As a pastor, what did you learn that you didn’t expect to learn?
All kinds of stuff! One of the things that they can’t really teach you in seminary is how to get into a community and to become part of that community. You can’t really teach how to enter into the daily life and get a sense of the pulse of the community.
What is an issue that you never imagined yourself dealing with as a pastor?
One of the things I’ve found myself dealing with that I hadn’t thought of while I was in seminary is helping people with their day-to-day problems. There’s such a variety of things that may come up. One day you’re talking with someone about their medications, which I know nothing about, or you’re talking with someone about daily living and how it is to do that.
What are some of the most interesting or prominent changes you’ve seen in the church in your career or since you went to seminary?
One of the trends I’ve seen over the years is a wider inclusiveness, if you will, in an issue that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen a concerted effort by the church to make their buildings and their worship services and facilities more accessible and more friendly to folks with disabilities. All the things that bring people in and into contact with the gospel are good stuff.
What are your own spiritual practices? Where/to whom do you turn for guidance and encouragement?
One of the challenges of being a pastor, especially in a setting like this, is where I go to feed myself, to “the well.” I have a men’s Bible study that I’m part of at church, and they have become the group where I go to get fed. I also meet regularly with my chaplain colleagues in the area, and we worship and pray together.
Who at Augsburg inspired or guided you, and how?
Without doubt major influences during my time at Augsburg would include the following people: Pastor Dave Wold, Don Gustafson, “Gabe” (Prof. Stephen Gabrielsen), Tom Rossin, and my fellow choir members (1986-1990).
One of the things that I truly appreciate about Augsburg, even today, is the willingness to engage the idea of vocation and make intentional questions about the connection between faith and life. Throughout my time at Augsburg and even beyond that, these people were/are instrumental in my walk of life and faith. In broad strokes they helped to provide the arena in which my self-understanding and my sense of call were shaped and honed. Daily contact with these folks helped me to see vocation in action and also gave me the space and the courage to face and voice my questions. They were, and still are, willing to engage with me and push me in conversation and prayer.
Is there a particular passage of scripture that frames your call to ministry?
The walk to Emmaus story resonates really highly with me, particularly in the work I do now. A lot of what I’m called to do is walk alongside people at the end of life. I also like Psalm 121.
What is one thing you wish non-clergy knew about your life/identity/call as a pastor?
I think the perception is that pastors are people who work only on Sundays. In this setting, people aren’t entirely sure what to do with you. One thing I wish folks would think of is the importance of spiritual stuff, the spiritual nature, and how that needs to be supported and fed.
What is one of your most memorable services?
We did a service on our Alzheimer’s unit to break up the winter blahs. We did a renewal of vows ceremony for one of the residents and her husband.
They’d been married for 56 years. We had a big wedding party, and what was really neat is that on that unit, it’s kind of a crapshoot as to whether or not the resident will remember who their family members are.
For that particular moment in that service, the wife, Alyce, walked out of the kitchen and she saw her husband, and her face lit up, and she came up to him and chucked him in the chin and said, “Let’s do this again, sweetie.”
It was awesome. It turned out to be a meaningful experience for Alyce and her husband and their family because they’d never had a wedding. Their families didn’t like each other, so they eloped. And they both passed away within three months of that ceremony.
What do you think you would be if you were not a pastor?
A kindergarten teacher.
When you meet God, what do you hope God says to you?
“Hi, welcome home.” That’s the short answer.