Master of Divinity (MDiv), Fuller Theological Seminary, 1979
Master of Christian Ministries (MCM), Seattle Pacific University, 1976
Bachelor of Arts (BA), SPU, 1975
Bachelor of Religious Education (BRE), Grace Bible College, 1974
President, Ceremony Masters Ltd., 2011-present
Community relations, Evergreen Washelli, 2003-2011
Chairman, Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce, 2007-2010
Co-founder and manager, First Call Plus of WA, 2001-2003
Chaplain coordinator, King County Police Chaplaincy, 1986-2000
Human services officer, Shoreline Fire Department, 1991-2000
Vice president, Amundsen Brothers Inc., 1987-2001
Pastor, Celebration Church (Redmond), 1986-1989
Senior pastor, Elim Evangelical Free Church (Puyallup), 1980-1986
Youth pastor, Emmanuel Church (Burbank, CA), 1978-1980
Ministry intern, Grace Bible Church (Port Orchard), 1975-1977
I was born third of four children to a pioneer bush pilot-turned-Pan Am captain and his homemaker wife. John was born in Canada and became a naturalized U.S. citizen; while Lillian was from St. Paul, MN. The Norwegian and the Swede met in church in Seattle.
My brother Dave and sister Marlene were fifteen and twelve years older than me, respectively. My younger brother, Dan, came along three years later. They're all a hoot.
Some years before I came along, they had lived in Alaska, Miami, Menlo Park (CA) and finally back to Seattle. Growing up with airline travel privileges was a treat. Sometimes, I'd skip a day of school to go to Hawaii. I went to Hillwood Elementary (long-ago closed) in Shoreline, Kirkland Junior High and Lake Washington High School.
My hobbies included my BSA motorcycle, boating and waterskiing. I grew up in the Berean Church and soon felt God's call to ministry.
I started my schooling at what was then Bellevue Community College, transferring during my sophomore year to Grace Bible College in a suburb of Grand Rapids (MI). Majoring in Bible and Theology -- and pizza and sub sandwiches -- I graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor of Religious Education. My grade point average was, well, adequate.
A few weeks after graduation, I was enrolled in the summer quarter at Seattle Pacific College (now SPU). I had sought enrollment in a graduate program, but the dean said that my undergraduate GPA was wanting and, at that time, my old Bible college lacked for regional accreditation. So, I completed a second bachelor's degree to prove my mettle. I was serious about my grades by this point, so by the end of the Spring quarter of 1975, I was the proud owner of a Bachelor of Arts in religion, and a 3.80 GPA. The dean looked this over and said, "Oh, we should have admitted you straight into the master's program."
I entered the Master of Christian Ministry program at SPU, rushing through summer in my studies until I had it all done. My faculty mentor, Dr. Ed Smyth, kept me on track and hooded me in ceremonies in 1976.
My master's internship was at the Grace Bible Church in Port Orchard. While I had been expecting to move into a full time staff position after graduation, it became evident that wasn't going to happen, so I pursued studies at Fuller Theological Seminary's Seattle Extension. Dr. David Dilworth, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, was inspiring as a professor and instilled a love of theological education that I had only begun to taste in earlier studies.
I resigned my part time ministry at the church and we went to Pasadena, CA in pursuit of my Master of Divinity at Fuller's main campus. I learned from great professors, including the teaching duo of John Holland (a professional actor and voice coach) and James Daane (a Reformed theologian and professor of preaching). I had never enjoyed preaching before this pair-up. Their pedagogical style was brutal, but I then felt led to be in a pulpit or behind a microphone.
While at Fuller Seminary, I landed an internship at the Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church in -- as Johnny Carson would say -- Beautiful Downtown Burbank. Pastor Steve Goold was the senior pastor and he appointed me as pastor to the youth group. The preaching was engaging and the opportunities to grow spiritually and professionally were priceless. I finished my M.Div. studies in late 1979 and walked in a graduation ceremony in 1980, resigning my church position shortly after to move back to Seattle and start a family.
In late 1980, I answered the call of the Elim Evangelical Free Church in Puyallup to be their pastor. The church had been founded in 1884 as a Norwegian speaking congregation in Tacoma. It had since changed language and demogaphic and located to Puyallup's South Hill. It was, in effect, a fairly new church with, sadly, a "revolving door" for its pulpit occupants. I had told the church not to call me if they weren't going to endure me for at least five years, because if I answered the call, I was going to be there for at least that long.
My children -- Jonathan, Stephanie and Jeffrey -- were all born while in this pulpit. I was recruited -- kicking and screaming -- into the volunteer chaplaincy of the Tacoma Police Department in 1983. Two years later, I volunteered also with the Pierce County Sheriff's Office under the direction of Dan Nolta. During these years, my dad, John Amundsen, took his final "flight" in 1985 into the arms of his Maker. Not long after, I resigned the church for an opportunity to plant a new church in the Redmond area. I was pleased that the church in Puyallup, which rarely had enjoyed more than 40 in regular attendance when I arrived, was regularly seeing 125-170 in attendance by the time I left, five years later.
I started Celebration Evangelical Free Church on Easter Sunday 1986 in the chapel of what was -- at that time -- the Green's Funeral Home. The regional district council of the denomination had promised early support for the church planting project, but that was not forthcoming. I fell back on earning most of my income by working for my brother Dan at Juanita Firs Texaco in north Kirkland. Though the church had a good run, after helping plug in most of our regulars into other congregations, we disbanded in 1989. Parallel with that, I was managing a service station for Dan in downtown Bellevue on a contract basis with Texaco. That location was being slated for demolition by the city of Bellevue to make way for the Meydenbauer Convention Center.
While in Redmond in 1986, I made myself available to the King County Sheriff's Office via chaplaincy director Bill Foster to assist their head chaplain. The program was only irregularly used, so I was somewhat frustrated in my underutilization compared with Tacoma and Pierce County. As Celebration Church wound down in the late 1980s, Foster was being recruited by a chaplaincy organization in the Portland area. Starting in 1991, I became the chaplain coordinator for King County Sheriff Jim Montgomery and the board of the King County Police Chaplaincy corporation. It was a fulfilling process to further develop the chaplaincy and to make connections with the King County Medical Examiner in developing what became the best death-notifying program north of San Francisco. I also had the pleasure of working as chaplain for the Shoreline Fire Department and assisting many other emergency agencies, as well. I was blessed with a great group of volunteers who were loyal, dedicated and hard working.
During my decade as head chaplain, Jerry Montgomery (no relation to Sheriff Jim), one of my volunteers and mentors in chaplaincy, asked me to fill in for him in the pulpit of the Anderson Island Community Church in south Puget Sound. After filling in a few times, the church asked me to take a regular rotation among their four ministers. Since they could not afford a full-time pastor, this model seemed to work very well. Since 1996 (or so) when I began preaching there, the church added first one, then two Sundays to my monthly rotation. The church, with a largely more senior demographic than the other three churches on the island, is a blessing and keeps my preaching skills alive and is very fulfilling and supportive of my ministry (and they laugh at my humor!).
I left the King County Sheriff's Office in 2000. I was pleased to pass the reigns of the chaplaincy to Joel Ingebritson who leads the organization to this day.
Much of my "tent making" during the late 1980s and 1990s was in conjunction with the family business. My brothers -- Dan and Dave -- and I formed Amundsen Brothers Inc. in 1987. We had a small string of convenience stores under our supervision. We sold our main store, Sunset Way Texaco in Issaquah, back to Texaco in 2000.
The years around the turn of the century became a key transitional time in my life. One of my friends from the King County Medical Examiner's Office was chief investigator Jerry Webster. In 2000, Jerry (recently retired) and I (recently gone from the Sheriff's office) got together for lunch at Hooter's in Bellevue. We realized we were both bored and scratched out a business plan on a napkin. Soon, we unleashed a bit of a phenomenon. We hatched First Call Plus of Washington, a trade mortuary which did the behind-the-scenes work for retail funeral homes, including body removal, transportation and shipping. Our first call took place on February 4, 2001 with the original three employees: Jerry, my son Jonathan and me. FCP is now the largest funeral establishment west of the Mississippi by volume. I left the company, though, in 2003 after taking a position with Evergreen Washelli.
While FCP was getting rolling, my sainted mother passed. A Swedish homemaker with the best food, a godly spirit and true faith, Lillian loved Dad, her children, grandchildren and simply was a blessing to all.
Washelli, with a history tracing back to the 1880s, was trying to expand its Bothell location. I had conducted funerals there for several years, but joined the staff as community relations coordinator in 2003. It was great to work with law enforcement agencies, hospices, nursing homes and retirement communities on behalf of the funeral home.
I joined the Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce when it first incorporated in 2004. Somehow, they voted me onto the board in 2005 and I became chairman-elect in 2006 on a fluke. I raised my hand when the former chairwoman asked for a third potential volunteer to be placed in nomination. I felt it was safe to do so since the other two nominees seemed so popular. I could look like I wanted to be involved, without actually taking the risk of having to do something?
Balloting took place and I had won the election. I served as chairman of the board not just for calendar year 2007, but was re-elected for a total of four years of service. I had a blast serving a growing chamber and making a difference in the community.
After eight years on the Washelli payroll, I left in 2011 to work as a contractor with Washelli and to conduct services for other businesses as a sort of boutique service.
In this process, too, my wife Wendy opened up her SBL Rentals service and I've been assisting her in this. I've been pursuing opportunities to speak to the need for ceremonies in our lives. I love crafting creative weddings, funerals and other events. I've been privileged tow work with some of the finest venues, planners, funeral homes, entertainers and creative directors in the region.
I am available to speak to and work with end-of-life professionals (medical, hospice, funeral homes), community groups (Chambers, Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.),, seniors professionals and communities, neighborhoods and churches. More recently I deliver speeches and workshops for a variety of organizations and conferences.
or landing at an airport near you!