Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pastor Judith Wascher

By Will Bublitz

Zion Lutheran Church of Limon has a new minister, but Pastor Judith Wascher wants everyone to know that she will be staying for only a few months.

“I’m an intentional interim pastor, so I’ll be here for only about a year,” she said. “I’ll be helping the congregation get ready for its new resident pastor.”

Wascher began her pastoral duties at Zion Lutheran on February 1. She said her task as the church’s interim pastor is help guide its congregation through the transition from one resident pastor to the next.

“But I’m not here just to fill a spot,” she said. “I’ll be helping this congregation get ready to select their new resident pastor. Part of the process is determining what it is that they are looking for in a pastor.”

Wascher explained that congregations, like communities, change over time. Part of the process of finding a new pastor is defining the wants and needs of each congregation.

“They have to ask themselves where they are going as a congregation and where their community is going,” she said. “It’s important for them to ask these questions to determine what kind of pastor they want.”

When the congregants of Zion Lutheran are ready, they will submit a description of the type of resident pastor they are seeking to the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is the largest group of Lutherans in the country.

“The synod will usually suggest three different pastors,” Wascher said. “The congregation can interview them and select the one they like, or they could possibly turn down all three. The congregation has to decide what pastor they want.”

While assisting the congregation in its search, Wascher will also be performing all of the regular duties of a minister. She is already conducting the church’s Sunday worship services and Friday morning Bible classes.

“Right now, I’m also doing Wednesday evening services for Lent,” she said. “If needed, I’ll be doing  all of the church’s baptisms, weddings and funerals. I’m also ready to do hospital visits and home visits for shut-ins. In addition, I’ll be taking part in the rotation of visits by the clergy to the local nursing homes.”

While all of these duties are important, Wascher said that her main mission as a pastor is to preach the Gospel.

“The main theme of my sermons is that God is a loving god who responds to us with grace, compassion, healing and peace,” she said.

Although she has been with Zion Lutheran only a short time, Wascher said she already likes the congregation and the community of Limon.

“There’s about 50 families in this congregation,” she said. “This is a fairly well-grounded group of people here. They are open to who God will send to them.”

Being an interim pastor is nothing new for Wascher who has been doing this type of work for almost three decades.

“This is my 27th setting as an interim pastor,” she said. “I spend about a year to a year and a half with each congregation.”

Most of her pastoral work was performed in the Midwest, but she has also served as an interim pastor in Tallahassee, Fla. and Memphis, Tenn.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” she said. “I like the travel and  and the challenge of working with new people. It’s fulfilling to help a congregation determine where they are headed.”

Wascher was born in Enid, Okla. while her father was serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. She grew up in Fairbury, Ill. with a sister who currently lives in Minneapolis, Minn. with their mother, and a brother who now resides in San Antonio, Texas.

After high school, Wascher attended Augsburg College in Minneapolis where she graduated in 1968 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.

“During college, I was thinking about the ministry, but the Lutheran Church was not ordaining women at that time,” she said. “I took courses in social work and told everyone that I wanted to work in the church.”

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod went through a dispute between its conservative and liberal elements. One result of that controversy was the forming of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Limon church is a member of that synod.

“After the split in the Missouri Synod, I began taking classes at the Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul.,” Wascher said. “I also attended United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities. I graduated from Christ Seminary in St. Louis in 1983 and was ordained in 1984.”

Wascher began her career as a Lutheran minister in northeastern Minnesota as a resident pastor. Then in 1988, she received the opportunity to serve as an interim pastor.

“I did not choose to do this,” she said. “I felt called to do it by God. After each assignment ends, another one keeps turning up so this must be what I’m called to do.”

While she enjoys working as an interim pastor, Wascher admits it can be a demanding lifestyle.
“We moved a lot so everybody in my family knew how to load a U-Haul,” she said. “And every community has good things that you will miss when you leave it and others you don’t.”

Wascher first moved to Colorado about two years ago to be close to her son who is a service manager for an Audi dealership in Denver. In addition, she enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren.
“I also like to cook, especially when it’s for others,” she said. “And I like to read. I’ve already checked out several books for the Limon Memorial Public Library.”

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