Epistle #6 – Update & Encouragement from our Call Committee Chair

I know that the entire St. Paul congregation is so grateful to Ann Bartelt and the entire Call Committee, who has done such outstanding work in their role, even as their path in this process has taken a surprising and unexpected detour. Please read her excellent message following, and keep all of the Call Committee members in your prayers.  Committee members are Ann Bartelt, Clarice Blanchard, Don Darling, Alan Feirer, Lonna Nielsen, Jerry Swanson and Lisa Vossekuil.

Pastor Brian Mortenson


Call Committee Update
The Call Committee has completed the first round of interviews with multiple candidates. We have been extremely pleased with the “match” the staff of the Southeastern Iowa Synod identified between our congregation and the candidates. Throughout the interview process, we have been focusing on the Charge from the Council that identifies the Expectations and Skills of our Pastor. Specifically, we are looking for someone who 1) Is a leader, 2) is a strong preacher, and 3) embodies a high level of energy. We have found the candidates to be strong in their faith, devoted to the ministry, enthusiastic in serving, and genuine in their relationships.

We are ready to enter the second phase of the call process, in which we will invite candidates to Winterset. Unfortunately, we must pause the process not only to protect the candidates and ourselves from unnecessary social contact but also to respect the attention they must give at this critical time to their congregants, their community, and their families. The Call Committee and the candidates eagerly await the next phase, trusting in God that the right time will come.

Dear St. Paul Congregants,
This is an unprecedented time, and I’m sure you are seeking assurances, just as I am, that all will be OK. In my education career, I remember too well Columbine and 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina and the tragic deaths of local students. I remember how much emotional turmoil we felt, how we reached out to our counselors and school trauma team. I remember the presence of our pastors and our extended church family and how important it was to provide and receive emotional support.

This time seems different; we’re in both a health and an economic crisis. The uncertainty brings about so much worry. When will this COVID-19 virus pass? When can I get back to what is “normal” for me and my family? How will we care for our children who are out of school? Their parents who are out of work? When can I again give a hug during sharing of the peace at my beloved St. Paul? There’s a pithy saying, “All will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.”  And we ask, where are the assurances that “all will be fine in the end”?

For these assurances, we must turn to our faith and know in this time of Lent, that we have the promise of God’s greatest love. St. Paul, speaking to the Corinthians assures us, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

And we turn to the familiar Psalm 121, taking in the words with each breath, deepening our prayer to rest assured in God’s presence:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Psalm 121:1-3

Rest in God’s hands – commend it to God – God will provide
These three phrases of assurance are important messages the Call Committee has heard from our pastoral candidates. One shared Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34, a clear message that God will provide for us: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? . . . But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Finally, I want to say We shall hold fast; We shall hold strong; We will hold on. We are a blessed people. May God’s love surround you; may His arms protect you, may His grace bring you comfort.

Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe forever.
For evils have encompassed me
without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.
Psalm 40:11-2

In God’s peace,
Ann Bartelt

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867