Pat O’Brien has announced that he is retiring after 39 years as a Pastor. 32 years of service in one congregation, St. John’s in Oakes North Dakota. On June 22 the congregation will host an open house from 2-4. There will be a short program.
I have known Pastor O’Brien for about 34 of those years and he is a man of conviction and humor and faith. He is also dedicated to his craft and that is preaching and care of souls. I hesitate to use that trite phrase “dedicated to his craft” because it is used for everyone and everybody from movie stars to rappers, from sports figures to news readers on TV. Preaching is a craft and so is the care of souls. It takes dedication and work and inspiration and a conviction that preaching is more vital than churchmanship, and proclamation more important than personality. I am not saying that Patrick is not a churchman or that he has a bad personality. I am saying that he believes that being a preacher and a Pastor is more important than anything else – even being District President. Serving out a term for Rev. Larry Harvala who became ill, Rev. Obrien did something I have never heard of before and that is announce that if he was elected as District President he wouldn’t serve. That in itself is pretty amazing but his reason for many will sound astounding. DP’s get to travel and hang around the powerful and the movers and the shakers but Pat wanted to be in the pulpit, the one he was called to, and not a different one every Sunday because he believed that is where God intended him to be.
On June 29, you are invited to celebrate with Grace Lutheran Church, Cooperstown, as they honor Rev. Charlie Johnson’s 40 years in the ministry. A regular Sunday morning service will be at 11:30 am and will be Pastor Johnson’s retirement service. He is retiring from full-time ministry and will serve the parish as a part-time pastor. At 3:00 pm there will be a church service with Rev. Dr. Timothy H. Maschke preaching. He was a classmate of Pastor Johnson. This service will be followed by a luncheon and a time for visiting and sharing.
Rev. Johnson is another one of those “throwbacks” who were steady and ready and believed that cuteness, cleverness, astute mentality, smooth personality, driving ambition, and even theological perception could not be relied upon for the craft of being a preacher and Pastor. That doesn’t mean that he was lazy. He probably doesn’t remember this but he and I had a wonderful conversation on some park bench somewhere years ago. We are both throwbacks who at that time at least smoked pipes. I remember a conversation that rose and writhed like the pipe smoke we exhaled into the air and it was all about Grace. The pure unadulterated grace that called us both into the ministry, not because of any special tools that we had but because of the tools that we would be given as needed by the Lord of the Church.
Take a moment to pray for another Pastor who is now in the position of receiving Pastoral Care. He is Klemet Preus. He is one of my best friends and for a few years we raised a ruckus together with our District President and drove Him to distraction with theological points and argumentation that were meant to do nothing more than make people talk theology. He and I would toss out thesis and anti-thesis like scatter gun blasts. He was in Grand Forks at Wittenberg Chapel and we saw each other every week and when he took a call to California I was devastated enough to blast him in a fake newsletter that I wrote up called “PIPSQUEIC” (pronounce pipsqueak) – Pastors in pursuit of sanctified, quasi – utilitarian Episcopates in California. I could not always refute his theological propositions but I could make him laugh.
I received this update on his condition by his visiting Pastor, interestingly another Pastor named Johnson-
“As you may have heard. Pastor Preus has been moved from North Memorial Hospital to a residential hospice facility. It’s a much more peaceful environment than the busy halls of the hospital. The facility is small, no more than a dozen rooms, and it’s situated on a lake, of which Pastor Preus has a nice view outside his window. His pain seems to be pretty well under control, and Jan reports that the staff is very attentive to their needs.
Jan has wallpapered the room with Bible passages, but there is plenty of space left, and she would love your help filling it. Every time I visit, there always seems to be a family member visiting, either Jan’s sister, Liz, or one of the Preus clan.
A few days ago, Pastor Preus woke up and told Jan that he had been dreaming. “About what?” she asked. “Official pastoral acts,” he replied. “What kind of pastoral acts?” Jan asked. “Oh, mostly weddings and funerals.”
Once a pastor, always a pastor I suppose.”