As a Scout, whenever we went on a campout, we were always reminded to pick up behind ourselves. This means not only collecting any clutter we made, but also taking out whatever trash found left by others. Leave the site in better shape than how we found it. The motto was: leave only your footprints behind. In doing so, we were practicing care for the environment and helping to ensure a good stay for whomever came after us. Many years later, I was complaining one day to a colleague about the repository nature of the church—serving as the storage of relics people no longer want to keep, and yet won’t depart with fully. Sacred museums of personal priceless items. With exceeding wisdom, my colleague responded to more than that which I was criticizing: “If we, pastors, can leave a place in a little better shape than how we found it, then I think we’re doing pretty well.” The pastor who expects a complete and permanent transformation in their tenure at a church tirelessly chases the setting sun across the endless horizon. Perhaps a faithful and healthy metric is to hopefully leave a place in a little better shape than how we found it, with only our footprints on the trail behind us.
This coming Sunday marks not only the end of March, but also a culmination of my senior colleague’s rostered ministry. Retirement: that other blessed by and by. While Pastor Pete has faithfully said this is less about him and more a celebration of the collective ministry shared, I can’t help but recall the words of a professor we each had in seminary. Talking about Jesus’s identity, our systematics professor, Dr. Priebe, would say: “we know who Jesus is by what he does.” At the risk of equating my colleague with Jesus—not doing that—I do believe there is some truth in saying a pastor cannot be fully separated from the ministry they’ve done. Therefore, for me, celebrating my senior colleague is honoring his faithful service—and as such, giving thanks and praise to God who has worked in and through him who he called to serve in this ministry. To say Pete is leaving St. Martin’s in a little better shape than how he found it would be a gross understatement. The site is thriving and ready for whomever comes to follow. Very much the modest Norwegian, he wouldn’t take credit for it, but Pete has met whatever challenges that have come his way head-on with grace and conviction—steering the ship as true to the course of the gospel of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
For me, Pete is more than a boss—rather a caring colleague, who has been immensely supportive and helped me to grow in my pastoral leadership. Things like my preaching and teaching have grown, in part, because of the opportunities he’s given me and his challenge to be more faithful in my call to serve the church. Over the past thirteen months, he has been generous in building me up and equipping me with tools to succeed in ministry. Beyond our work together, I’ve come to see Pete as a trusted friend. We don’t always see eye to eye. Our approaches differ from time to time, but never has that been a hindrance—instead a place to learn and grow. I’m grateful for his leadership, but even more his partnership, patience, and persistent affirmation. When I began here, and was deeply struggling with the transition, Pete listened to me and said any other response would mean I was the wrong person for the job. He saw a broken heart as a place for continued love in a new place. Relationships—building and nurturing them—has been part and parcel to Pete’s ministry all along the way. This, if anything, will be his legacy as he transitions into the next step of what God has in store for him. I give thanks to God for Pete, and wish him God’s richest blessings in his retirement. Well done, good and faithful servant.
– Pastor Andrew