Two pastors in Philip moving on

Moving on ... Pastor Tim Solberg (left) has completed an interim stay and will be returning to his home in Minot, ND. Pastor Robert Oettel will be retiring, though has not made definite plans as to where he will be moving.

Pastor Robert Oettel of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church will be retiring. Interim Pastor Tim Solberg of First Lutheran Church - a congregation in the Western New Hope Lutheran Parish - will be moving back to Minot, ND.

"As of now," said Oettel, "our plans are for me to 100 percent retire, though I hope to do some pulpit supply work on occasion." Oettel is 69 years old. He has not only led services in Philip and the now closed First Lutheran Church of Milesville, but has also conducted services and personal ministry for deaf worshippers in Mission and Rapid City. "Carol (his wife) and I are thinking about either moving to the southern part of the Black Hills, the Texas hill country, the Arkansas hill country, southern Georgia, or maybe to Florida." Of their two children, one daughter lives in Florida, while the other daughter lives in Australia.

Oettel began leading services at the churches in Philip and in Milesville on December 9, 2001. He and Carol are well-traveled. They came to Philip from a position teaching English in Zlate Moradce, Slovakia. From 1988 to 2000, he taught English and conducted English Chapel in Matsuyama, Japan. Before then, Oettel has worked in Omaha, Cleveland, Chicago, New Jersey and California. He has also served in the U.S. Army.

Solberg, who has been serving in the area since the first week of September 2005, said that Pastor Oettel was the first of the Philip Ministerial Association pastors to welcome him. "Though our churches are separate and do have some differences, I consider Bob to be a friend and a partner in ministry. We are all brothers in Christ."

Oettel agreed, "'Our common enemies,' to quote Martin Luther, 'are the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.' The various pastors of the Ministerial Association cooperate well in rotating services at the Nursing Home and other community responsibilities. We are highly supportive of working toward our common goals."

Solberg has been filling in as co-pastor alongside Pastor Ann Schlossnagle, for the four-church Western New Hope Lutheran Parish. Though he might retire, Solberg prefers to look for a position, probably an interim one, which is within commuting distance from Minot. He wants to spend as much time as possible with his wife, Kathleen, who is a retired English instructor at Minot State University.

"I have enough years in that I could retire now, if I chose to," said Solberg who is 62 years old. "I could retire and work part time to supplement my income and have something to do, or I could do interim ministry full-time. The least likely is for me to do nothing."

About being ready to move on, Oettel said that his wife is "yes" and "no." "She feels a sadness at moving and leaving friends, while she is looking forward to new adventures. The Philip area has been a good place."

Solberg said that his wife is "very excited that I am coming home." The two have five grown children, six grandchildren and one great grandchild.

"My role here as an interim pastor was to help the entire parish during a time of transition," said Solberg. "I have done all the things a regular pastor does: preaching, teaching, calling on shut-ins, visiting members who are hospitalized, and providing personal pastoral care. I have done what any pastor does: help the parish evaluate its mission in ministry and to both challenge and encourage the congregations."

Oettel will keep in touch with area residents at least through e-mail and phone calls. Solberg hopes to be back to join the Haakon County Crooners perform for the Philip Centennial celebration.

Pastor Ray Greeseth will serve as the vacancy pastor for Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Philip.

On December 24th, Pastor Schlossnagle announced her acceptance of a call to a congregation in Oregon. Worship services of the four churches that Solberg and Schlossnagle alternated in their pastoral duties - Philip, Midland, Deep Creek and Long Valley - will be led by lay leaders and retired pastors who do pulpit supply until a new pastor is called to serve the parish.