A pastor to the pastors

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 30, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Pastors are seen as people who can provide comfort and direction when we are in our darkest moments, who can be relied on for a comforting word, an arm around our shoulder, and a gentle assurance that everything will soon be alright.

But what if pastors themselves need help? What happens when they find themselves in their own tough times? Who is there to comfort the comforters?

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That’s going to be one of Rev. Larry Walser’s duties as the new Association Conference Minister for the Western North Carolina Association of the United Church of Christ. &uot;One of the most important things is serving as a pastor to the pastors,&uot; Walser says in his office at the Holland Christian Church.

&uot;It’s sometimes hard for them to find someone to talk to. People depend on them to talk to if their parents or spouse dies, but who can they depend on for that kind of help?&uot;

Now in his ninth year at HCC, Walser discovered the area during a Readers Digest-enticed trip in the mid-1990s.

&uot;I read about a three-day tour through the Eastern Shore, Norfolk, and I was fascinated by this area,&uot; says Walser, then a pastor in Lancaster, Penn. &uot;I was interested in a small church, because I was at a large one in Lancaster, and we’d just finished a major building and renovation. I was kind of worn out.&uot;

He moved into a house next to the church on South Quay Street, and became the Suffolk Fire Department chaplain.

&uot;One of the department’s battalion chiefs belonged to the church, and asked if I was interested,&uot; says Walser, a former volunteer firefighter and father of two professional firefighters.

&uot;We go to accidents and work with families at the scene. Like my church, I’m on call almost 24-7.&uot;

In mid-June, Walser applied to become an Associate Conference Minister.

&uot;I’ve been a pastor for 20-plus years, and I’ve always been fascinated with it,&uot; he explains. &uot;I enjoy working with people as they go through their spiritual life and try to answer some really tough questions about life and death and what they ultimately mean.

&uot;I’ve hopefully developed some wisdom and patience. I’ve worked in small areas, large areas, urban and rural places. I have a little experience at a lot of things.&uot;

And it all paid off – he was called as the minister for Western North Carolina, which encompasses Greensboro to the mountains. Effective Aug. 16, he’ll be heading south to Salisbury for his new occupation.

&uot;I’ll be working with churches to help find pastors, …helping with a variety of problems,&uot; he says. &uot;Just like any family or business, churches have problems.

&uot;For example, sometimes a congregation and a pastor just don’t click, and we’ll try to figure out how to solve things.

&uot;I thought this was a good opportunity,&uot; he continues. &uot;It was something that I’d wanted to do for a long time, and jobs like this don’t come up very often. I’m sure the people (at HCC) have all sorts of memories, some good, some bad, some indifferent. I just hope I’ve been able to meet and minister to all the needs of the people. For the most part, I’ll remember them as a super group.&uot;