By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN After 37 years of ministry 18 of which were at Elim Mission Church in Cokato Pastor Wally Glucklich will retire and give his final service Sunday.
It was March 16, 1994, when Pastor Wally arrived to serve his third church, Elim Mission Church, this time as a senior pastor.
Previously, the Austrian native served as an associate pastor for three years at Modesto Covenant Church in Modesto, CA, and prior to that, he served 16 years at Oakland Covenant Church in Oakland, CA.
While he was trained in the Evangelical Free Church seminary, Pastor Wally was ordained in 1991, in the Covenant Church. He described his call to Elim Mission Church as “one of those God-ordained appointments,” since Elim is the only church that still exists in the US that has the dual affiliation.
Throughout the years, he has seen the congregation at Elim mature in coinciding with its mission statement of “introducing people to Jesus, growing with Him, and serving Him through worship, discipleship, evangelism, fellowship, and ministry.”
Some of the ways Elim has been doing this is through its community Easter service at the DC Performing Arts Center, the Christmas Eve service at the church, and the outdoor service in Peterson Park at Cokato Corn Carnival time, he explained. Elim also hosts a community dinner for low-income families as part of its outreach efforts.
“What is really encouraging is that our adults are really involved [outside of Sunday service],” he said.
Other relief efforts have included tsunami donations, Hurricane Katrina, and flood relief efforts.
When it comes to ministry, the church has really been responsive, Pastor Wally said, explaining that it’s about being the “hands and feet of Jesus.” For him, that is when preaching becomes real, by seeing the congregation put the words into action.
“The pastor’s job is to equip the saints for the work of service,” Pastor Wally said, quoting Ephesians 4:12. “That service is to implement various ministries inside and outside the church,” he said.
For example, last year there were 120 adults who were on the educational leadership team.
“It’s just very affirming,” he said. “I will miss that part of it, and the relationships that have been built.”
Other areas he has seen shine are the one-on-one discipleship teams, New Friends Ministry for guests, and weekly community groups and Bible studies in the DC area.
The thrift store and food shelf have also been great examples of ministry and discipleship in the community, he said. It’s an example of area churches working together for a common good, he noted.
The worship service, for example, has been transformed over the years to a contemporary worship style. Using more band instruments and less traditional instruments, Elim has been at the forefront of contemporary worship music for the past 25 years, he commented.
Worship music was led by lay people until eight years ago, when Ben Brandt joined the worship team as music director. Currently, Sunday service attendance is 280 to 300 people.
“Staffing, to me, was a critical part of growing the church,” Pastor Wally said. Adam Sarff, joined the team eight years ago as youth director. In addition, Jennie Terning is the part-time children’s director, and two years ago Ben Brandt became coordinator of adult ministries.
Wanda Felmlee has worked with Pastor Wally for the entire 18 years he’s been with Elim and will miss working with him on a daily basis.
“It has been such a blessing to work for such a godly man,” Felmlee commented. “Both he and Ginny have been such positive influences in my life and they will be greatly missed.”
Pastor Wally witnessed the church’s 100-year anniversary two years ago, and renovations of the church and its facilities. Renovations included new carpet and chairs in the worship center, fresh paint, new fixtures, and updating the technical equipment.
As he retires, he will miss the people. “This is a very loving church,” he said, adding that the congregation has treated him and his wife, Ginny, very graciously over the years.
“The pastor makes the church, but the church makes the pastor,” he said, adding that the congregation’s “temperament” refines a pastor’s skills, life, and ministry.
He will also miss being a part of the joys of life, whether it’s officiating a marriage or the dedication of a newborn. He will miss the bond that is created when walking someone through their sorrows and trying times, as well.
Preaching the Word is another aspect of being a pastor that he will miss. He enjoys opening the Bible and making it practical for daily life. This also allows him to teach, which is another passion of his, having earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching history.
He will miss Cokato, as well. “I’ve just enjoyed this community,” he said, explaining that it has been a good fit for him.
In retirement, Pastor Wally and Ginny are in the process of selling their home in Cokato and move to California to be closer to their three grown children Nate, 40; Sam, 35; and Tina, 31; and their eight grandchildren.
At that time, he will reevaluate the type of ministry he wants to be a part of, and do some of the things he enjoys that have been put on the shelf over the years, such as writing, woodworking, and traveling.
For him, retirement “is an opportunity to take a few things off the shelf . . . and pursue both spiritual and personal interests,” he said.
Final service Sun.
Pastor Wally Glucklich will give his final service Sunday, June 10 at 9 a.m.
An open house for the community will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. at the church.