Last month, we lost a beloved pastor, patriarch and prophet with the passing of Ernie Loreen.
He was larger than life; a big man with a big presence, a big voice and a big, big love for people. His smile was pretty close to perpetual and his joy in the Lord was contagious.
When you pastor the “only church in town,” you become by default the pastor to the whole community. One didn’t have to show up on Sunday to be loved and cared for.
Arriving on the Point in 1988 looking for a volunteer opportunity, I got involved in Tuesday School, the unique Point Roberts version of Christian education. Every Tuesday afternoon, the Blaine school bus would drop its load of children at the community center for stories, songs, crafts and projects. In the summer, I volunteered at vacation Bible school.
The involvement of so many adults from the community in these projects was a testament to Ernie’s passion for the Gospel and his love of the work of pastoring in a unique rural community.
I momentarily hesitated with the word “patriarch” in these times when the word has oppressive connotation. But when I met with the family gathered in Monument Park to honor a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, the word described a remarkable generational legacy. It’s a legacy of faith and Christian values, moral integrity and the blessing of a large, connected, supportive family.
The family blesses not only the members of it, but the multiple communities each of these children and grandchildren will impact over the years to come.
In Ernie’s final moments, with his family gathered at his bed, each member of that family received a personal blessing and prayer from this beloved patriarch – even the unborn great-grandchild.
Over the years, Ernie and I worshiped together, discussed Scripture and shared pastor stories. Some Sundays, we’d offer healing and blessing prayers after Communion, and it gave him such joy to perform this ministry.
As his health limited his ability to be present, those limitations would not keep him away, or keep him from praying, singing and praising with characteristic gusto.
A huge part of Ernie’s ministry involved work with peace, justice and equality issues. They would infiltrate sermons and bible studies. It was so important to keep these issues front and center for a little church in an isolated community.
In this sense, Ernie was a prophet in the Biblical tradition: Not someone who foretells the future, but “forth-tells” the possibilities that follow from the decisions we make in the now.
As I prepared the service for Ernie’s family, I came across a poem called “A Prayer for Our Nation” by Judy Chicago. It is too long for this space, but will be posted to the Trinity Community Lutheran Church website, bit.ly/35Lok0z.
I hope you will take the time to read it. It resonated, and became the benediction for this local pastor, patriarch and prophet of ours, Ernie Loreen.