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Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014
Changing of the guardPosted Monday, June 6, 2011, at 1:37 PM
I bet you drive by it at least four or five times a week. St. Andrew's Episcopal Church sits on the west side of U.S. Highway 231. There is a sign next to the road that identifies the parish and its priest, Father Bill Wieland.
Soon his name will no longer be "attached" to that sign or to that parish. He is retiring after nearly 30 years in full-time ministry within the Indianapolis Diocese of the Episcopal Church.
This Sunday, June 12, will be his last Sunday after 23.5 years as the priest of St. Andrew's.
I can't imagine all the impact this man has had in our community! For nearly a quarter of a century he has ministered to the people of his parish as well as to the entire county. Just think of the scores of people for whom he's had the honor of leading their funerals. Just think of the scores of young lives he has baptized and/or brought into the membership of the church.
He came just as IBM was closing its operations in Greencastle. He helped hundreds of families through that "adjustment" as well as scores of others periods of uncertainty. He has been very active in Community Theatre. He is one of the founding visionaries who established The Away Home Shelter. He has been a leader in Greencastle Kiwanis. He helped establish and strengthen ties between DePauw University and Greencastle. He led the parish in rebuilding the sanctuary after that space was destroyed by fire over a decade ago. He began Wednesday noon worship for pastors of all denominations that has become a vital part of the spiritual foundation for many of our church leaders. He most recently worked with his parish as they designed the Non Food Pantry that assists hundreds of homes in our county.
This gentle giant of a man was on faculty at Wabash College when he and his wife Lucy accepted his calling into parish ministry. They and their daughters uprooted to a seminary in Tennessee before returning to Indianapolis where Father Bill served as an associate minister at a large parish downtown. They found "home" in Greencastle and have been here ever since.
He will continue being a priest (ordained for life!) but must now do what is perhaps the most difficult assignment of his career. Beginning June 30, he must disconnect from the good people of St. Andrew's. He cannot enter its doors or visit with members for at least eighteen months.
On average it will take at least that long until a new full-time priest is called by the parish. Many of our denominations (including my own) have that policy so that the parish will have the time it needs for closure with the previous professional minister, evaluating and assessing itself, establishing new visions of ministry for the future, seeking out the right priest whose gifts and talents match with that vision, and calling their new priest to be in ministry with them. It is a difficult period for a parish that will be served by an interim priest(s) until a new full-time priest is called.
I believe it is even more difficult for the former minister or priest to go through that period of ... separation. And yet such is the requirement for Father Bill as he and Lucy will continue to live in Greencastle. Time and again we've seen the quality of his commitment in doing what is best for helping others. I'm sure we'll see that same commitment in the months ahead as he gives St. Andrew's the time it needs to be best prepared for the decades ahead.
But make no mistake. Not being physically present with them will be one of the most difficult "gifts" he ever gives to that parish and its people.
There is a public reception for Father Bill Wieland on Sunday afternoon, June 12. It will be held from 3-5 p.m. at the Green Center for the Performing Arts on DePauw University. I hope you'll attend and celebrate the decades of successful ministry he has shared. And, if you've ever benefited from his help, his presence, or even his wide smile, I hope you'll come and personally thank him for having answered his calling.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.