An installation service makes it official — a congregation’s new minister, who customarily is already on the job, formally becomes the church’s ordained leader in a religious ritual.
The congregation can take a deep breath and shift from its transition stage between ministers to welcoming its next pastor.
The Rev. Samuel J. Buehrer, 51, new senior pastor at Sylvania United Church of Christ, 7240 Erie St., Sylvania, who started his ministry there Jan. 1, will be installed at 3 p.m. Sunday in a service complete with jazz music by the Kennedy Quartet with Becky Blocksom.
Referring to both the installation service and the congregation at Sylvania, Pastor Buehrer said, “It’s not about me; it’s about where you all want to go, and I’m here to help you with some of that.”
The Rev. Luke Lindon, 31, Sylvania’s associate pastor, said, “Every time we would talk about the next minister, who he or she may be, I always pictured Sam. There’s something about this guy I just liked, and the fact that he considered it and became the candidate, I’ve been thrilled since he arrived here.”
Mr. Buehrer comes to Sylvania — which has more than 500 members — from First United Church of Christ in Galion, Ohio, where he served nearly 20 years. As he thought about next steps in his ministry, he said becoming a conference minister — a post similar to a bishop in other denominations — was the logical move for him.
But “those are brutal positions,” Mr. Buehrer said. “All you’re doing is putting out fires, but I said, ‘If that’s my skill set, I’ll follow God’s call if that’s what it is.’ I said, ‘But there’s one church in Ohio I would consider serving,’ and I named it out loud, which I shouldn’t have, which was here [at Sylvania].
“A year and a half later, I’m sitting in a national church meeting in Cleveland, and Luke is there [with members of the Sylvania congregation]. I hadn’t talked to Luke for ages, so I said, ‘I’ll sit with you guys.’ I hadn’t been down yet three minutes and [I hear from one congregant], ‘Get your profile ready.’ It’s not often somebody comes calling, but how often does the one you name come calling?”
An applicant profile was not something that Mr. Buehrer had. He assembled one, applied only for the pastorate at Sylvania, and he was called as the pastor. Coincidentally, the Ohio Conference minister, Bob Molsberry, resigned Thursday to move to a pastoral position near his grandchildren in Missouri.
Sylvania’s previous senior pastor, Bill Chidester, had been diagnosed with cancer and died in May, 2011. “Bill Chidester was a good friend of mine,” Mr. Buehrer said. “I knew this congregation well through him.”
As the church settles into its new leadership, Mr. Lindon said, “Hopefully we continue with Sam and get a more grounded approach and really tackle and grow Sylvania as a church for thinking Christians.” Mr. Lindon wants Mr. Buehrer to “get them emotionally fired up, get at their head and heart.”
And Mr. Buehrer intends to support Mr. Lindon’s growth. Sylvania is Mr. Lindon’s first church in his ministry, and Mr. Buehrer sees much promise in Mr. Lindon. Mr. Buehrer said he wants to “help him blossom more and more. He’s the prophet, I’m the pastor.”
The “pastor” is a bit closer to his roots in Sylvania. He grew up in Archbold, where his parents still live. He and his twin brother are the fifth and sixth boys in their family of seven; the youngest is their only sister. He has a wife and two sons, one in college and the other a recent graduate. And two of his uncles were ministers in the United Church of Christ.
The “prophet,” a convert from Roman Catholicism who found the United Church of Christ by way of the Belief-O-Matic faith identifier at beliefnet.com, is from Dennison, Ohio; he and his wife have a 3-year-old daughter and a son age 18 months.
“I get this general sense that we’re on the verge of something,” Mr. Lindon said. “There’s a phrase getting tossed around like ‘the death of the church,’ or ‘the death of institutional religion.’ We’re not a dead people. Being Christian, we’re resurrection people; we’re on the verge of a birth of something. So to be a part of that, to witness that, that feeds my soul. To see the questions people are asking … we’re asking the same thing today that they were 2,000 years ago.”
Mr. Buehrer added, “When I was in about fourth grade, I said, ‘I’m always going to fight for the underdog,’ and that was the kind of words I used then. Now, over time, that wording has changed and now I would use the words, ‘I’m always going to fight for the neighbor, for the dispossessed person,’ put it in more scriptural words. That’s where my ministries have been.”
And Mr. Buehrer is pleased to be senior pastor at a church that is “willing to ask the hard questions and not get into fights about it,” he said. He looks forward to Sylvania United Church of Christ’s contributions to the community.
“We’re really a regional church,” he said. “We have gifts to share.”
Contact TK Barger at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6278.