(Shown is Pastor Doug ((our Interim Pastor)) and his wife, Elaine. Pastor is serving Bethlehem Lutheran Church and First Presbyterian Church of Florence- he has been there 29 years. He is serving as Secretary of the Northern Great Lakes Synod and serves on the Synod Council and Synod Council Executive Committee. This is the sixth time he has served congregations as their Interim Pastor.
He is the Chief Deputy Coroner of Florence County and serves as Chair of the Florence County Emergency Planning Committee. He recently retired from 23 years as an EMT on the Florence Rescue Squad.
Pastor Doug and Elaine have been married 12 years. Pastor Doug enjoys reading novels, traveling, working in his yard, and being with his famiy.
Pastor Doug is committed to making sure every Thursday and Sunday we will have someone leading our service while we continue our search towards a permanent pastor. He will also take care of funerals and weddings and assist the church council.)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
When are we going to get our new pastor? I don’t have a definitive answer for you. But as many of you have heard me say before, God already knows who the next pastor of Grace Lutheran Church will be! Now God needs to work through us human beings and the structures of our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to get that pastor to Pembine.
When I spoke last with Bishop Finegan in January, she said she has had a couple of inquiries about Grace, but so far nothing has come of those inquires. Bishop Finegan faces two significant challenges in trying to bring pastors from other part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the north woods of Northern Wisconsin. Here they are:
Challenge #1: Salary - We all know that the area in which we live is not the economic stronghold of the United States. The vast majority of us could go somewhere else in the United States and make much more money for doing the same work. Some pastors need higher salaries than the smaller churches in our Synod can pay. They need to pay off education loans from Seminary and/or college. Or perhaps they have several children and need more income. What we DO have to offer in this area is a lifestyle and the beautiful north woods. So our Synod needs to attract pastors who are willing to trade lower salaries for the lifestyle and the environment we have to offer.
Challenge #2: Employment for the pastor’s spouse - Now-a-days, as we all know, it is imperative that both spouses in a family have employment. If a pastor accepts a call to Pembine, or so many other locations in this part of the upper Midwest, where is their spouse going to be employed? Maybe the spouse is a school teacher and can find a job in the area. Maybe the spouse is a nurse and can find a job in Marinette or Iron Mountain. Maybe the spouse is an engineer of some kind and there is no job closer than Green Bay. So one of the things a pastor who might consider Grace will look at is where his or her spouse will be able to find a job.
Given those two challenges, what often happens is a candidate will look at a potential call in our synod and a potential call in southern Wisconsin, or suburban Illinois, or rural Iowa, and they most often will NOT choose the Northern Great Lakes Synod because they can make more money, or their spouse can find a job or a better job somewhere else.
Also worth mentioning is that there are simply not enough pastors to go around. The number of pastors graduating from seminary continues to decline. Perhaps even more significant is that more and more pastors are reaching retirement age, meaning fewer older and experienced pastors to go around. Most of the Synods in the ELCA have openings for pastors and so pastors looking for a new call have lots of options to choose from.
Because of your faithful giving to God’s Church through Grace (thank you very much), Bishop Finegan believes that Grace can afford a pastor who has several years of experience. That is good news. That means we don’t necessarily have to wait for a seminary graduate. It also means Grace may very well get a pastor who already has some parish experience. Now God just needs to nudge the right pastor in the right way to realize that God wants her or him to become the next pastor here at Grace. You as a church family have many positive and exciting things to offer a pastor. God will get the right pastor to Grace at the right time -- that is God’s time which may not be the same thing as our time.
Now having said all of that, I will say this … God already knows who the next pastor of Grace Lutheran Church is going to be. Let us be in prayer for that person to hear God’s call to come to Pembine. And let us be patient as things work out in God’s good time. God be with that candidate, and with Bishop Finegan, and with us during this interim time. God will see us through!!
On another note, you may be aware that Pastor Dave Christianson has traveled south for some warmer weather. He will not return until sometime in April. Pastor Nick Johannes will be traveling to California at the beginning of March and will not be back until the end of April. So those two pastors who regularly preach and lead our worship services at Grace will not be available to us for a while. Pastor Gene has also gone south. So that means finding folks to preach and lead our worship services during March will be difficult. We will need to be creative in what we do for our Thursday and Sunday worship. If you are willing to help out with worship leadership, please let Bill Kowalski or the office know.
A big thank you to all of you who are a part of the Grace family and for what you do to support, encourage and make the ministry of Grace happen.
Pastor Doug Johnson
Office Phone: 715-528-4851
Home Phone: 715-528-4458
Cell Phone: 715-938-0962
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 535, Florence, WI 54121