Congregants of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and members of the community shared laughter and a few tears as they celebrated and honored the Rev. Jim Glander during his retirement party Saturday night.
Glander, who has been the longest-serving pastor of the church, preached his last sermon Sunday after 16 years at the church.
The congregation was the only one he led in his pastoral career.
“He’s a very Spirit-filled man,” said Ann Farmer, a charter member of the church. “He’s a person who’s easy to talk to. … He’s definitely a man of God.”
Glander, who grew up in Algoma, Wis., didn’t plan to become a pastor.
During his senior year of high school, he told his father that he wanted to be a high school teacher, having been inspired by one of his own teachers, he said.
“This teacher was so good. I really enjoyed his classes, and I wanted to be just like him,” he said.
His father suggested that he become a Lutheran parochial school teacher. So he did just that.
Glander taught middle school for 13 years in St. Louis and then taught another 13 years in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
“I was happy. I loved teaching and figured I would retire being a teacher,” he said.
Then one day the pastor of the Lutheran church asked him to come out of the classroom to help him. The work included visits with people who were in hospitals or homebound.
“I found out that I really enjoyed that,” he said. “I would help on Sunday morning with worship. After a little bit of time passed, people started saying, ‘You really need to go to seminary.’ I said, ‘No, I’m happy.’ ”
However, as more people suggested it, he began to think about it, still unsure if it was really what he wanted to do.
“I didn’t want to, I thought, but God won that discussion,” he said with a laugh.
He and his wife, Dee, didn’t want to transfer their middle daughter to another school because she was in her senior year, so he took some courses at a Catholic seminary in the area.
The next year, in 1993, Glander and his family moved to Columbia so that he could attend the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. He completed his requirements in the spring of 1997.
Holy Trinity made contact with him and conducted several interviews before the search committee recommended that he be the church’s next pastor. Glander accepted the call on July 26, 1997.
“I think the thing that made me realize that God was calling me here was in one of the interviews, one of the individuals on that team said, ‘What we’re looking for in a pastor is someone that can love us as people,’ ” he said. “I said, ‘I think I can do that.’
“I think that has probably been the real joy for me, to be able to do those things, love them, to become a part of their family. That’s a real strength that we have. There’s a healthy family relationship. It’ll be the hard thing to leave.”
During his time as pastor, he encouraged the congregation to try new things. He introduced a blended service, which was one of the church’s two services until this summer, and encouraged different types of worship during services.
“We also did our version of 40 Days of Purpose,” said Glander. “It really did lead us into the idea of small group ministry, which some of that has continued.”
He also began incorporating technology into the confirmation classes. The class would take notes on laptops and create PowerPoint presentations on what they learned.
“He’s brought some changes that has led us to do different things,” said Farmer, using the 40 Days of Purpose as an example. “…I think he was a good person to have led us into the 21st century.”
His approach to preaching has drawn attention, especially during Lenten services that are rotated among North Augusta churches.
“When he speaks, he’s dramatic,” said the Rev. Albert James of Second Providence Baptist Church. “He really gets your attention.”
Glynnis Doolittle, a pastoral associate at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, agreed.
“He’s active,” she said of Glander’s leadership. “He’s very talented.”
As church members spoke Saturday, several also mentioned the talents of his wife, Dee, and the contributions she has made to the church and the community.
On a personal level, church member Kristin Bodkin said that she will miss seeing the couple she has grown close to at church each Sunday.
“They are like second parents to me. They are always uplifting and encourage everyone to get involved,” she said. “…It will be very different coming to church next Sunday.”
The decision to retire was a hard one to make, but Glander felt it was time, he said.
“I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing and I would have continued but it just felt like 16 years was probably enough,” he said. “Let them experience a new direction.”
Because of his retirement, the Glanders will no longer be able to attend Holy Trinity and will worship at another Lutheran church. However, they plan to remain in the area for the time being.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with Holy Trinity and getting to know the stories of these families,” said Jim Glander. “I count them as friends, and (that’s) the sad part because I’ll have to walk away from friends.”
The church is still seeking a successor.