Dear Friends at Immanuel Lutheran. While I realize that not many of us have met, I do hope that a few of you will recall the years I served as your Pastor. It is exactly fifty years ago that our family left Wausau for a new call.
For all of us living in a time of pandemic there seems to be ample time to reflect on days gone by and to reconnect with friends. This is precisely the purpose of this letter. The New Testament of God's Word contains a number of letters so it is a style of communication that endures.
The nine years spent with you in ministry were very formative for the balance of my pastoral work. Here are a few of my initial impressions. Wausau back then was a city of about 32,000. Immanuel had a baptized membership of 900. The attractive church on Seventh and Adams had been dedicated in 1949. The parsonage, located between the church and education center, had seen better days. Just across 7th Street was the Wausau Public High School.
Immanuel was still in a time of grief over the death of Pastor Fritjof Eikeland. He had endured a long struggle with cancer. Just prior to our arrival his widow, Corrine, and three children: Becky, Cathy, and Mark, had moved out of the parsonage as they continued to mourn their loss.
Intern, Arvid Jovaag, had completed his year of training and returned to the Seminary in St Paul. Assistance during the Pastor's long illness was generousty provided by Pastors Seidel and Meyer of St Stephen Lutheran.
Bertha Pearson was a prominent business woman in Wausau. She played a key roll in the Call Committee. In my initial years at Immanuel she offered wise counsel and wisdom to a young clergy (l had just turned 30 years.)
Assisting us with our move into the parsonage were custodians Al and Palma Lamphier, Managing the office as secretary was Millie Lang.
Worship was always exciting and challenging at Immanuel. Playing the organ with skill and conviction was Ethel Erickson. Worship attendance in the early years of the decade was consistent, averaging 425-450. Summer attendance was lower as many members were in public education and often gone over those months. The congregation always had capable lay leadership. I recall how intimidated felt when I attended the first meeting of the Altar Guild as they were much better informed on liturgical technicalities than I was.
After a few years I realized that we needed pastoral help. In 1966 we welcomed Pastor Hjalmer Hanson and his wife, Helen. He did faithful visitation in homes and hospitals into the early 1970s.
Highlights in my memory are many. The Bethel Series, a comprehensive study of both Old and New Testaments was popular in this decade. I began by training eleven members over a span of two years. We set April, 1964, for registering class participants. In a couple of hours we had 120 signed up with 20 more on a waiting list. Once each trimester we would gather the entire group of 100 plus and I would answer Biblical questions that needed clarification. Three years later 75% of adults who started the Series had either completed the study or were still at it.
Ministry to and with youth was an extremely high priority. Assisting in all aspects of this ministry were Arly and Mary Turnquist. Riding Stockley's bus we traveled to Outlaw Ranch in S. Dakota, to Luther and St. Olaf Colleges, as well as Detroit and Dallas for National Youth Conventions. A week for confirmands was held annually at Mission Lake Bible Camp. The lower level of the new unit building was named: The Fish Sandwich. Scouting also was a highly visible Immanuel program those years.
Being open and inviting to people of other religions and denominations was a style of ministry that grew and expanded for me these years. I asked the Jewish Rabbi to teach a class for our Bethel students, A group of lay folks from Immanuel met with a group from St. Matthew's Roman Catholic for "Living Room Dialogues." I was invited to speak to Catholic seminarians at Marathon City and a few of them came often to play their guitars at our youth events. January, 1970, I was invited to preach one evening at St. Mary's Catholic Church.
During years at Immanuel I also came to appreciate the importance and the necessity of continuing my professional education. Time was granted for me to attend Kairos Weeks at Luther Seminary and Theological Conferences at St Olaf College. I participated in a Ten Day Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies in Michigan led by Reuel Howe. These growth opportunities gave shape to the rest of my years in Church Ministry.
In 1965 a decision was made to remove the parsonage from the church lot and build a new home for the Pastor's Family. We moved into the new parsonage on Ninth and Augusta, built for $30,000. In the fall of 1968 we added the final addition to the Church and at the Dedication also recognized the 85th year of Immanuel's history in Wausau. On March 1, 1970, a new Schantz Pipe Organ was dedicated, the committee was chaired by David Riege.
The Immanuel Years were great for our family. Ann in addition to being Mom to our three children and managing our parsonage life also sang in the church choir and Pro Music, as well as being a teacher in the Bethel Series. These days she still keeps her knitting needles working and is an avid reader of books.
Beth, our oldest, became a serious student of the piano and added the violin which she still plays in Decorah's Foot Notes. She became a socially-conscious teenager. Beth recently retired from the Peoples' Co-op and enjoys nature walks with husband, Jon. Their daughter, Ingrid, a college grad lives in Vermont.
John, just a year old when we came to Immanuel, tried camping with his Dad on Rib Mountain, played the "dust Pan" at Franklin School, and used training wheels on his new bike for just five minutes. John teaches Math at Woodbury in Twin Cities, climbs 14,000 mountains, plays hockey, and bikes everywhere.
Maren joined our family in 1965 and brought us great joy. She enjoyed rides in her dad's bike basket, had a special bond with Helen Hanson and Maren had a starring moment on WSAU-TV Romper Room. Maren and husband, Jeff, and daughter, Ciara, live on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.
Before leaving Wausau we purchased a Skamper Camper and for the next decade traveled over much of America enjoying National Parks. In 2020 Ann and I will have been married 66 years and now live at The Waters on Mayowood in Rochester, MN. At the age of 89 this is now my 27th year of retirement.
Looking back the years at Immanuel were extremely formative for me. Serving you in that decade was both a major challenge and a true privilege. Counseling with youth and adults took a lot of time and wisdom. From 1961-1970 my pastoral records: Baptized: 196, Confirmed 257 Youth/Adults, Married 47 Couples, Officiated at 63 Funerals, and Preached 587 Sermons.
A book: The Gathering Storm in the Church, was written by Jeffrey Hadden in 1969. He wrote about a growing division in the church between conservatives and liberals. It is an accepted bit of history that "1968 is considered to be one of the most turbulent and traumatic years of the 20th century." I certainly sensed those turbulent times during my last couple of years at Immanuel.
At a Youth Retreat I taught a class on Dr. Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail. Dr. King's assassination in April of 1968 profoundly affected our nation. Having serious questions about our involvement in Vietnam I found it a challenge to write letters to our young members in the military. I joined 4 or 5 other Wausau clergy in a letter to the editor of our daily newspaper voicing the view that opposition to the war was not being unpatriotic. I want you to know how deeply I cherish the opportunity you and God gave me to serve Immanuel.
May Immanuel, God who is with us, continue to guide our Journey in these challenging and stressful days. To our God be all Glory and Praise. Amen.
Click here to view photos provided by Pastor Duane C. Hoven (page 1)
Click here to view photos provided by Pastor Duane C. Hoven (page 2)