Ministry’s Call Never Ends – Even After 50 Years

Post a Comment » Written on January 25th, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

NEW BRIGHTON, MN (January 25, 2007) – The seven men had once knelt together in the Roosevelt High School gymnasium when hands were laid on them during the ordination service as part of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

That was in 1956.

On Sunday, they stood together to have their picture taken during a reception celebrating the 50th anniversary of that ordination day. The event at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton also honored two other ministers who have been ordained for more than 50 years.

RetireAll were honored for “Faithfully Telling the Story.”

“It’s absolutely a mountaintop experience again,” said Earl Johnson. “It’s like old home week.”

Members of the 1956 group – and the wives who they credit with helping them through their ministries – include:
•    Jim and Alyce Hawkinson
•    Earl and Linnea Johnson
•    Donald and Betty Krause
•    Wes and Harriet Olson
•    Don and Dorothy Pearson
•    Wally and Lorraine Pratt
•    William and Laura Lou Sandstrom

Also honored were:
•    Glen and Jane Wiberg, ordained in 1953
•    Robert and Doris Dahl, ordained in 1947

During interviews with each of the ministers, they told of their joy at being able to celebrate together, expressed surprise at how quickly the years have passed, reflected on the joy of ministry, and explained why they have refused to “retire.”

“It’s been very moving for me,” Wiberg said. “These are more than just colleagues – they are dearest friends. “We’ve shared a lot of miles and ministry together.”

Those miles have stretched from the East Coast to the West Coast, to small churches and large churches, to hospitals and nursing homes. Along the way they have ministered to children, senior adults and ages in between.

Sandstrom, who still attends New Brighton, recently heard a child call out in the lobby, “Grandpa!” Sandstrom turned to look and saw the child running to a man for whom he was once a youth leader.

In addition to serving established churches, Pearson and Pratt each began several new churches long before there was a Department of Church Growth and Evangelism to help train, guide and even fund the work. Pratt says, however, that the experiences kept ministry fresh for him.

“In new churches, things continually changed and were new every year,” he explained. “You couldn’t just settle in and be comfortable.”

The ministers all echoed Pratt, who said that throughout his ministry, he was most grateful for “the challenge of meeting new people and helping people serve the Lord and others.” He added, “It was a thrill to see!”

The trip has gone by quickly for the men. “It goes fast until you think of all that you experienced,” Olson said. “You can’t envision it when you look forward.”

“It’s surprising that it can be 50 years already,” Pearson said. “God has been more faithful than we could have ever hoped or imagined.”

The ministers officially retired years ago, but that has meant little in how they have lived their lives since then. They have continued to serve churches in many capacities, often doing interim ministry.

“It’s the sense of call to ministry,” explained Johnson. “It just continues on and on.”

“People sort of shake their head when they learn you are still doing ministry,” Olson said. They say, ‘you’re supposed to be retired!’ I don’t know what that means; I don’t want to just sit in a rocking chair all of my life.”

“I will not retire,” said an adamant and smiling Krause, who ministers at a hospital. “Not until there is no job for me.”

Hawkinson recently concluded serving as interim at his fifth church since retiring – New Brighton, where he now attends. He says he has continued his ministry for the same reason that has guided him in every church since 1956. “It’s such a wonderful life to work with text and with people.”

“These men have lived the title of Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction,” says ECC President Glenn Palmberg. “Through their faithful ministry that continues even today, they have made a lasting impact in the lives of thousands. They are a model for all of us who seek to walk humbly before God and love his people.”

Editor’s note: Pictured in the accompanying photo (from left) are: back row: William Sandstrom, James Hawkinson, Don Pearson, and Wesley Olson; front row: Wallace Pratt, Robert Dahl, Glen Wiberg, Earl Johnson, and Donald Krause.

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