The Christ Is Still Present

A note from the Congregation Council:

This Sunday will be our first since Pastor Steve Hammer’s retirement. We are pleased to announce that Pastor Steve Holm has graciously agreed to lead worship through Christmas. He has also agreed to share some thoughts in this space during his tenure with us. We hope to welcome an interim pastor in January, who will minister to us through the call process.

Pastor Holm is already a friend of Esperanza, and worships with us alongside his wife, Elaine. Please join us in welcoming him to the pulpit!

Pastor Steve Holm

Dear Friends,

It’s a bitter-sweet week! On the one hand we’re happy for Pastor Steve … but we are going to miss him! I have a sense of what that’s like. Seven years ago, I retired as the senior pastor of Desert Cross Lutheran Church in Tempe after 22 years of exciting and stimulating ministry. It was so hard to leave … I’d baptized, buried, confirmed, and married so many. My experiences had been rich and full. When I left, all those relationships changed … in many ways I felt like my leaving was the death of me. I had to sever ties to allow the interim pastor to fully function and prepare for the new senior pastor.

That’s how it is now for Pastor Steve. He’ll miss us … and we’re certainly missing him. I’ve been able to tell him that his life post-Esperanza will be rich and full. New opportunities will come … and certainly he’ll find relief from weekly pastoral responsibilities. I rejoice for him and his family! But I’m going to miss him. Steve was my pastor too … I joined Esperanza because of his magnificent sermons and story-telling. Sermons like the ones he gave were manna for my soul … he made me think in new and provocative ways. And he was always prepared! Oh, how I valued the work he put in to get ready for each Sunday! When my wife, Cherie, died, he was the man I chose to preside and preach at her service.

It’s fitting that our first Sunday without Pastor Steve will be All Saint’s Sunday. It’s a day set aside to remember loved ones who have died who now rest in the peace of the Church Triumphant. Even though he has not died, (it only feels that way), he is indeed finding rest from his labors. And we will be remembering him with deep and affectionate love! Oh, we’ll still see him from time to time, of course we will … he’s not moving away and our paths will surely cross.

But Sunday also marks the first Sunday in a new era at Esperanza. This is a remarkable community of faith and I can’t wait to see how the Spirit of God will be stirring things up in the months and years to come. We have been called through our baptisms, fed at the Table, and equipped with magnificent gifts for ministry. Steve has gone but the Christ is still present…and he will do marvelous things!

As for me, I am humbled that the church council has asked me to help out until after Christmas. I can’t promise the same high quality sermons that Steve delivered, but I will be here faithfully to preach and preside.