Forty-one and half years after ordination and after twelve years serving as an assistant to the bishop in this synod, I eagerly enter retirement. It’s been a good run. I’ve served three wonderful parishes and have had the opportunity to work with leaders – pastors and deacons, as well as elected lay leaders – in numerous congregations in Southeastern Iowa. Along the way, I have met and learned from some incredible people – churchwide and other synod staffs; folks at LSI, Interfaith Power and Light, Bread for the World, and the Iowa legislature; to say nothing of the gifted colleagues at the Synod Center for Ministry. For them and all of you, all I can say is “Thank you and thanks be to God.”
During the pandemic, Carol and I have been watching the six seasons of the TV series “Northern Exposure” – not once but twice. We will likely watch it a third time. Set in fictional Cicely, Alaska, it is also the reason that Carol had me read a book by Heather Lende entitled If You Lived Here, I Would Know Your Name. I liked it so much that she gave me three of her other books for Christmas. I am now reading Of Bears and Ballots. I highly recommend these books as she reflects on life in Haines, Alaska. “Northern Exposure” and the books by Lende have much to say about life in community and have reminded me of the importance of being connected with those around us in positive ways, even with those whom we may not particularly like or with whom we disagree. They speak about what it means to “share our mutual woes; our mutual burdens bear.” Community is not easy which means being the Church and being in a congregation is not easy. Yet I am convinced that congregations rooted in the love of God made known in Jesus Christ hold the best potential for genuine renewal and transformation among us.
I have the deepest respect for pastors, deacons and lay leaders who seek to care for one another and who dare to be involved in the life of the community and of neighbors, especially tending to the needs of the most vulnerable. I will continue to pray for all of you as you work together to that end.
Pastor Paul D. Ostrem