Members' Corner

Challenge to Church Council
By Greg Schumann

 

On confirmation Sunday, I was struggling to keep Zander on an even keel. He was very nervous about having to read his faith statement. He had already decided to shorten it and was trying to convince me that he simply was not going to do it. I was trying to come up with the right words, control his temper, and allow this to be a memorable experience for all.

I asked Zander if he had any idea what was going on inside Pastor Mark. Oblivious, he said, “No, why?” I said that Pastor Mark is going through a lot of lasts at the moment while trying not to let that show or affect anyone. This was his very last confirmation class he would teach and watch graduate. He has recently had his last Thursday night Bible study. Between now and June 10, he will continue to have last moments. Yet through all of this, he is trying to keep his composure, keep everyone upbeat, and keep everyone moving in a positive direction. Zander changed. The day got better, and all of the confirmands had an amazing experience.

As communion was ending, I was watching Pastor Mark organize the Credence table. Pretty much the same as always, chalices were placed (some with pacificator’s covering them), the bread was wrapped in linen, and all was carefully covered. (Anne would be proud.) I also noticed that Pastor Mark did the juice today. Normally, he does the bread, but not always. Some days he leads; some days he follows. Intentional or not, Pastor Mark was allowing the new, in this case Deaconess Sarah, to take the lead. Then it came to me—I felt a chill as the Holy Spirit came into me!

As tonight will be Pastor Mark’s last church council meeting before his retirement process begins, we should share communion together. We can share bread and wine; body and blood—share the Holy Spirit. As we break bread and each receives a piece with the words “the body of Christ give for you,” I want us to remember those moments when Pastor Mark has given to us: the sermons, the Bible teachings, the wisdom, the humor, the hard work, the knowledge to deal with the daily grind as well as the knowledge to continue to move forward and carry on.

As we pass the wine with the words “the blood of Christ shed for you,” I want us to remember what Pastor Mark has left for us. He has left us with hearts filled with love, minds filled with thought, memories filled with joy, eyes filled with the desire to seek, and thoughts of even greater things to come.

In a few short weeks, Pastor Mark will be retiring and leaving our congregation—not by choice, but by practicality. We, as the current church leaders, are being charged with beginning the process of finding a new Pastor. We are NOT finding a replacement for Pastor Mark, rather we are finding an enhancement. This is most definitely NOT a moment of out with the old and in with the new. It is a moment to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are blessed to be a blessing. We shall stand strong, confident, and focused. All of our actions will be watched by others. Some will be scrutinized while others will be graciously accepted. With prayer, guidance, and inspiration we will keep Bethlehem moving forward and standing strong.

Amen.

 

Tribute to Pastor Mark

by Jamie Jurkovich

 

Pastor Mark has changed how I think of pastors.

It was about four years ago when we first stepped foot inside the doors of Bethlehem, and admittedly our feet were dragging a bit. Trying a new church always comes with some level of uneasiness. And due to some of our past church experiences, we had a greater level of foreboding and even dread about what we might encounter inside these doors.

Very much to Bethlehem’s credit, we were welcomed warmly. And even though the worship culture and context were quite different from where we had been, it wasn’t too awkward for us to catch on. Pastor Mark even remembered our names after our first visit. However, It was on our third Sunday visiting, when Pastor Mark asked if he could pay us a call that we really had to do a double-take. I’m pretty certain we had him repeat himself two or even three times. The pastor wanted to visit us? In our experience, this was outside the context of what a pastor usually does. We agreed, but figured it would either be a high-pressure recruitment strategy or else a veiled screening process.

Though neither is what happened. Pastor Mark was genuinely interested in our story and how we had landed at Bethlehem. He wasn’t offended by some of the difficult questions we asked him or even turned off by the suspicious volume of questions we had. We were pleasantly surprised to feel accepted and welcomed. It meant a lot.

Over the few short years that we’ve been here, Pastor Mark has changed how I see the role of a pastor from the lofty man in pulpit to the humble shepherd that isn’t afraid to meet people where they are. In his forty years of ministry, I’m sure that he has walked with many on their darkest roads and through their most difficult trials. He has been a steady example of faith on all those ordinary, unexceptional days when God doesn’t seem especially apparent. And he has shared in the congregation’s joy and celebrated with us in our life's sweetest moments.

In other words, he’s been doing life—just like us and with us—in all its varied terrain, but while offering us the steady gift of encouragement, hope, and grace. This simple consistent presence leaves quite a legacy. Pastor Mark, through your humble service, you have blessed us all. Eloquent sermons, kind visitations, even doing dishes in the church kitchen—we’ve seen you do all of this for us.

It is with the most sincere appreciation that we wish you every good thing in your retirement. You will be missed and remembered, but we rejoice with you as you have with us so many times.

Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.


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