Predecessors

A recent Living Lutheran article, titled Foremothers of Mission, was about domestic missionaries for a predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Women were finally invited to do this work when men were fighting in World War II. Every year, 18 women served as domestic missionaries, also known as survey workers. Suzan Farley’s article featured one of them, Bernice Severson, now age 96. Later in the article came this sentence, “Severson was responsible for developing congregations in Chicago’s Oriole park neighborhood (1946) and in Nampa, Idaho (1947).” She was the survey worker for Trinity Lutheran Church, Nampa!

Severson’s story spurred me to reflect on the people who came before me at Trinity Lutheran Church and I felt welling up within me some kind of witness to the three pastors who served before me. There were other interims, or short-term pastors, but it is these three who I want to write about. I know that none of these pastors was probably perfect, but I am so grateful for the gifts they left me and the congregation. Let me first give thanks that all three conducted themselves professionally. That means no misconduct for many years. People at Trinity have never had to relearn how to trust a pastor. That is no small gift. But they actually gave us more than simple professional conduct.

Barak Anderson served as Trinity’s pastor from 1984-1989. That may seem like a short time, but Barak’s name is still spoken. There are people who joined the congregation during Barak’s tenure and who were in leadership who still talk about his instruction and teaching. As a lifelong learner and someone who really wanted to teach in the parish, I am thankful for any influence Barak had on making this a curious congregation, a congregation full of the people who borrow my books, ask questions, show up for adult education, and expect that new members will be offered thoughtful classes where we really get to know one another.

Erik Wilson Weiberg served as Trinity’s pastor from 1990 to 1996. When I was in the call process, my family friend contact for the Northwest was Pastor Maynard Atik, who was serving as an interim in Seattle. I still remember the response from Maynard when I emailed him about the call to Trinity: “My friend Erik says you’re going to good people.” I already felt good about the call, but that assurance gave me an extra lift. Little did I know how Erik’s time at Trinity would impact my own tenure. It was during Erik’s call that Trinity Lutheran entered a 50-year ground lease agreement with Mercy Housing for 16 single-family homes, then called New Hope. It was a controversial move for the church and led to an exodus of church members and a neighborhood association expressing the Not in My Back Yard sentiment. My office held VHS recordings of the hearings in front of Nampa Planning and Zoning and City Council. I watched the hearings so I could listen to both Erik and the Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy from Mercy Housing. In 2005, five-years into my call, Mercy Housing moved out of Nampa and Trinity Lutheran, with help from IHFA, created Trinity New Hope Inc. (affordable housing), a separate nonprofit.

Wendell Hendershott served from 1997 to 2009. Wendell helped the Trinity Community Gardens Inc. get started on the front lawn of Trinity. He encouraged the founders to be their own nonprofit. This is the legacy of Wendell’s most easily visible to a visitor. I am incredibly grateful for the garden’s presence. I know many people who have joined our congregation because, even if they do not garden, they want to be part of a church who uses its land to produce vegetables for the community. I actually believe the gift of equal importance which Wendell left me is the congregation’s ability to move between Holy Communion musical settings and learn new songs. The Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal was introduced to Trinity during Wendell’s time, when I was in my first call in rural Iowa. It did not take me long to figure out that he had the congregation learn just about every setting and a plethora of new songs. The result being that when I want to introduce new settings or songs, including songs from other parts of the world, no on blinks. Wendell was also close with his colleagues at the local Presbyterian and Episcopal congregations. This made it easy for me to continue fostering Trinity’s reputation as an ecumenical collaborator.

Trinity, Nampa, like most congregations, has done a lot of adapting since the COVID-19 Pandemic began. I have leaned on colleagues, lay leaders, and my family as I navigate through this new terrain with the congregation. On this All Saints Day, also my tenth anniversary at Trinity, I give thanks for all the pastors and lay people who helped shape this community of faith long before I arrived.

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1 Response to Predecessors

  1. Donna Shines says:

    What a beautiful tribute, filled with gratitude and acknowledgment of these three amazing church leaders/community members and all they made possible for those who followed. It sure helped you hit the ground running, my friend and now you have guided your congregation with love, compassion, passion and joy, my friend!!

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