Early in June of this year, the Rev. M. L. Natterer, one of our Conference’s “founding fathers” in 1951, retired from the pastorate of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Oregon. At the age of 87 and suffering debilitating infirmities that made his continuation in the office quite difficult for him, he stepped down from the pulpit and from the pastoral ministry. After graduating from the Springfield seminary of the Missouri Synod in 1949, he had begun his service when he received and accepted his first call to Fessenden, North Dakota. He then served for a short period of time in Lansing, Illinois, from which congregation he was unscripturally deposed in 1951 at the instance of Missouri Synod officials. He then served the next sixty-one years as the pastor of St. John’s. (Please see the article on his retirement elsewhere in this issue.)
His retirement left a vacancy at St. John’s, and the congregation promptly called the Rev. Paul E. Bloedel of Sauk Village, Illinois, to be its pastor. Pastor Bloedel was at the time (and had been for almost exactly ten years) the pastor of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in that far south suburb of Chicago. Pastor Bloedel accepted the call of St. John’s, received a peaceful release from St. Mark’s, and together with his family relocated to the west coast on July 24th.
Just three days prior to his departure, his successor was installed at St. Mark’s; and the congregation held a special fellowship supper immediately following the service, both to welcome its new shepherd and to bid a fond farewell to the Bloedel family.
Since there are no eligible candidates available in our fellowship at present, that is, trained theologians as yet without a call, St. Mark’s extended a call to fill its vacancy to the pastor of our fellowship nearest to its location, Pastor David T. Mensing of Oak Forest. It was mutually understood that, if he accepted the call, he would serve both St. Mark’s and Peace Ev. Lutheran Church (his pastorate of twenty-seven years) simultaneously; and this understanding was officially acknowledged and approved by both congregations.
At the installation service on July 21st, Pastor Robert J. Lietz of Oak Park, Illinois, both conducted the liturgy and preached the sermon. He chose as his text Acts 20:28 and stated as its theme: The Duties of a Christian Pastor, both (I) toward himself and (II) toward his congregation. The service was well-attended, and guests included members from Peace, Oak Forest, and from Trinity, Oak Park. Following the service, letters of congratulation from pastors and congregations of the Conference fellowship were read, and a combination pot-luck supper and reception was held in the church’s basement to welcome Pastor Mensing and to thank Pastor Bloedel for his service. It was a blessed opportunity, not only for the members of St. Mark’s but also for the area brethren, to say good-by to Pastor Bloedel, to his wife Laura, and to their delightful children, after having had them as neighbors and friends-in-fellowship for so many years. (Pastor Bloedel had begun his study for the ministry in 1998 under Professor Mensing in Oak Forest and completed his fifth and final year of theological training at the Conference seminary under Professors Lietz and Mensing in 2003, after which he was immediately called to St. Mark’s.)
For those of our readership who are not acquainted with St. Mark’s, its location, and its history, you are encouraged to log on to the congregation’s website at for such information: www.StMarksEvLutheran.com.
We pray for both pastors the all-sufficient grace of the Lord Jesus to be their strength (II Corinthians 12:9) as they assume the care and oversight of their congregations, and we beseech Him to bless abundantly all their faithful labors to His glory and to the welfare of their respective flocks!