Pastor Dennis Wildermuth poses in front of Grace Lutheran Church at 702 G Street in Blaine. Photo by Kelly Sullivan.
With the retirement of veteran pastor Dennis Wildermuth, Blaine’s Grace Lutheran Church has an opening in the top spot for the first time in 35 years. The transition is a chance for the church to redefine the congregation’s direction and role within its community.
Interim pastor Dennis Conrad has been preparing for the role since March, and took over after Wildermuth’s retirement in June. After being an ordained pastor for 40 years, this is Conrad’s first time in an interim position. He will be interim pastor for the next year, allowing the congregation the time and support to decide on the right permanent pastor for their community.
Some denominations bring in an intentional interim pastor for every transition, Conrad said. Some only bring someone in when there is a big change, such as a pastor who was asked to resign or who has been with a church for more than 15 years, Conrad said.
Wildermuth attended weddings, funerals and hospital visits for many members of the congregation, Conrad said, and his departure was quite a change for the congregation.
For the next year Conrad will help Grace Lutheran ease into the next stage of this change, which will be to welcome the next permanent pastor. Before that happens, Conrad’s goal is to help the community adapt to the changes that await them.
Conrad titled his first service Walking the Wilderness Together, saying during the sermon that in this time of reflection and change he is here to offer company and guidance through the wilderness. After Wildermuth’s 35-year tenure, calling a new pastor is an experience the majority of the congregation hasn’t yet encountered.
Change should be introduced slowly, Conrad said. So far he has incorporated elements of his own style into worship, such as using puppets in youth leadership. He believes they speak to children in a way that helps them to better understand the teachings of the Bible.
“It’s a way of talking to them without preaching at them,” Conrad said. By introducing change slowly but surely he hopes to show the congregation that different pastors will have different gifts to offer.
Learn more about Grace Lutheran Church at www.blaine-grace-lutheran.org or call 360/332-6589.