And's THAT's NO joke!
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Date Posted: 12:04:08 03/23/09 Mon
>>COTUIT - On a recent Sunday morning, 30-year-old
>>Nicole Lamarche, a former Miss California, stood
>>before a crowd in a simple clapboard church next to a
>>local watering hole. She wore high-heeled boots, her
>>thin figure draped in a black robe.
>>"I feel so lucky to be your pastor," she proclaimed.
>>Lamarche became minister of Cotuit Federated Church
>>two years ago, shaking up its stodgy routine and
>>causing quite a stir in this quiet Cape Cod village of
>>about 2,600 year-round residents.
>>She says four parishioners defected early on, after
>>people Googled her name and discovered her beauty
>>pageant past, but these days residents credit Lamarche
>>with injecting new dynamism into the town and the
>>Lamarche says she understands that for some the
>>"pastor in a swimsuit thing" is hard to swallow, but
>>she simply needed the money. Loyal members of her
>>congregation accept her explanation, buoying her
>>spirits. Plus, says Lamarche, "If you can walk on a
>>stage in your swimsuit, you can do anything."
>>After a service earlier this year, the congregation
>>gathered for coffee, fruit salad, and cookies in an
>>adjoining reception room, chattering with each other
>>and the pastor who was once Miss Desert Vista.
>>"Just listen to it," said Pam Bode, a member of the
>>church since 1985. "This is a church that has come
>>"She's good for God," agreed Norman Knight, a
>>79-year-old retired welder, one of about a hundred
>>regular members of the church who now attend weekly.
>>The path from beauty-pageant winner to pastor has not
>>always been smooth. Lamarche grew up going to church
>>near her hometown of Chattaroy, Wash., and joined a
>>campus ministry group when she started college at the
>>University of Arizona. An international relations
>>major, she planned to join the foreign service after
>>The minister at her church suggested she consider
>>seminary school instead. She had her doubts, but
>>agreed to attend a "ministry as vocation" weekend at
>>the Pacific School of Religion in California after the
>>minister offered to pay her airfare to Berkeley. She
>>enrolled and started the following year.
>>But Lamarche needed money, she recalled, and she was
>>drawn to scholarship prizes she heard about in pageant
>>Her first attempt was for the Miss Tucson title in
>>2000. Things did not go well. Recently returned from a
>>backpacking trip around Europe, she had what she
>>describes as "a short German haircut."
>>She cried onstage during the swimsuit competition and
>>wore an old prom dress for the evening wear portion.
>>She walked away empty-handed.
>>But in 2001, she became Miss Desert Vista, coming in
>>first runner-up for Miss Arizona later that year.
>>When she moved to California that summer for seminary
>>school, she thought her pageant days were behind her.
>>But the mother of the 1998 Miss California winner
>>found Lamarche on an online message board and
>>convinced her to compete.
>>She won a succession of titles - Miss Greater Bay Area
>>and Miss San Francisco - before becoming Miss
>>California in 2003.
>>That brought her to the Miss America pageant, a new
>>level of competition. The stakes were higher: over
>>$50,000 in scholarships.
>>And it meant going on stage in a swimsuit in front of
>>12 million people. Lamarche was overwhelmed by the
>>tricks contestants from some of the Southern states
>>introduced her to - like spraying glue on butt cheeks
>>to keep swimsuits in place and wrapping moisturized
>>legs in plastic wrap to reduce cellulite - but went on
>>to win the swimsuit competition and came in fourth
>>runner-up overall, earning herself $24,000 in prize
>>The seminary school website racked up the most hits in
>>its history because of a link from ESPN's site, which
>>covered the event.
>>When the Cotuit church's search committee found
>>Lamarche to replace its retiring pastor, some members
>>were not so sure it was a good decision. Young, single
>>female pastors are often viewed as risky and
>>This made her first six months in Cotuit tough. She
>>received complaints from the congregation, sometimes
>>that the service was too short, sometimes too long.
>>But over time, things improved. Church members were
>>willing to try new things, like worshipping on the
>>beach during the summer or inviting a speaker to
>>lecture on the difference between Sunni and Shia
>>Lamarche, who sang Billy Vera & the Beaters's song "At
>>This Moment" for the talent portion of the Miss
>>America competition, has also incorporated more music
>>into church services.
>>When she got married last summer in California, to a
>>man she met in seminary school, the church threw them
>>a reception in Cotuit, renting a tent from a local
>>museum and shucking clams and oysters for a meal.
>>There was singing and a blessing.
>>On a recent Sunday morning, the smell of maple syrup
>>from an early-morning pancake breakfast filled the
>>church. Young girls handed out programs at the
>>And Lamarche, just back from a belated honeymoon in
>>Morocco, greeted everyone by name before asking for
>>any special requests for prayers.
>>A woman raised her hand to tell her about two of her
>>friends fighting breast cancer. A man asked for a
>>blessing for his daughter who had recently given birth
>>to a healthy baby boy. And a girl asked everyone to
>>pray for a friend who had just been in a car accident.
>>"I bring my kids, who are 9 and 14, and my 77-year-old
>>mother, and we all find something in this church,"
>>says Leslie Shinn, 45, a public school aide who first
>>came to the church in 1990. Her husband initially had
>>reservations about the new young pastor, but
>>eventually joined the church and even became a
>>"She exudes goodness," Shinn said.