoerl and his family had a very interesting one,” Bryant said.

He has some 48 hours of video footage to edit, then plans on pitching the show to different networks.

“I think it is interesting because of the many people who make up the Portland Spirit family,” Bryant said.

For the Niles family, being featured in a potential reality television show is just one of the many new roads they have traveled.

“The last few years have felt totally alive and we realized we had some great friends,” Geoerl said. “We have been blessed.”

“It’s been a good, crazy journey so far,” added Julianne.

To learn more about The Calling, call 624-0051 or e-mail