Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Profound Pastoral Theologian. . .

In Remembrance
+ Rev. Dr. Charles John Evanson +

Charles John Evanson was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, the firstborn son of Dr. Charles Olaf and Louise Evanson. He was baptized and confirmed by Pastor Luther Yeager Seibert in St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Elmhurst. He was married to Lenore (nee Clark) in the Bronx by the Reverend Berthold F. von Schenk. They were blessed with three children: James August, Charles John III, and Anne Marie.

Pastor Evanson earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and Philosophy from Valparaiso University in 1959. He subsequently studied at Chicago Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago from whence he received a Bachelor’s of Divinity in 1964. He did post-graduate work at both Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

He served a vicarage at Lutheran Charities in Chicago and as part of his move to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, he served for two years as an ordained deacon under Rev. Berthold von Schenk at Our Savior in the Bronx. He was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry and rostered in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod on the first Sunday in Advent, November 29, 1964, by Pastor Clemens Neuhaus.

His first pastorate was with St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Stratford, Ontario, Canada (1964-1967). Subsequently, he served congregations in Detroit (St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1967-1970), and in Chicago (Christ English Lutheran Church, 1970-1975). His final pastorate was with Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne (1975-2000).

In 1999 Pastor Evanson was asked to travel to the University of Klaipeda in Lithuania to serve as a guest instructor. Soon after Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne issued him a call to serve as deployed staff in the Baltic States. By April of 2000 he was teaching elementary Hebrew, homiletics, God and creation, eschatology and New Testament theology at the University. He continued in theological education on behalf of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in that part of the world until his retirement in 2015.

In addition to his parish work, from 1964 to 1999, Pastor Evanson served in many district capacities for the Ontario District and the English District, including as circuit counselor. He also served at the synodical level as the secretary of the Liturgical Texts and Music Committee of the Commission on Worship. He was also at various times a guest instructor or lecturer at the Stratford Normal School, the Stratford General Hospital School of Nursing, Saint Francis College, Concordia Senior College, Concordia Seminary (St. Louis), and Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne). He also lectured widely throughout the United States for district conventions, circuit conferences, and Church Musicians within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He published articles in Studia Liturgica (as a translator), The Lutheran Witness, In Spirit, Concordia Theological Quarterly, The Bride of Christ, and a Festschrift for Norman Nagel. He was also a contributor to Lutheran Worship – History and Practice, and the translator/author of the collects as well as much of the liturgical material in the hymnal Lutheran Worship.

In the year 2000, he was awarded the Doctor of Divinity (Honoris Causa) by Con- cordia Theological Seminary. Working with the Rev. Dr. Darius Petk┼źnis, pastor of the Palanga Lutheran Church, Dr. Evanson played a significant role in the development of the Lithuanian hymnal and agenda. In 2012, he received his greatest honor: Bishop Midaugus Sabutis made him a member of the Lithuanian clergy.

Surviving are his wife, Lenore of Oviedo, Florida; his son James and his wife Jill and their children Lydia and Noel of Evansville, Indiana; his daughter Anne of Oviedo, Florida; and his son Charles and his wife Julie and their children Case, Claire, and Crew of Carmel, Indiana; along with many students, colleagues, and friends.

A Brief Tribute. . .

Pastor Charles Evanson was a pastoral theologian.  Though he had every capability of being an academic theologian, his heart was centered within the life of the parish, gathered around the Word and Table of the Lord as the baptized people of God fulfilling their calling of worship, witness, intercession, and mercy work.  He was a gifted teacher who schooled, as he preached and taught, from perspective of the steps of the altar where we approach God to receive His inestimable gifts and from which we depart in His name to serve Him in the world.  I first came to Redeemer anticipating the heady days of the then great liturgical scholar Herbert Lindemann but what I found was a congregation in some disarray.  A senior pastor was leaving not only Redeemer but the Synod and the assistant had left amid scandal.  In the pieces of that once legendary liturgical church, it seemed good to the Lord to call as their sole pastor, the Rev. Charles J. Evanson.  It was not a match made in heaven but it proved to be wise beyond our knowing and Redeemer congregation was redeemed in the years that followed.  I was there when he was installed and no one could have known what tests and trials would come from that wonderfully celebratory occasion. 

Whatever turmoil in the parish was seldom the focus of his works or his heart.  I was ordained a deacon with Gary Frank and Marvin Hinkle and served at Redeemer as liturgical deacon, visitor to the sick and shut-in, sometime catechism teacher, occasional organist, and temporary custodian for most of the six years I was at the Senior College and Seminary.  When I was to marry, Pastor Evanson was our counselor and presided at the nuptial Eucharist.  When vicarage took my wife and I to Long Island (not that far from his own diaconal service), we stored our furniture in an unused room at Redeemer.  When I was ordained and installed into my own parish, our frequent visits back to the Fort Wayne area included an obligatory visit in his study and the opportunity to sit in the pews once more on Sunday morning.  It is at the altar and in the pulpit that I remember him most vividly.

On Saturday mornings while I was there, Pastor Evanson often presided over impromptu classes on liturgy, on pastoral care, on church history, and on the life of those who serve the Lord as His under-shepherds.  Amid pipe smoke and frequent reaching for a book, this man became not only the object of my awe but a wise and eloquent mentor.  Amid the turbulence of a Synod in conflict, he was one of those who put together a hymnal in 18 months -- one that seems to have satisfied no one but was the essential forerunner of the much beloved Lutheran Service Book now in use.  He was nobody's man but the Lord's man.  It confounded those on the left and the right; those who thought in political terms were often confounded by a man who thought only in pastoral terms.  He, like many, was a man touched by affliction, sorrow, and conflict in life and yet he did not surrender to bitterness.  His humor was erudite and his wit sometimes had a sting but he lived what he taught me -- never take yourself seriously but never take the work of the Lord lightly.

In the weakness of disease, he remained a man of the church whose long shadow was cast over the lives of many pastors in our church body.  Whether many will remember him or not, the Lord has not forgotten him.  I write this brief tribute as a means of reminding our church today of the profound character of this man whose gifts were manifold and whose legacy is more than we know.

Resquiat in Pacem


Petersen said...

Thank you. This is a most fitting tribute and certainly describes well the man I knew and loved as well. May God comfort you in your mourning.

Padre Dave Poedel said...

I was blessed to spend a few hours (too few, as it turned out) on a cold January afternoon as my former Bishop Roger Pittelko took this desert dweller to the beautiful churches of Ft Wayne. My afternoon with this gentle and brilliant man was characterized with his sharing of his deep wisdom. He was preparing to depart for a teaching assignment in Eastern Europe, though I thought it was to be in Russia. Interestingly, 2 years ago I served the English speaking congregation at the Lutheran Cathedral in Vilnius, Lithuania for a too brief 2 weeks n 2016.

In the tradition of von Schenk, Piepkorn and others, he will hopefully become better known than during his years of faithful liturgical, catholic, and apostolic service.