Article: Dear Congregation


I am sitting down at my desk one last time, to write my newsletter and say “Thank You” to both our God and to you.  It has been an honor and a privilege to serve. When I said yes to the Lord to serve him in ministry, I knew there would be the joys of coming to a new place of service, but I also knew there would be those times of tears when the Lord said it’s time to move to another ministry. As I said in my resignation letter, both Sue and I have felt the nudge of the Spirit of God, to move to this new place of ministry in Mahtowa, MN.

When the call committee first asked in 1997, if I would be willing to talk about coming to Community Covenant, little did I know that I would be privileged to live and partner with you for almost 2 decades.  It will be 1/2 of my total time in ministry.

In April of 2002, I reflected on the passage of time in this paragraph.

Back in the “Olden Days” there was a song by Jim Croce that started: “If I could save time in a bottle.” It talked about the marching of time in our lives and how it affected relationships. With Shannon, graduating from college and getting married, we are again faced with thinking about time and how it can slip through our fingers. The art of saving time and our influence, is sometimes easier to sing about than to do. However, I think there is a biblical plan that just might work.  It is time to invest in what matters.  If we will think of investing time in our family relationships and personal friendships we will continue to cherish and enjoy those relationships long after society says they should be over.”

And now 3 graduations, 3 weddings, seven grandkids, and 19 years later, we are saying goodbye and starting over in a new place of service.

I celebrate our time together. Please understand, I know my failures and shortcomings. I have never been satisfied when our ministry has not expanded. When you minister in a place this long, you will travel, both down in the valleys and up in the mountains.  God teaches and grows us and walks with us in both locations. It’s also good to  look back and see times when we zigged and we should have zagged. We have tried ministries that continue strong and we have stopped those that did not. As we learned in the Vitality pathway, that’s all normal and natural.

A part of a pastor’s thought process, as I tried to discern God’s will, is the reflection on what are the gifts needed, to move the church forward. I truly feel it’s time for a new pastor/prophet with a fresh vision who can continue the forward momentum to bring His church to new heights.

So as Sue and I look back, we have much to be thankful for and celebrate. Most of it revolves not around program, but around what God has done and the people we have had the privilege to serve and to serve with.

In 1968 Mary Hopkin wrote a simple song  in which the chorus begins like this:

“Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day “

 We have truly sung and danced in the name of Christ.

Here’s the list of memories. I begin with those things that come with the privilege of serving as pastor.

*The preaching of the Word of God

*The Prayer Ministry

*Great Worship & Praise Teams

*The saints/friends who have gone on to be with the Lord, now too many to name. The “Cloud of Witnesses” that faithfully served our Savior Jesus Christ.

*New and recommitted believers in Jesus Christ

Baptisms at Lake Beauty, Camp Lebanon, and in worship

*Easter Celebrations

*Confirmation classes and retreats

*The pre and post surgery prayers

*Sharing death-bed tears, hugs and prayers

*Pre-marriage Counseling, Weddings and wedding dances-my favorite

*The Chairmen I have served with: Bruce Warga, Vaughn Glasener, and Steve Woller.

*Teresa Welch, Jayne Glaser, and Suzi Johnson—my fantastic administrators.

*Cheryl Warga who has given leadership to music since (let’s just say … she was just 16 when she started)

*Jamaica Christian Boys Home

*The amazing staff that have enriched my life and ministry – Rocky Hovda, Nathan Hillman, Josh Hodgson  – (it must be the H!)

*The now hundreds of volunteers who have passionately  served Jesus Christ at CCC in all areas of ministry. All ages.

*Drums making entrance to worship (thanks Paul)

*Christmas Orchestras

*Piano & Organ Duets (Marilyn and Cheryl)

*Choir Cantatas, Men’s Ensemble

*Community Life Groups

*40 Days of Purpose  *9/11 remembrance

*Wednesday Night Meals and Ministry

*J– team

*One of the fastest growing rural churches in the Covenant because of strong youth ministry (2004)

*Veritas and Vitality Pathway.

*Habitat for Humanity Board

*“If I was a Pastor” song with Upsala Ministerium

*Helping Hands sharing ministry

*Big Sundays at Camp

*The Building Addition

*Repurposing the Sanctuary & Fellowship Hall

*Three C’s “Exalt Christ, Embrace Community, Extend Compassion”

*125th Anniversary Weekend (2013)

*Senior Bible Study and treats

*The incredible Softball team and my dramatic exit—I guess you could say it was my “Achilles Heel”

*New outdoor Cross and campfire pit

*Crow Duck Lake fishing trip

*Harvest Fest concerts

*A Blessed Sabbatical

*Chancellor Summer concerts in the Park

*Covenant Women Auction—Bonnies donuts, $60.00 pies, Bill and Joyce’s Cider

*Hayrides at Tim Johnson’s and Bruce Warga’s

*Special Guest- Barney Fife (Larry Delawder)

*Promise Keepers trip to Washington DC

*Men’s Bible Study since beginning.

*Celebrate Recovery—Pure Desire groups

*Phil’s Diner times 3

*Chic trips

*My partners in ministry in neighboring churches and in the Covenant district.

*The Generous church that has supported and loved my family

*A wonderful parsonage to raise a family

*Building a racetrack in Jamaica

*Community Memories

*Building play sets at school

*Class Trips with Mr. A

*Girls Volleyball

*Band Concerts

*School Plays

*Coaching Soccer

*Community Ed Board

*Variety Shows

*Upsala Boys & Girls Basketball to State

*Upsala Boys against Lakeview Christian School BB

*Friday Night Football, Baseball

*Learning woodworking from some of the best craftsman ever. Thanks, Mel, Craig, and Matt.

*Swanville Breakfasts with Camp Directors

*Fishing  Fishing and more Fishing – thanks Bobber Bill

*Christian partnership with neighboring churches

*Heritage Days

*Community Cruisers – I’m still looking for my 1964 Corvair

*The Upsala community I call home.

My heart is overflowing and I can’t write any more memories. (Suzi needs some space for the rest of the newsletter) As it appears, I could go on forever and each moment I reflect brings something new to mind, so I must stop. I’m sure I missed a few key memories, but a grandpa does that. I hope these memories have brought a smile to your face as they did mine.

In closing I say “To God be the Glory”

Andre Crouch’s 70’s song gives words to my heart.

“How can I say thanks for the things
You have done for me?
Things so undeserved yet you gave
To prove your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am, and ever hope to be
I owe it all to thee
To God be the glory, to God be the glory
To God be the glory for the things he has done
With his blood he has saved me
With his power he has raised me
To God be the glory for the things he has done
Just let me live my life and
Let it be pleasing Lord to thee
And if I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary
With his blood he has saved me
With his power he has raised me
To God be the glory for the things he has done.”

By the way you are all family, and as you know, if you are within a few miles of your family in Mahtowa, you must stop in, the coffee the pot is always on. (Yes, we have a Keurig)  Please come and worship with us if you are in the Mahtowa neighborhood.

Sue and I will be praying for you as God brings you a new Shepherd. Ask God to prepare your heart for their leadership. You are an amazing body of believers. Continue in Christ’s power and unity to reach out and bring people to Jesus Christ and help them grow.

Read Paul’s encouragement to the church in Colossae (just east of Royalton):

3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people, 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.

 7You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Yep, that about sums it up.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Craig