Answering a call from God can mean many things. For Aaron Zuch, it meant pulling up his roots and making a 1,600-mile journey with his family to serve the Blaine community.
Even though Zuch, a full-time pastor leading two congregations in Minnesota, had been starting to feel “the seven-year-itch,” he wasn’t really anticipating a change for his ministry. But when he received an unexpected phone call from the then-in-transition Grace Lutheran Church, he thought it was worth consideration.
“I didn’t have my resume out there, but a buddy of mine had just taken a position in Oak Harbor and recommended me. It felt
like it was time for a change, for myself and my family,” he said. “So the question was, ‘Does God want me to stay in Minnesota or go west?’”
The answer was to hit the road.
On September 15, Zuch was installed as the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Blaine, and he’s set about helping the church develop its vision – including exactly what role Stewart the Sheep will play in the service.
The wooly-headed puppet is a remnant of a former interim pastor, and Zuch has embraced its place in the ministry, interacting with Stewart and other furry creatures on Sunday mornings to help the children in his church understand the message and just who Jesus is.
“Usually the children’s message will reflect what we’re teaching, and the puppets will have it all wrong,” Zuch said. “So I’ll correct them and help them understand where they missed the point. It’s my job to show the puppets God’s view on what we’re teaching this week. The kids love it.”
Now two months into the job, Zuch has been loath to make any changes that differ drastically from what his predecessors had set in place. “We have a good foundation laid here,” he said. “I’m not a tornado and I didn’t come in to change everything. Our mission is still to connect Christ’s teaching in the Bible to where people are at in their neighborhoods, families and work. The core values and mission were already established, now we’re just working out where we want to go as a community.”
Though he said it was a hard decision to leave his two parishes in Minnesota behind, and despite his previous congregants’ well-intentioned attempts to scare him away from the prospect with reminders of Washington’s never-ending rain, Zuch said he and his wife Kelley ultimately felt like it was the right move for their family.
“We went from serving two communities to being able to focus on just one,” he said. “From a pastor’s point of view, that’s a good thing. We miss the people, but we’re excited about getting to know the Blaine community.”
Despite some hesitation before the move, his sons, Seth, 9, and Isaiah, 6, have embraced Blaine as well, and have quickly become entrenched in Borderite culture. “Isaiah’s favorite color has always been orange, and Seth painted his bike black and orange when we got here,” Zuch said.
“Our kids are more a part of the community here, and they jumped right into being junior ball boys at the football games. They’re all in now.”
Zuch said that he hopes that the move will stick. “We moved halfway across the country,” he said. “I hope we’ll be here for at least a decade.”
Grace Lutheran Church is located at 702 G Street in Blaine and has Sunday School and Bible classes at 9 a.m. and a worship service at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.
For more information, visit blaine-grace-lutheran.org or call 360/332-6589.