Pastor’s Annual Report
The year 2006 was the 150th year that the Lord Jesus Christ gathered to Himself a Church in New Gehlenbeck; and the 75th year that that congregation had worshipped in the “new Church.” It was a year filled with its own joys and sorrows, ups and downs, but through it all, the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus to His promises sustained and strengthened our parish.
As January was bringing us its Epiphany joys, the Shepherd of His sheep gathered into the arms of His mercy His servant William Prante and took him home. It was the result of a long and arduous sickness, throughout which William was strengthened by the Holy Eucharist and the Word of God. Towards the end of the month, Abigail Day was added to the Good Shepherd’s flock as her sins were washed away in Holy Baptism. Beginning in January and marking the last Sunday of each month, we began celebrating the many confirmations that had taken place at St. Paul’s over the years. We started with the most recent and worked our way backwards by decade. It wasn't long before FOOD became a mandatory part of the celebration - both before and after the late service!
February may have been chilly, but the Baptismal water continued to flow at St. Paul’s. On the 5th Abigail Buckner was baptized into Christ and a week later Sidnee Schwarz received the washing of regeneration.
March was a particularly difficult month. The Apostle Paul urged: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” So I shared with the parish some struggles I had been going through as to whether it would be possible for me to continue as a Lutheran pastor and to serve St. Paul’s parish. I shared this with fear and trepidation, but was overwhelmed by your loving words and support – as also by the many conversations where to a person who spoke with me, it was made clear that my time here was not through. The days and months since have convinced me that you all spoke both wisely and truly and with your help and by God’s grace I rejoice to continue as a Lutheran pastor serving a Lutheran parish. As we journeyed together through Lent, we sought to keep our eyes focused upon our Crucified Lord, to pray to Him and to seek His will. During March, the Lord called our brother Harold Brunnworth out of this vale of tears to Himself in heaven, and he was given Christian burial.
April brought the joys of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. During those great days we heard Trevor Engelke, Arianna Farmer, Laura Knezik, Jeffrey Madorin, Brittney Schrader, Jenna Stroh, and Zachary Thiems confess the faith into which they were baptized and be welcomed to the Lord’s table after receiving holy Confirmation. The day before, Karly Deist experienced the washing of regeneration. At the Vigil of Easter, our parish rejoiced as Jessica Hershey received the washing of regeneration and was then confirmed along with Jennifer Riepshoff, Amy Kostich, and Kevin Melcher. Easter brought all it’s “Joy to the Heart” and we celebrated the Passover of our Lord Jesus from death to the life unending. That unending life Rosella Lueker passed into also during Holy Week and toward the end of the month, Albert Brandt, and we rejoiced that they had been brought to that place where memories are healed and the joys never end.
May found us continuing to rejoice in Easter and in Ascension. On the 8th of the month, our Daycare and PreK opened its doors after many, many months of preparation. There would be too many people to thank if I had to name them all, but everyone is agreed that our chief trustee, Dan Steinmann, did an incredible job of organizing the work and getting that place open. Our vicar Charles Lehmann continued to deliver us outstanding sermons. Early in May, the Lord Jesus took home our brother David Engelke – well fortified by the Lord’s sacraments and firm in his faith. It seemed so wrong, but David would be the first to teach us not question the Lord’s ways. It was sometime later in that month that also his beloved mother, Leola, was gathered into the Lord’s keeping. Also during May, Paul Kostisch was welcomed to the family of God through holy Baptism.
With June we came to our first parish-wide celebration of the anniversary: our all-school celebration. Pastor Monte Haun spoke to us from St. Paul’s pulpit and many, many former teachers and students joined in the huge pot-luck in the gym afterwards. It was joy abounding! Also during the summer, the parish surprised Pastor with Dr. Nagel preaching at the late service in honor of the 20th anniversary of his ordination to the Office of the Holy Ministry. What a treat! Wedding bells rang for Jessica Hershey and Jeffrey Henke, and we rejoiced at their being united in Christ. VBS picked up the theme of the parish’s 150th anniversary and taught a wee bit of our own history along with the Bible stories. Come the end of July we said farewell to Vicar Lehmann and to Principal Richard Rikli and wife Peggy (Richard was headed off to the Seminary after ten years as our principal and our nextdoor neighbors!), but were busy preparing for a new servant of the congregation: Pastor Keith GeRue had accepted the call to serve as Headmaster of Trinity-St. Paul and associate pastor at both Trinity and St. Paul’s. It’s been a blessing beyond words having him and his wonderful family (Valarie, Katie, and Elizabeth) join our parish family. With Pastor GeRue at the helm, Trinity-St. Paul began her new academic year in August. Also at the start of August, St. Paul’s became the FIRST parish in the Synod to have and use the Lutheran Service Book.
September saw one of the Lord’s saints, Dorothy Riechmann, finish her earthly pilgrimage and be gathered home. On the 17th of that month the waters of Baptism were flowing again over Madison Lindley. In the middle of the month, the stunning murals were hung in place. As an Episcopal friend of Dicksie and Dave’s said: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Yes, you walk into St. Paul’s and there’s no question that it is all about Jesus: our Good Shepherd who receives us in Holy Baptism; the Lord of blessing who reaches us at His altar His Body and Blood; the Lord of kindness who ever knocks at the door of our hearts. The last day of the month found the parish family gathered together at the Knights of Columbus in Highland, feasting together in gratitude to God for his many blessings for the past 150 years. Pastor Todd Wilken was guest speaker that evening, but I think you will all agree that the real speaker that night was Albert Brandt. His memories recorded for us brought the past to life before our eyes, and reminded us how much we miss him.
The next day dawned beautiful, crisp and clear. With joy we packed St. Paul’s for our anniversary service. Pastor Ken Sievers reminded us of the many reasons we have to thank God – and brought back many wonderful memories of years past. At the end of the service we circled the Church and sang to God a mighty doxology and had a surprise fly-by and picture taking session - no telling what Robert Esch will pull. When it was all over, the 150th anniversary committee breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. They’d done a yeoman’s job, to be sure. The lasting memorial of the anniversary will be the huge quilt that tells our story and will hang in the sanctuary (one of these days).
October saw the waters of Baptism flowing again as both Brynn Steinmann, Cole Renken, and Nolan Schaeffer were brought into the fold of the Good Shepherd. You can’t miss the beauty of that Good Shepherd mural above the font of living water! Also in October, Christopher Loemker gave our organ a work out and a half with a special Vespers service offered in praise for the parish’s anniversary.
November began again with Baptismal waters flowing: Hannah Huckleberry washed in the saving flood, and towards the end of the month Tyler Golem as well. Wedding bells rang out for Amy Huber and Christopher Leonard. Back to back funerals were celebrated for Edward Ahrens and Lenora Nietmitz. We’ll miss them indeed, but what joy for each of them to be gathered into the home that they can never lose – they were both ready and eager for it! On thanksgiving Matins was sung, and then, well, then came the ice.
The ice was not good to our church. The damage in the north tower silenced the voice of St. Paul’s mighty organ. Christmas without the organ? It was almost as though we were IN the story of how Silent Night was composed. Still the joy of the incarnation went forward. Two giant Christmas trees graced the chancel during the waning days of Advent and through Christmas to Epiphany. Wrapped around the trees were paper chains bearing the name of every person baptized into Christ at St. Paul’s for the past 150 years. The only other ornamentation was the big blue ball we always hide on the tree and the lights. As our joy waxed great in the Lord’s incarnation, we remembered Marianne in our prayers – she was going and is going through a rough time, and her absence from the parish is felt by us all. The year came to a close with our special thankoffering on New Year’s Eve, to which the people of St. Paul’s responded with abundant grace and generosity.
At the end of the year, the membership of St. Paul’s stands at 751 baptized and 579 confirmed. We had an average church attendance last year of 316 per weekend, or 42%. Through all the countless joys and sorrows, tears and laughter, celebrations and mournings, the parish rejoiced to live from the pardon of Jesus Christ and in the assurance of His love and mercy. Glory to You, O Lord, forever!
William Weedon, Pastor of St. Paul’s
In the 14th year of his pastorate