Blessing of the Pastor Emeritus

Blessing of the Pastor Emeritus

Dear Member or Friend of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ:

This coming Sunday at our 10:00 a.m. worship service, we will be blessing Rev. Jim Burd as the Pastor Emeritus of Plymouth. This honoring and uplifting of long-serving leaders who’ve now retired, is a recognition of a lifetime of ministry. It is a unique honor. It does not come with a job description and a list of tasks to accomplish. Instead, it is a recognition of all the tasks and job descriptions this individual has already accomplished. It is a recognition and it is a promise by us to uphold their retirement.

It is unusual for a pastor to return in retirement to membership in a community that called them pastor. It demonstrates a unique bond between the church, the retired pastor, and the UCC based on tradition and history. It shows a closeness built on the scriptural covenant and on boundaries of respect. It is an honor for me to be part of celebrating this relationship.

So that we would all have a foundation with which to approach this blessing, Jamie Kernow has conducted an interview with Rev. Burd highlighting his service and his reflection on that service from the view given by retirement. I hope you enjoy reading it and that you are able to come to worship this Sunday and celebrate Jim’s ministry and relationship with Plymouth.

Rev. Yvette

An Interview of Rev. Jim Burd by Jamie Kernow

So how does one go from never setting foot inside a church until the age of 13 to becoming the Reverend Pastor Emeritus of the United Church of Christ? Let’s take a little journey to find out.

Jim was raised by an agnostic father and a Baptist mother. It wasn’t until he attended his mother’s funeral that he first went to church. When asked about what inspired him to start going to church, Jim said there was something about the pastor that drew him in. He remembered, “I was 13 and they treated me accordingly. I think that kind of led me in that direction.”

Jim, his 3 brothers, and his dad moved from rural Arkansas up to the big city of Milwaukee. A newfound friend invited him to go to church at Grace Methodist. He began attending and even joined the choir. There might have been an incentive to go to rehearsals because that is where he met his beautiful wife, Elaine. The choir director just happened to seat them next to each other and as the cliche goes, “The rest is history.”

Jim was hired at a fabrics company in the warehouse and was being trained to become a corporate executive. “And while I was in training, I got the message from God that I was in the wrong business.” How the heck do you get THAT message? Does it come in a dream, a burning bush? For him, with tears in his eyes, “It just came.” The message was to go become a pastor.

So off he went.

Jim convinced Elaine to go with him to Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky so he could go to seminary and follow the Lord’s will. The school was quite conservative, more so than the Methodist church he had attended just a short time ago. When graduation came, he decided to go to Garrett seminary on the campus of Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois where he majored in Clinical Pastoral Education.

He got his start doing “student churches.” Those are small churches that cannot afford to hire a full-time pastor, so they use student preachers to service them. Jim went to two churches in Walleston, Kentucky every other week and got his start with pay being $19 per week.

He got his first Pastoral job at the Methodist churches in Johnson Creek and Concord, WI where he served for 4 years. During this time, Jim became acquainted with Roy Albers who was the Associate Conference minister for the Congregational Church across the street. They got to know each other, and Jim was asked if he’d be interested in coming over to the United Church of Christ. I think we know what the answer was!

Jumping in with both feet, Jim was called to combine two churches, one from Sussex and one from Pewaukee. They joined together in 1968 to become Redeemer UCC. Whilst he served there for 11 years (1968-79), he later went back and celebrated their 50th anniversary as well as his 50th for becoming ordained in the UCC.

When Reverend Rockwell passed away Jim felt the call to Burlington UCC where, as many of you know, he served for 10 years (1979-89). He recalls that many thought he would not last a year there because there were “big shoes to fill.” He did not let the challenge of following a great pastor deter him from serving the community and God.

Every story has its trials, and that’s where the call to Ft. Wayne, Indiana comes on the scene. The title for the six years served here was called “The Trying Years” by both Jim and Elaine (‘89-95). During this time Jim developed heart troubles as well as having difficult times with the congregation. When asked about this, he wisely said it all had to do with changes they thought they wanted, but in the end did not. That’s our cue to move on to better times, The Healing Times.

From ‘95 to 2000 Jim was in Roberts, Wisconsin serving a “Wonderful Congregation.” He recalls there were guitars and fiddles in the church service. They lived out in the country and the healing came through the kindness of the congregation and a big garden. Working the soil and growing veggies and strawberries helped to mend his heart and soul.

While continuing to heal, Jim and Elaine moved to Williams Bay UCC (2000-’04) to be closer to their children and their families, yes they have 3 boys and 1 girl! Being closer to family helped to heal Jim and he decided to retire….well kind of.

You know Jim loves to serve and he became the Associate Conference Minister of the South East Association for 2 years. He enjoyed this because he got to visit every church in the area and preach a sermon. Jim recalls he loved to visit and preach, but the meetings were “not so much.”

He loves to preach when asked and has filled in a time or three as Interim Pastor. When asked about what he loved doing most he said he enjoyed couples counseling and crisis counseling.

Some of the high-points of his career are starting a daycare in Ft. Wayne and his healing time in Baldwin. He loved his garden and the farm people in this community were “just amazing.” Jim remembers driving a front-end loader to plow snow. He loved the country life of snow-shoeing and enjoying the turkey and deer. This time is remembered with such fondness for him. He enjoyed mentoring students and is very proud of Pastor Deb Payton who he helped grow to become a pastor. She has since retired.

One special thing you might notice about Jim when he preaches is that he always prepares us with the song Lord Let Our Hearts Be Good Soil. He is known for singing A Capella, which means without musical instruments. His love of music stems back to his childhood and all the time he spent listening to radio shows and music.

When asked what advice he would give to someone starting their journey in ministry Jim stated, “Be yourself, and don’t try to fool people. Stand up for what you believe in! Say it outloud.” That about says it all.

We are honored to celebrate Jim Burd, who served for over 40 years in a full-time capacity and continues to serve where needed to this very day. His love for the Lord and others is apparent through his life’s work. Jim’s heart is indeed good soil where the Lord sews love and peace. Amen!