Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Aug. 21, 2000

Pastor Michael celebrates 70 years

By Andrea Vargo

Hundreds of people gathered at St. James Lutheran School fellowship hall to celebrate the Reverend Gerhard Michael's 70th anniversary as a pastor Aug. 13.

Pastor Michael's son, the Reverend Gerhard Michael, Jr. of Orlando, Fla., gave the sermon for the celebration. He recently celebrated his 35th anniversary.

Speaking of his father, the younger Michael noted his commitment to study of the Bible.

"Whether it was with us kids at home or the Sunday school teachers he instructed several times a month, he showed strength as a student of the Bible," he said.

Michael's other children have varied occupations, such as nurse (Lois), Christian school teacher (Elaine), administrator of an assisted living retirement complex (Midge), retired electrical engineer teaching college courses (Mark), and lead attorney for the Minnesota House of Representatives (Joel).

Michael has officially been retired for 15 years, but he says he used to help out here and there. Now, although his mind is as sharp as ever, he tends to limit what he does.

How is it different to be in the ministry now?

"Well, things used to be a whole lot simpler. The church wasn't as organized as far as society is concerned in the beginning," he said.

Radio was just getting started, and there was no television.

"When people don't have money, they don't get around like they do today. Communities were more closely knit. I think they depended on each other more, and that strengthens family relationships," he said.

"I think the rural parish where I started, was more focused on the church, rather than what was going on in the rest of the state," Michael explained.

Church was a place to get together and see neighbors, he said.

Another thing Michael noted is that the pastor of a congregation, at that time, was the only man who had higher education in the parish.

That caused people to look up to the pastor a whole lot more than today. If a pastor used his head, he could command respect from the congregation, Michael said.

Although Michael admitted he is not the most outgoing person, he said he has always enjoyed the love and respect of his people.

"That is a special blessing from the Lord," he said.

Things have changed in the many years Michael served his congregations, and one of them is the leadership role assumed by more parishioners.

Members of the congregations take on more duties and share in the work, he said.

Strengths of the St. James congregation include loyalty to the teachings of scripture. The cooperation the members have given to their pastors over the years is tremendous, he said.

The support given to Christian education is a huge strength, Michael stated.

The congregation has reached out to others in need whenever a local tragedy occurs or through Lutheran World Relief, he said.

People who can't come to church are brought a tape of the service if they have a VCR.

There is always room for growth, and Michael feels that "more could be done in the way of outreach to people who move into the community."

Things have also changed in the community itself, he said.

In 1957, the grocery store in Howard Lake carried oleo-margarine under the counter, so as not to offend the farmer.

Almost every farmer milked cows, and now, only about five of them do, Michael said.

At the 8:15 a.m. service, chairs had to set in the aisles to accommodate the farmers and their families.

But, in 1958, the average Sunday attendance was 753 for two services. Now, 450 is the average attendance for St. James, he said.

To be a good pastor to all those who are in the congregation, Michael spoke some words of wisdom.

"Really listen to the people, listen to the Lord, and connect the two," Michael said.


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