Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
January 6, 2010, Front Page
Transcribed by Dolores Mohr Kenyon
Pastor Gordon to Retire from pulpit
Pastor James Gordon is nearing his retirement date of Sunday, Jan. 10, after 21 years serving Calvary Lutheran Church in Neillsville (Photo by Linda Cottrell-Sanders/Clark County Press)
By Linda Cottrell-Sanders
Parishioners will have one last chance to hear a sermon by their long-time pastor, James “Jim” Gordon, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010, at Calvary Lutheran Church in Neillsville.
Pastor Gordon, age 65, has set plans in motion to retire from the ministry after 39 ½ years of serving others. This is not going to be an easy transition for him, as he is truly a people person.
He reflects, “You get so involved in people’s lives – sharing the highs and lows, joys and sorrows...” It places a great demand on his time and his expertise in helping people find their way, but it is jut that talent that people seek in him.
He came by his people skills naturally. Born in Owatonna, MN, his father owned a local café for 26 years and was very involved in the community. He said his dad was “always around people, always talking to them.” Social skills came naturally for the son of a restaurant man, and those skills ultimately shaped his future.
Gordon decided to go to college to be a psychologist. As a senior in high school, he wrote his senior thesis on the vocation of ministry – not because he wanted to be one, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. He enrolled in St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and, finishing his studies, decided to go on to grad school for a degree in psychology – but uncertainty set in. He talked with his pastor about the ministry, then decided to spend one year at the seminary “to decide my fate.” The rest is history.
His first call was to a two-point parish in Cumberland in 1970, where he ministered for six and one-half years. Spring Valley followed with 12 years of service before he got the call to Calvary, located at 213 Hill Street in Neillsville. He has served for 21 years. He served 10 years on the board as president of the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers and has worked with the Ministry Alliance Group since his arrival.
Pastor James Moore (Mohr) of United Church of Christ, a neighboring church on Hill Street, has served with Gordon on community service boards and shared ecumenical services. Moore (Mohr) said, “I’m going to miss him.” Besides the “privilege of working [with Gordon] on various boards,” they also shared a connection on a personal level. Moore (Mohr) said they tried to convert one another – not to their own religions, rather to their hobbies, Gordon enjoys golf and Moore (Mohr) loves his cross-country skiing.
His pride in Calvary Lutheran Church is reflected in his face when he tells of the growth of the premises over the years, the addition that the congregation helped build in 2005, the comfortable chairs, the banners, the flowers that add such a warm Christmas spirit to the sanctuary.
“He graciously introduces church secretary, Sandy Thoma, whom Gordon relies on daily. He says, “She is more of an administrator than a secretary.”
Thoma has worked with Pastor Gordon for 10 years. She said, “He has been awesome to work for and is a very caring person.” Fight back tears, she adds, “I’m really going to miss him. This will be a big change for the church.”
As much as Pastor Gordon looks forward to starting his retirement, it will not be easy for him to leave his extended family behind. His Plans for the future include enjoying a new home in Eau Claire with wife Jan and spending more time with his daughters, Keri and Sandi, and their three grandchildren. Jan, a former English teacher, is retired after serving as director of the Literacy Council in Wood County for 19 years. After 42 years of marriage, one of their plans as a couple is to enjoy ballroom dancing, as they previously enrolled in eight years of lessons. Besides traveling and golfing, Gordon is determined to finish a project he started 25 years ago. He began constructing a dollhouse for his daughters and never had time to finish it. The dollhouse is over four feet long; he added electricity, turned the spindles himself, and he says, “It got so complicated,” he lost interest.
As Pastor Gordon opens a new phase of his life, he will say good bye to his congregation and his days in Neillsville Sunday, January 10, 2010. Bishop Pederson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) will be a special visitor to the farewell service, followed by a potluck dinner.
Pastor Al Houts of Fairchild will served as interim pastor for six months to one year until a replacement is found. All who have been touched by the kindness and wonderful sermons of Pastor Gordon will certainly miss him, and all wish him well.
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