Friday, February 13, 2009

Will the Last Papist Turn Off the Lights on His Way Out?

Just teasing, obviously.  But Lutherans periodically beat their breasts about the odd disaffected Piepkornian who jumps the Tiber, as if one or two pompous ex-Missourians more or less marked the end of a movement.  So it is pleasant to be reminded, by the Petersburg (Alaska) Pilot, that the Tiber has two banks.

Father Mike Schwarte served as the parish priest at St. Catherine's, Juneau, for ten years, until he laicized in order to be married.  That was 2005.  Then he became a cop in Petersburg.  And then one day, he was standing on line at the Post Office, when he felt 

the gentle hand grasping his arm ... in a firm commanding way and the voice of Joy Janssen saying, ‘Father Mike, the Lutheran Church needs a pastor ...  I think you would be a great pastor, you ought to think about it.’ And the seed was planted in his heart to return to preaching.

This, dear readers, is why we avoid Post Office lines.

The article itself, by the way, is a comic example of small-town journalism.  It gives us a great deal of arguable data about church history, e.g.: 

Today, 20% of Catholic priests are married. ... Six of the seven changes Martin Luther tried to make in the Catholic Church have been changed; the last remaining is that of Catholic priests being allowed to marry.

Huh? A the same time, it neglects to tell the no-doubt-interesting story of how the Lutherans went about receiving Schwarte.  Was he required to attend seminary?  Re-ordained?  The article fails even to mention whether the Petersburg parish is ELCA or LCMS (it is the former).

But small-towniness has its charms.  Even though Schwarte is an ex-jock who tried out with the Orioles, urban sophisticates would have red-penciled the Pilot's lede:

“We’re all on the same team,” [Schwarte] stated. “I’m just changing uniforms. It’s God’s stadium. I’m just moving from left to right field or center field, if you will. In the Psalms it’s all about God’s vineyards… all I am doing is cultivating another vineyard.”

Yeah, yeah.  We can hear the New Yorker staff howling "block that metaphor."  But it sets up this genuinely sweet observation:

While Pastor Schwarte has changed uniforms [it was] was not about the dollars but about the love of the game.

Well.  We didn't think it was about the dollars, did we?  At any rate, we welcome him to the bush [pilot's] league.

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