People of God, will you receive Pastor Steve as a messenger of Jesus Christ sent to serve all people with the gospel of hope and salvation? Will you regard him as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God?

We will, and we ask God to help us. 

Will you pray for him, help and honor him for his work’s sake, and in all things strive to live together in the peace and unity of Christ? 

We will, and we ask God to help us. 

—From the Installation Service in ELW


I want to start by saying that this past year has been the most difficult in my almost 22 years of Pastoral ministry. My sense is that each person reading this will draw their own conclusions about what that statement means. For as difficult as the pandemic and isolation was, it was easier than navigating this past year. 


One thing that has remained consistent, even in the face of this adversity, has been my call to serve all of you. I can still envision what may come next for us at Bethesda. Above, I shared your promises, made to me when I became your co-pastor 10 years ago. We need these promises and the promises I made as a co-pastor to the congregation to be before us all of the time. They are our healthy partnership and remind us of what is truly important, “Not my will but thy will be done.” 


While many things have contributed to making this year difficult, I think the hardest has been the asking, begging, pleading for me to bring healing to the congregation. What I said to each of those people, I say to all of you, “You can’t begin healing while the wound is still gushing.” We can’t begin healing until the bleeding has stopped; it is that complex and that simple. And, to be clear, it is not in my power to stop the bleeding. 


My prayer is that those who have the power to stop the bleeding do just that, stop the bleeding. When that has happened then the long work of healing can begin. There is much to heal. The scars will be deep. Many relationships have been strained or broken over these past months. As I said in a devotion back in January, “the body is hurting.” As much as I have preached and prayed for unity within this body, it feels as if my words have fallen to the ground. 


I have carried with me the following vision for ministry throughout my ministry and it will continue to shape me in the years to come. Here is that vision: each pastor will plant seeds in the life of a congregation that they will never harvest and will harvest fruit from the seeds that someone else has planted. My call is to journey with you planting seeds and once in a while stumbling upon an unexpected harvest. May the Spirit lead us in the work that we have been called to do together.


God’s Peace,

Pastor Steve