Monday, July 6, 2020

40 years and counting. . .

Forty years ago today on what was perhaps the hottest Sunday in July in Nebraska, I was ordained.  It was in the church where I was baptized, where my dad was baptized, and where I was taught the faith in Sunday school and catechized.  It was a simple service of Vespers.  There were not too many pastors there but many relatives and family friends and parishioners among whom I grew up.  It was a beginning but one that had been under preparation for more than 26 years.  I did not realize the direction of my life until almost that day.  But on that day I was more conscious than ever that the schooling was safer and easier than the unknown before me.  I had been called by Resurrection Lutheran Church of Cairo, New York.  This was before the days of cell phones, email, and internet and I had no idea what awaited me in New York and they had no idea who it was whom the Church had assigned to them as their Pastor.

My home church had faithfully supported me along the way.  Their financial and prayerful support had helped to bring me to this day.  They even gave me $500 for vestments (which my loving wife made from Almy kits and thus magnified the gift into a full set of chasubles still in regular use!).  We had a meal in the church basement and their were some special gifts from special people.  A quilt was handmade with scenes embroidered from Scripture and countless cards and gifts of money were given to a young pastor whose future was waiting to be written.  I deserve nothing of their kindness but kindness is never deserved -- just like the Lord's kindness is bestowed upon us, unworthy though we are.

We made a trip to pick out a sofa and a couple of chairs and purchased a washer and dryer and freezer from my dad and loaded them up for New York.  We stopped in Ft. Wayne to pick up the rest of our meager belongings and headed into the great unknown.  I still remember the drive through Cairo, NY, one street long with no sign or direction or GPS to tell us we were there.  We did see the moving van and put two and two together and suddenly we were looking over the parsonage that would be our home and the church that would be my workplace.  It seems like yesterday.  But forty years have passed.

I am not a starry eyed youth anymore.  My beard is gray and my hair is graying and my kids are all now older than I was when I was ordained.  My wife is about the only one who has not changed all that much.  Some days I feel old and tired.  But, strangely enough, most of the time I feel much like I did 40 years ago.  I love what I am doing and find being a pastor just as compelling as when I began.  Thanks to the COVID 19 pandemic, the past four months or so have been filled with unknowns and challenges to keep me focused on what I do and not on how long I have been doing it.  I will have to face the day when the dreaded "r" word (retirement) will have to be faced but not now and not yet.  I am happy to have been in only two parishes -- Cairo, NY, and now Clarksville, TN.  I still get butterflies when I mount the steps to the pulpit and I still feel in awe of lifting my hands at the altar and bringing the Lord's body and blood to His people.  I have been given a great associate to ease some of the burden and, as he began his own journey as a pastor, we have built a solid friendship on mutual respect and great affection.

Forty years. . . and counting.  Deo volente. 


Paulus said...

Congratulations on your forty year anniversary of ordination. Our pastor is celebrating his fortieth anniversary, as well. He is a graduate of Concordia Seminary Fort Wayne. His name is David Cloeter. Our congregation is hosting an open house and recognition banquet July 11th. Wouldn't that be a coincidence if you and he were classmates? Thank you for your many years of service to our Lord and His church. I do enjoy your daily Pastoral Meanderings.

Pastor Jim Wagner said...

May you continue to be blessed and to be a blessing.

ginnie said...

Congratulations and thank you for giving of yourself to the Lord's work. So many have benefited from the gifts you've shared that the Lord has bestowed on you.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 40th anniversary of ordination. I read you daily and, during the recent isolation, have begun to systematical read your old blogs back to 2009.
Timothy Carter, Kingsport, TN.