The date was March 14, 2010. I had preached at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Metairie, Louisiana, and then I stayed to enjoy fellowship at the Mt. Olive stand at Metairie's Saint Patrick's Day Road Parade, so I was leaving the city later than normal. I was just about to get on I-10 heading west out of New Orleans, and I called my wife. (Yes, I know that talking on the phone while driving isn't the safest thing to do. Let it go for now.) We were on the phone for about ten minutes, and while we were talking, someone kept trying to ring through. Finally Faith and I got off the phone, and the phone rang again. It was the Reverend Mark Buetow, Pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in DuQuoin, Illinois. Pastor Buetow had been serving as the vacancy pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, a congregation about a half-hour from his own. At a meeting to select a pastor to replace the one who had left right before Christmas, the congregation voted to select me! Pastor Buetow was calling to notify me of their decision. Poor guy. I think my shout of joy damaged his eardrum.
It was not a hard decision to make. Faith and I took a road trip up to Illinois to visit the congregation, and while we were there I announced my acceptance of the position. We determined my Installation as the Pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church would take place as soon as possible.
A little history here: I left my congregations in North Dakota three years to the week after I was Installed, which I know now was much sooner than I should have left. (Hindsight is always 20/20, of course.) And as for my congregation in Ohio...well, I had very little do to with the timing of my departure, but I was only there for a little over two years and two months. You know, I never wanted to be one of those pastors who moved around a lot, and I always had a little bit of contempt for those who jumped from place to place. After all, a pastor who leaves a place too soon really doesn't get to know his congregation as he ought. Nevertheless, I was that guy.
|Pastor Buetow was reluctant to let go.|
For four years, seven months, and four days I had been a pastor without a congregation. That sad streak ended with my Installation, and today marks the three-year anniversary of that wonderful event. (And Pastor Buetow's Installation sermon is still as fresh today as it was three years ago.) I've now been here as long as a pastor as I've been anywhere, and, Lord willing, it shows no signs of changing any time soon. We've found a home here with the saints of this congregation. We've found love in Christ, a warm welcome, an acceptance of our family's odd circumstances, and a place where we feel like we're putting down roots. (The cows are so relaxing!) There's no urgency to go anywhere else; this is home. The time has passed very quickly, as time is wont to do when things are going well (even with the challenges we face) and one is having fun. I am so thankful to God and to the people of St. Peter for bringing us here to serve them and serve with them.
Here's to three years. God grant us many more.