Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Retired church workers find interests continue

A calling that extends beyond the workplace

Persons in the metro Twin Cities area who have retired from work in the ELCA
and its predecessor bodies — from pastors to bishops to parish workers —
get together four times a year to renew friendships and learn about new
developments in the church. The group, called the College of Retired Church
Workers, holds its luncheon meetings at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in south
Minneapolis.

Duane Addison, a retired professor of religion at Augustana College in Sioux
Falls, South Dakota, who currently heads the organization, points to the word
“College” in its title and emphasizes the continuing-education function.
“The group is exciting because the number of resources for speakers and
topics [in the Twin Cities] is just fantastic,” he said. People who’ve been in
church work get a chance to hear firsthand about creative, cutting-edge
ministries in the Twin Cities and overseas in places like China and Tanzania,
Addison said. New presidents at church colleges in the area and new and
current bishops of area synods also accept invitations to speak.

“There’s a lot of ministry going on that’s interesting to know about,” Addison
said.

Programs occasionally are of a lighter nature. At the latest meeting of the
group in November, the speaker, listed as Charles Rudd, a senior at Luther
Seminary, turned out to be Charlie Rudd, who’s also a star pitcher for the St.
Paul Saints professional baseball team.

Rudd spoke of the double meaning the word “saint” has for him. He told of
the exhilaration he gets from pitching and trying to fool hitters. Now, he said,
“A big part of who I am is being a St. Paul Saint.”

But Rudd said there is another sense in which he and other Christians are
saints, and baptism plays a big part in that identity. “It’s here [in baptism]
that we claim the promise of being a saint,” he said. “We’re drowning, so to
speak, and Jesus enters the lake and pulls us out.”

All Christians “cling” to Christ, Rudd said. “We cling to Christ, his promises,
his word and his love.”

The College of Retired Church Workers started only six years ago, but it was
the product of a merger of two organizations which date back about two
decades, to the years just after the birth of the ELCA.

Non-clergy staff members of the old American Lutheran Church (ALC), which
had its national headquarters in Minneapolis and was absorbed into the new
ELCA, played leading roles in the creation of the Retired Church Workers
Association in 1988.

Several years later, retired pastors of the old ALC and the Lutheran Church in
America (LCA) formed their own group, the College of Senior Clergy. Leaders
in the formation of the senior-clergy group were three men — Paul
Hanson, Sidney Rand, and John Bachman — who had distinguished
themselves as pastors, educators, and administrators.

Since fellowship and learning were the goals of both organizations,
combining the two seemed the logical and efficient path to follow, Addison
said.

The fellowship aspect remains very important, the president indicated.
Spouses are invited to all meetings, and participants often make connections
with old friends from college or seminary days, he said.

The organization operates on a pretty informal basis, according to Addison.
There are no formal memberships and no dues. The group has a mailing list
of more than 600, not including spouses. Workers in the offices of the
Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Synods send notices of the meetings to those
on the list free of charge.

Those attending the meetings pay $12, which covers the cost of the catered
meal, the speaker’s fee, and incidental expenses. Meetings are held on the
second Tuesday in February, April, September, and November.

Attendance at the meetings ranges between 70 and 100, Addison said, and
that figure has been “pretty static” in recent years. The group is aging, and
there’s a need to attract more newly retired church professionals, he
acknowledged.

But Addison is optimistic about the future of the organization, mainly
because he believes there are many church workers who, like himself, are
choosing to retire in the Twin Cities area.

“The potential for membership is very large,” he declared.