Since February 1st, 2013, I’ve been the intentional interim pastor for Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in South San Francisco, California. For me it has been a rewarding experience. I could not even believe how happy it made me to work once again, to have professional challenges, get to know some wonderful people, and realize that I had so much to give and suddenly had a place to be able to share some of my gifts. Three long years in unemployment’s prison, but now with Christ, I am risen! The new pastor will be chosen next week, so it will not be much longer, but that is Paar for the course for an interim. You prepare the congregation for the new pastor.
I’ve been a pastor in the Lutheran Church since almost 1971, starting in Berlin, Germany until 1975, then in Coney Island, New York, from 1976 to 1992, and then in Oakland and other East Bay churches in California thereafter. Recently I served Old Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia from September 1, 2006 through January 2, 2008. From November 9, 2008 to February 15, 2010 I served Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, California (unofficially) with Pastor Richard Rubio Bowley. For three years, when I felt I could have made my greatest contribution to the church, I languished in unemployment. Now I’m an interim at Our Redeemer, South SF.
I received my PhD. in Early Modern History of Christianity – mostly for Germany and Non-Western areas. My dissertation was about Martin Luther’s most often published pamphlets (1520-1525) and is called: Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron. (See my dissertation page!) It is now available online in Scholardarity for $9.99.
Since the summer of 2001, I’ve taught Ethical Inquiry into Contemporary Social Issues, various Philosophy courses: the Introductory Course, History of Philosophy Part One and Two, Philosophy of Religion, Critical Thinking, Logic, Ethics, and then Comparative Religions and Sociology of Religions (for PACE) in five different East Bay Community Colleges. In the summer of 2006 alone I taught four courses: Logic in the College of Alameda, then Introduction to Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, and Logic again at Diablo Valley Community College in Pleasant Hill, CA. For Philadelphia Community College, I taught the History of Western Civilization, Part II, the Reformation until the Present.
I was in Philadelphia because on June 19th, 2006, I had accepted the call to be the pastor of the historical Old Zion Lutheran Church there, where services are offered in German as well as in English. My starting date was September 1, 2006. I hoped my wife could follow me to the East Coast, but it turned out that she couldn’t. Although the church had been reorganized by the Patriarch of the Lutheran Church, Henry Melchior Muhlenburg himself in 1742, the original German congregation had dwindled to about 16 and the English congregation, once St. Matthew’s to about 25 to 30 in Sunday worship attendance. The dear folks had become very conservative and my coming from Berkeley, California, became too great a chasm to bridge.
Sadly, I preached my goodbye sermon to Old Zion, Philadelphia December 30, 2007. Nora came to comfort me and in our trusty little Toyota, laden with my belongings, we headed back to the West Coast January 6th, 2008. See my December Message to the congregation!
June, July, and August as a supply pastor, I preached for Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alameda, California, while Pastor Roger Bauer was on Sabbatical. I was able to get every sermon into this blog. That was not quite so easy when I was preaching at Old Zion, because I was preaching in German and English every Sunday.
On October 29th, 2008, my brother Philip and I lectured at Gettysburg Seminary Reformation Colloquy on “Luther and the Care of the Soul.” (In German, it would be Seelsorge.) I chose a courageous subject entitled: “Luther’s In-Depth Theology and Theological Therapy.” It is published in Gettysburg’s Seminary journal. (Of course, I am not psychologizing Luther’s theology, but just underlining the rich personal, psychological dimension of it.)
On November 9, 2008, I began ministering at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, California, once again along with Pastor Richard Rubio-Bowley. When Pastor Rubio-Bowley asked me to help him and when I walked into the coffee hour and all the people of Bethlehem applauded, I knew I was there again and that for the third time. Pastor Julius Carroll had asked me to supply for him during his sabbatical; then he took a call from the church head quarters in Chicago, making me the de facto interim pastor for about two years. My ministry along with that of Pastor Rubio-Bowley was a very positive experience for Bethlehem. Wherever I minister I play my trumpet, preach, preside, and feel a great deal of joy. On Saturday evenings getting high on preparing the children’s sermon, I often write songs for them. Sometimes they end up being too grown up and then they become regular church songs, many of which are in this website. Sadly, I left Bethlehem on February 15, 2010, because I am technically on leave from call, and I could be struck from the roster of ELCA pastors, while doing what was pretty nearly full time ministry. It is quite remarkable how much I miss being a pastor, since having left Old Zion in Philadelphia and Bethlehem in West Oakland. It takes some inner strength to endure unemployment. How does one retire from unemployment?
In Coney Island, I directed fourteen Summer Vacation Church School and Day Camp programs, in which for six to eight weeks, one had to eat, drink, and sleep Day Camp. To carry them out by writing grant proposals, doing walk-a-thons, and then directing a 16 member staff, teaching and being the bus driver really meant going above and beyond the call of duty. Even as a part-time minister of St. John’s in East Oakland, I directed three more VCS and Day Camp programs.
I’ve had to start from scratch many times in my professional life: in Springfield, Ohio in Hamma School of Theology; in Los Angeles, California during clinical training; in Berlin, Germany during four years of ministry there; in Coney Island, New York when beginning my ministry in St. Paul’s; in the East Bay of San Francisco during graduate school and many an interim ministry and as a community college part-time instructor; in Philadelphia during my German-American ministry in Old Zion; and back here again in the East Bay. I’ve done interim ministries for St Ann’s in Germany. There it was called being a Pfarrverweser. For Christ Lutheran Church in El Cerrito, for First Lutheran Church in Oakland, for St. John’s Lutheran Church in East Oakland, for Bethlehem Lutheran Church in West Oakland, and for Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Bragg, California. Nevertheless, as I was required to undergo Intentional Interim Training, I completed this training.
The two Berlin churches I ministered in 1971-1975: St. Ann’s in Dahlem and St. Philips in Friedenau. Hear ye! Hear ye! The latest from Berlin. On Pentecost 2010 the roof of St. Philip’s almost caved in and it has been unsafe to go into the building since then. The congregation is worshiping in the mother church, St. Nathaniel, I believe, or in the social hall, which is behind the church. They have begun a fund-raising project for the roof and a series of benefit concerts. See the article http://www.schoeneberg-evangelisch.de/thema/index13d.shtml The church on the left amidst the trees is St Ann’s in Dahlem, Berlin. All the other pictures are the inside of St Philip’s church.