Welcome to the Rivers & Lakes Presbytery website. We are delighted to tell you about ourselves and to invite you to participate with us in Christ’s mission. – Paul Heidebrecht, Stated Clerk of Rivers & Lakes Presbytery – firstname.lastname@example.org
Don Landwehr is the first person in our Presbytery to be trained, examined and approved as a Commissioned Pastor (CP). A CP is a ruling elder authorized by Presbytery to provide pastoral ministry to a congregation that is unable to support an ordained teaching elder. Don serves both United Presbyterian Church in Amberg, WI, and First Presbyterian Church in Pembine, WI, preaching in both churches every Sunday morning.
Commissioned pastors are relatively new in the EPC. There are six churches in our Presbytery that rely on a CP. Our Ministerial Committee guided Don through a training program developed by the EPC which concluded with an examination on the floor of Presbytery this past April.
Don, tell us about your call to be a lay minister.
I grew up in a Catholic family but it was not until I got married and joined a Methodist church where my wife belonged that I came to Christ. My father-in-law was a great example to me. I was invited to do some preaching in the Methodist church and eventually got some training from them. When we moved to Crivitz after my retirement, we ended up at Faith Presbyterian where Pastor Rick Marcy preached the Gospel and mentored me. I began to do some pulpit supply in other churches, especially two smaller congregations in Pembine and Amberg. Their pastor, Fred Wadsworth, passed away about five years ago and I stepped in during his illness. I told them I’d take care of them until they found someone else. I’m still there. We all entered the EPC several years ago. It was very important to me to be in a denomination that did not water down God’s Word.
You are a full-time carpenter as well.
After I retired from a Wisconsin utility company, I turned the carpentry work I had done on the side into a business. I wanted to call it Don’s Custom Cabinets, but the name was taken. My wife convinced me to use “The Other Carpenter” as a way to show that I served Christ in my work. I have probably reached more people with the Gospel through my business than from the pulpit. The name puts a burden on me, though, to live up as a businessman. Often I and my crew are asked about the name and I end up talking about Christ.
The EPC’s Leadership Training Guide was your primary source of training.
Yes, it was very helpful to me. It filled in the gaps in my knowledge of Reformed theology and Presbyterian polity. I think every Session member needs to go through that manual. I am not one to read a lot and I have trouble remembering all the terminology and explaining everything with just the right words. But God has given me lots of practical experience in ministry over the years and that to me is as valuable as any seminary training. But it means a lot to me to have the certification as a CP. It was tough to go through it all but I am glad I persevered.
Your family situation has also changed.
My first wife, Jan, died after a long struggle with cancer about five years ago. She had always encouraged me as a lay speaker and demonstrated deep faith in Christ. I ended up getting remarried to Jan’s best friend, Lori, who is very supportive to me in this ministry. Lori is a nurse and a beautiful, loving person.
What is the biggest challenge facing your two congregations?
They are both small and made up of older folks. The hardest thing is to look beyond the confines of their buildings and to see church as more than something to do on Sunday morning. I keep emphasizing that we are surrounded by unchurched people who don’t know Christ. We can all speak to people when we are in a store or on the street. Small town folks are reserved and careful about speaking to strangers, but once they know someone, there is nothing they won’t do to help. But Christ calls us to love people we don’t know and who are different from us.