By Rev. John Hulden, Assistant to the Bishop
Way back in 1987, I was brand new at this “pastor” thing. My first call was to Bethany Lutheran on the lower Eastside of Saint Paul. Thankfully, the faithful people at that little church helped teach me about ministry. To learn about ministry at and around Bethany, I had to depend on the lay folks – because the only staff at Bethany were the organist, the bulletin-typer-and-copier person, the custodian, and me.
But another person was instrumental in helping me understand the neighborhood and the DNA of the congregation; her name was Fern. Although Fern never got paid (more on that later), she had keys to the church building and would often check to see if I had forgotten to lock the doors after I had left.
The morning of a Saturday wedding, Fern would unlock the church, welcome the wedding party, help them get situated, stay until the last wedding guest left, and lock up the building. What a gift to me and my family on those Saturdays! During the week, Fern’s kitchen table was a great place for me to be schooled about the changing blue collar neighborhood that was losing all of its blue collar jobs.
During the week, Fern’s kitchen table was a great place for me to be schooled about the changing blue collar neighborhood that was losing all of its blue collar jobs.
JUST THIS MORNING, the synod hosted a Staff Appreciation event. A bunch of church staff folks from Minneapolis Area Synod congregations showed up to be thanked for their ministry. There were really cool door prizes, a great Bible Study by Pr. Catherine Malotky, time for prayer and support, … and Lutheran swag (a gift bag). Who knows, maybe a few new peer groups will get started! (Our MÁS Peer Group Leadership Team hosted the event.)
In the days leading up to this event, memories came flooding back of all the dedicated co-workers I’ve had the privilege of partnering in ministry with the last 30 years. And it all started with Fern and a handful of other faithful folks at Bethany Lutheran at Forest Street and Jenks Avenue.
My confession? Why, oh why, didn’t I anoint Fern the official Wedding Coordinator and charge a fee to every wedding couple? I know she could have used the money.
Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit working in and through the folks who make congregations tick, I know I’d be lost without ‘em.