A former Lutheran bishop has been appointed as the interim pastor for Peace Lutheran Church in Grass Valley.
The Rev. David Mullen, of Antelope, will lead the congregation through a transition period that could last one to two years before members call a permanent pastor. Mullen recently was accepted by the church council and will preach in his new role for the first time Sunday.
Mullen has been in ministry for 44 years and served as synod bishop from 2002-08.
“The entire congregation at Peace Lutheran is both honored and excited to have our former bishop lead us during this very important time in the life of our church,” said newly elected congregation President Alan Gaines.
Mullen is part of a trend in the Evangelical Lutheran Church to train seasoned ministers for the role of shepherding a congregation after a pastor leaves.
In addition to fulfilling the normal pastoral duties, Mullen will “help the congregation understand who we are, what we’re feeling, what we’re hoping for and how we affirm our mission in creative ways for the future,” Mullen said.
“This is a very faith-filled, wonderful time of fertility and creativity and openness to God.”
He sketched out what he called “five process tasks” every congregation goes through in a pastoral transition:
• Coming to terms with the past, “all the way back to the beginning,” Mullen said. Peace Lutheran was founded as a mission church in 1965.
• Discovering a new identity in the wake of the previous pastor’s departure.
• Allowing for needed leadership to develop.
• Rediscovering and reconnecting with the Sierra Pacific Synod, the regional jurisdiction based in Rancho Cordova of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (The synod oversees 200 congregations in Northern California and Nevada.)
• Committing to a new direction in ministry.
Mullen and his wife of 45 years, Susan Mullen, live near Roseville and have three grown children and five grandchildren who live nearby, he said. He was born and raised in Wisconsin, graduated from Luther Seminary, Minnesota, in 1969, and led churches in North Dakota before moving to California in 1984.
He previously served as interim pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sacramento.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson led Peace for 29 years before retiring in February to teach through the online program of Fuller Seminary, based in Pasadena. That very stability makes preparing for a transition all the more important, Mullen said.
Grass Valley resident and freelance writer Trina Kleist may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 575-6132.