Lutheran pastors reflect on 20 years of ministry

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 8/25/99.

Both pastors graduated from seminary 20 years ago and were ordained into the Lutheran ministry. Both have served in the Paynesville area for more than a decade, and with their 20th anniversary in the ministry approaching, they offered some insights into changes in their profession.

Pastor Rick Hoyme will be honored by the Paynesville Lutheran Church congregation with a potluck dinner on Sunday, Aug. 29, to celebrate his 20 years in the ministry. He attended Lutheran Northwestern Seminary in St. Paul and was ordained in August 1979 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Augusta, Wis., his home congregation.

His first call was for three years in a three-point parish in north central Montana. He then served for four years in New Hope, Minn., before coming to Paynesville. He has served at Paynesville Lutheran for 13 years.

Pastor Keith Ainsley attended Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, and was ordained on Oct. 21, 1979, at St. John's Lutheran Church in El Cajon, Calif., his home congregation. He was an interim pastor in Wisconsin before serving six years at Jackson Lake Lutheran Church in Amboy, Minn., and four years at Peace Lutheran in Hazen, N.D.

He has served at Nordland Lutheran Church, located about four miles southwest of Paynesville, for ten years. His 10-year anniversary at the church was celebrated by his congregation in early July.

To serve in the ministry for 20 years is becoming a greater and greater accomplishment. Pastor Hoyme said that many of his classmates are no longer pastors. These days fewer college-age students head immediately for seminary. Pastor Ainsley said that at his alma mater they can't even fill the dormitories because more frequently seminary students are starting a second career and already have a family.

Both said there is a shortage of pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America. "It's a reflection of our culture, too," said Pastor Hoyme. "We're more secular. The perceived rewards of ministry are less."

Pastor Ainsley agreed that the culture has changed, and with it the church, too. "Our whole society has become more individualistic," he said. But a congregation is a community, and it's harder to keep individuals happy in it nowadays.

Both noted that churches have become less formal as have relations with the clergy. Pastor Hoyme noted that while the substance of the service is the same, the style is much more relaxed, citing music and language as examples. "Just look at what we wear when we go to church," he added.

Pastor Ainsley said that events like Watergate has caused suspicion of authority in general while abuse by clergy members has damaged trust in the ministry. People now want a personal relationship with their pastor. He doesn't want to go back to the "pedestal approach," where pastors were expected to set a sterling example but laments some of the loss of respect.

Both pastors noted that programming has evolved into a bigger and bigger part of the church and of their ministry. The focus of the church used to be predominantly on the Gospel as presented at Sunday morning worship services and through confirmation. Now that has been supplemented by charity drives, community outreach, and various activity programs in the congregation.

"If there's nothing there for me, I'm not going to go," said Pastor Ainsley in summarizing a strain of the modern attitude. "The attitude of consumerism nationwide," he added, "is very evident in the church."

Pastor Hoyme said that his 13-year stay in Paynesville, long by clergical standards, is the result of his gifts fitting his congregation's needs and vice versa. "Pastor Rick has been a wonderful spiritual leader for Paynesville Lutheran," said Pat Solum, the president of the congregation. His creative leadership, she said, has led to increased opportunities for fellowship, Bible study and a contemporary Sunday service with a worship band.

"I personally have enjoyed his preaching style and appreciate his friendly personality," she added.

"I look back on 20 years," said Pastor Hoyme, "and I guess the main thing is I've been in three different parishes and they've all been such positive experiences. I'm so grateful for that."

Pastor Ainsley said Nordland Lutheran Church is an atypical rural congregation. While maintaining traditions, it is open to new ideas, and located among Paynesville and New London and several lakes, it is a vibrant and growing congregation, unlike most country parishes. "I think Nordland's commitment to the Gospel and their willingness to work, coupled with their priority to community, are what I've looked for (in a congregation)," he said.

Marlys Pearson, a Nordland member, said she is amazed at the pace Pastor Ainsley keeps in his ministry and is grateful for his friendship. "Over the last 10 years, we have shared many joys, sadnesses, and frustrations," she said. "He is grounded in the scripture and the Lutheran doctrine. It is very evident that God is leading and directing his life by his preaching, teaching, and sharing."

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