Good people in a good place


In the mid 1990s, after a decade of serving a congregation in Boise, Idaho, we decided that the time had come for us to explore where God was calling us to go next. We had 17 years of job sharing and working together as ordained ministers under our belt. We had served in small rural and isolated congregations as well as in an urban church. We had shared ministry with other staff members and been through some capital funds drives. We had learned a lot about how to administer a congregation and how to run educational programs. The church we were serving was ready to begin a construction project that would give it the building to be its home well into the next century. Additional land had been purchased. The funds had been raised to proceed with the project that would add a full service elevator, new bathrooms and give additional space in the sanctuary. And our family was growing. Our children were teenagers and we needed to find a way to produce more than one income to support them and to prepare for their college years.

Our profiles were circulating in just a few states and we resolved to examine potential calls one at a time, without looking at multiple congregations at the same time and playing one off against another. We were familiar with the Black Hills as Susan’s Aunt and Uncle had lived there. Our son had undergone surgery there when he was 18 months old and we were living in North Dakota. We had been to Placerville Camp many times as a young couple and later with visiting youth groups. When we found that 1st Congregational United Church of Christ was seeking a new pastor, we decided to submit only one profile. I would seek the position alone, so that Susan could seek another position. Our family needed two incomes. We were a bit nervous about what working in different congregations might mean, but we wanted to be open to the calling of the Holy Spirit.

Somewhere in the process we discovered that the congregation was also seeking a Director of Christian Education. The nine-month a year position seemed to be a good fit for our family. In our conversations with the congregation we negotiated that if Ted accepted the call to the pastoral position, Susan would be able to apply for the CE position. The church would have no obligation to hire her, but if she was the one chosen by the committee, we would work out terms of call for both of us.

It took a little while, but that is indeed what happened. We had two positions, but only one congregation. It was a perfect match for our family’s needs. It was a fit for us. We worked side by side in those positions for the next 25 years. Over the years, things shifted. Susan took on more of the new member responsibilities. We shared pastoral calling and hospital visits. As our children grew up, Susan shifted to more full-time work in the church. When the demands of caring for our parents ih the later years of their lives required our time, we covered for each other and shifted our working hours to have time for caregiving as well as serving the church.

During that time there were a couple of times when we explored other potential calls and considered the possibility of moving, but each time we discovered that we were called to stay and serve in Rapid City. The congregation supported sabbaticals for additional education and growth and renewal of our commitment. in 2006 we received a significant grant from the Lily Foundation that enabled the congregation and us to examine our calls and our future and recommit to sharing ministry together. It was an exciting and heady time as we discovered a deeper commitment to long term ministry together.

The congregation was, like other congregations, filled with strong people. They didn’t always agree with one another. Sometimes there were small conflicts, but each time the commitment to the church was stronger than the differences. We watched children grow up and new ones be born. We celebrated lives well-lived and joined in grief for funerals. We planned confirmation preparation programs and mentored youth. We participated in camps and in the conference and in the national setting of our church.

Through it all, the people of the church were very good to us. We were well supported in our ministry. We were given opportunities to grow and change and expand our horizons.

When the time came for us to retire, we knew that we had to plan our retirement in a way that allowed the congregation to grow beyond our leadership. We would need to move out of the way for new leadership to be called. For us that meant selling our home and moving to a new place. Plans were made. Then the Covid Pandemic hit and plans were changed. The final months of our active working careers were filled with learning new skills. We increased our social media presence overnight. We learned to lead worship and Bible study and other ministries online.

Now, a year into retirement, we understand how much we have missed the good people of the church we served for so long. We also understand how much we have missed the good and meaningful work that we were given in this place. This weekend has been one of deep appreciation for the people of the church as we pay a brief visit. We know that the year has been a challenge for the church. They have gone through the grief of losing their pastors. They have faced the challenge of seeking new leadership. But they have also remained the good and faithful people in the loving and caring congregation that called us to share ministry so many years ago. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the people. We have been so warmly welcomed back for our visit. People have shown their graciousness and goodness and their love of the church to us.

It is not possible to find words to describe how it felt to sit in that room and listen to the organ and the choir as we worshiped together yesterday. Then we went into the fellowship hall for more visiting and a special cake and sharing so much love. Our hearts are filled. Our grief at leaving is healing. The years we lived and worked in Rapid City were good to us, and Rapid City and the church will always be beloved by us. We are moving on. We will make a new home in a new congregation in Washington, but we will always carry a bit of the Black Hills in our hearts and spirits as we listen for what God is calling us to do next in our lives.

Made in RapidWeaver