My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
2009 was the 153rd year that the Holy Spirit through the blessed Word and Sacraments gathered to Christ our Lord a congregation of sinner-saints here at St. Paul’s New Gehlenbeck. As I thought over this year, the words of Ecclesiastes haunted my mind:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecc. 3:1-8)
A time for every matter under heaven - and it seems we had all those times this year. The Feast of our Lord’s Baptism brought the joy of seeing Ian Nathaniel Peter Wood embraced in the font of living water; and the very next day Wyatt Ray Buckner was named as Christ’s own. Joy overflowing. But as the little pilgrims were beginning to walk the path, an older brother was completing his pilgrimage. Carl Wilfred Steinmann passed from this age on January 14th. He, who had so blessed this parish with his carpentry work, was gathered into the arms of the Carpenter from Nazareth who had built for Carl and for us an eternal home in the heavens (2 Cor. 5).
Through the remainder of January and February we fed on the Scriptures that celebrate our Lord’s epiphany and we were comforted by the promise of the glory that shines in Him who is our brother and our God. A time to plant, a time for peace. On the 14th of February we were blessed to celebrate the union of Nate Hartley and Andrea Braasch. A time to dance - and Cindi made me at their reception. But with the joy also a time for tears: Delmar Monken fell asleep in Jesus on February 22nd, fortified by the Sacraments of the Holy Church and in the sure hope of the resurrection to life everlasting. Also I think it was sometime that month we heard word of Bev Vallow had experienced a return of the cancer that everyone thought was gone. It was the start of some very difficult times for that family.
March found us walking the path of the Cross with our Lord, step by step through His Passion and toward His triumph on the tree. On the 22nd of the month, little Alexander Michael Schwarz was born and he was baptized into Christ that very day in the hospital. Just a tiny bit of water and the holy name of God, and he was united to his Lord forever. Seven days later, we had the joy of another Baptism: Matthew Michael Kostich had his sins washed away and was named as the Lord’s own and made his holy temple.
April brought us Palm Sunday confirmations and Easter joys. On April 5th Jenna Inmann, Jonathan Klinger, Chelsey Lippoldt, Alex Micnheimer, and Austin Werner were examined in the faith, confirmed and welcomed to the Lord’s table. It was a day of great joy and the Church was packed. A few short days later, the Vigil and we welcomed Lisa and Neil and Sam Micnheimer and Maxx Webb to the Lord’s table and confirmed them in the faith. The next day was Easter and as always the services were beautiful with the joy of God’s people belting out their alleluias to celebrate Christ’s victory over death and the grave as their victory in Him. Before the month was out, baptismal water was flowing again and we had the joy of Christina Phipps rebirth. She positively shone with joy that day. Not so joyous, during the month we also entered into an organist vacancy that was to last until the end of October.
May kicked off with a wedding: our beloved Darcy Huckleberry - with that bubbly personality that always brought smiles to our faces - married Matthew Geu. He is one lucky dude. The next day, saw Collin Robert Meier brought into the Holy Church. The Weedons exited town to attend Lauren’s graduation from Concordia Seward, and as we left Beverly Vallow finished the good fight and entered eternal glory. Pastor Gleason had her funeral here at St. Paul’s. What an up and down of joy and sorrow. I got to address the Augustana Ministerium in its meeting that month over near Kansas City. I no sooner got back, than Frieda Jones ended her pilgrimage. She’d been so lost in a fog over these last few years - being with Christ and having her memories restored and healed - that gave hope to those who mourned her passing. School wrapped up that month and we had the joy of Metro’s baccalaureate (barely fit!) and TSP’s graduation - back to back!
June brought wheat harvest and in the midst of one torrential downpour, the Lord harvested one of his own children too: Alfred Wehrend. Another one long robbed of his memories. He fell asleep in Jesus and it was with sorrow and yet joy that Clara and I sang together over his body the promises of the resurrection in the hymns of the Church. Her faithfulness in caring for him through all these years is a shining witness to us of what marital love is to be. As one of our vicar’s said of years ago: That is one brave lady. Indeed, she is and remains and inspiration to us all. June also brought us the joy of marriage: Pastor Larry Meinzen and Peggy Sachtleben were united in holy matrimony on the 7th - and all the Meinzen and Sachtleben crew joined us for worship that day (with the wedding immediately following late service). What joyful singing!
July began with joy again. Baptismal streams overflowing little Clara Rolene Hemann. She was just starting her life in Christ; her grandmother’s pilgrimage was already drawing to a close. To our shock, Larmen Engelke passed away suddenly on July 19th. So vibrant and alive he always was that we found difficult to believe he could be gone - surely no 90 year old was ever more active! In the middle of all that, Cindi and I travelled to San Antonio to speak at Higher Things Youth Gathering and then a week later to Grand Rapids Michigan - from which we rushed home to do Larmen's funeral. Toward the tale end of July we had two more Baptisms to joy in: Erik and Bethany Preus’ little Madelyn brought into Christ and the same day Meila Jo Robinson was given new birth in the waters. A time to plant - the new life in Christ.
With August, a time to embrace. Lauren Nichole Gerber given in marriage to Kyle Anthony Fuhrmann. Joys abounding! And right in the full sunshine of joy, the shadow of death. Rolene Hemann’s earthly journey reached its end on August 3. A woman of great faith and at peace with whatever the Lord willed - just don’t mess with the cat, for he was king of the house! She was my poster child for older folk using email and the web. She always kept up on things that way. But she was so ready to go and so peaceful in her leaving. She knew where she was going and had long prepared for it. And from a time for tears to a time for joy: the baptism of little Aubrey Anenetta on the 8th and Jacob Richard Spencer on the 22nd. And more joy as a new school year kicked in too. So wonderful to see the children back again.
September was mostly sorrow. It seemed as though there were a death in our parish every week. And such unthinkable loss for us. September 7th, unexpectedly, Hilbert Schumacher’s soul was gathered into the heavenly mansions while his body was laid to rest in the hope of the resurrection. Hilbert was the president of St. Paul’s when I came here as your pastor and through all the ups and downs of the years, he was like a rock, not just to me but to this parish. A St. Paul’s without Hilbert Schumacher and his laughter and joy in the Lord? It seemed and seems unthinkable. Three days later, Alfred Andersen fell asleep in Christ. Though Alfred came to us in his old age, he was so much a part of this place. Whenever did we have the doors open and he not be here, often with the tin of cookies that he excelled at making, always with a story and a smile. Ten days after Alfred died, we lost our Albert Ernst. Albert was yet another pillar of St. Paul’s - a man who had fought the hard fight in the battle for the Bible and whose zeal and joy in his Lord were downright infectious. Oh, he could be handful and half. There was NO winning an argument with him, and the sooner you realized it the better. And we all loved him because when all was said and done, he was just happy to be a child of the heavenly Father and so grateful for the gift of the Lord’s Scriptures. A week after Albert’s death, Sue Vaughn also passed. That was a shocker for me, for I’d not even known of her sickness. It was, I think, the most painful funeral I’ve ever had to lead. And with all this sorrow, the Lord gave us a ray of joy: September 27th Rachel Barton, new student in our school, was washed in the baptismal flood, marked with the cross of the crucified forever. That reminded us what the school is all about.
October began with a wedding: a time for joy. Lisa Bishop and Jimmie Spencer were married before the Lord’s altar. That month we also - with enormous gratitude to God - brought an end to the vacancy at the organ bench. We rejoiced that the Lord had answered our prayers in ways that we hadn’t even dared to hope. We welcomed Carlo Van Ulft and we have been utterly blessed by the music he has brought us ever since. A time to laugh and a time to dance, and how on earth did the writer of Ecclesiastes manage to leave out: a time to sing! The end of the month brought the very sudden death of Larry Gihring. Another saint of the Lord - marked by his kindness, his humility, and his gentleness. He is sorely missed too.
November we got to celebrate All Saints and its joys this year seemed even more potent than usual because of all the deaths we endured. But before the week was out, we had two more. Our dear brother in Christ, Roy Heinrich Theodor Henkhaus, asleep in Jesus. Like Larry, a man of great gentleness and kindness, and then our Alma Schmidt, our oldest member, reposed in Christ. A time to weep, a time to mourn. But it wasn’t all mourning. For also on All Saints Day, Albert’s great grandson was welcomed into this world: Henry Albert Reiseck. Baptized the day he was born - water and the word doing the job and bringing him into Christ’s kingdom. And later in the month, the same joy for little Caleb Allen Steinmann - “the splash of the water, the power of the word, the Spirit now binds you to Jesus your Lord and wonder of wonders, though by sin defiled, the Father in heaven now makes you His child.” A time to keep, a time to laugh. Thanksgiving was a particular joy with a packed church and hearty singing to the Lord of harvest for His unfailing mercy and love.
December brought the joys of Advent and Christmastide and one final baptism for the year: Dylan Brooke Pechulat coopted to Christ’s kingdom and made His beloved sister and heir of all His heavenly riches. Christmas Eve was the wettest Christmas I have ever experienced - what a downpour! And yet it couldn’t dampen our spirits as the children led the parish in celebrating the birth of the Savior. Yes, a year with a time for everything in it. But through all the times, both the joyous and the sorrowful, through the bitter and the sweet, through the tears and the laughter, it was a time of grace because we lived it in and with and through our Crucified, Risen, Ascended, Reigning and Returning Lord - to whom be glory forever with His all-holy Father and the life-giving Spirit! Amen.
At the conclusion of 2009, the baptized membership at St. Paul's number 747 souls; the number of confirmed 586 souls. The average attendance for a given week was 307.
Respectfully presented by William Weedon, Pastor of St. Paul's in the 18th year of this pastorate