Myron Herzberg, 66, will complete his service to Memorial Lutheran Church in Nevada on Sunday, Aug. 18. Herzberg has served as the congregation’s senior pastor for 22 years, after arriving at the church in April of 1997.
Herzberg gave the congregation plenty of notice, announcing in September of 2018 his plans to retire.
We’d like to share the questions we asked Pastor Herzberg recently, with his full answers.
As you think about your time in Nevada, has it gone fast?
It is hard to believe that we have been in Nevada for 22 years. Our children started kindergarten the first fall we were here, so they have been rich years for both family and ministry.
What have you loved most about your service to Memorial Lutheran in Nevada?
I loved working with parents and their children. Talking faith. Living faith. Doing faith. Memorial has made a deep commitment to faith formation. It always touched me deeply that parents gave their time to join their children in classes and activities that introduced them to the things of God.
How many total years have you been in the ministry? And what other communities did you serve prior to this?
Thirty-nine years. I became an ordained minister in June of 1980 and went immediately to a congregation in Remsen in northwest Iowa. In late 1989, Kim and I moved to St. John Lutheran in Carroll. We helped that congregation build a new worship space and we were just settling in when our bishop asked me to be his assistant. In 1994 we moved to Mt. Vernon, Iowa, and I helped congregations with pastoral searches, conflict resolution and mission outreach. When the bishop retired, I asked to return to the parish. When I was awaiting a full-time position, I served a short interim at St. Peter’s Lutheran in Grimes before coming to Nevada. There are two other communities that I have served during my time here at Memorial — Wartburg Seminary as an internship supervisor, and the Grace Institute of Spiritual Formation as its servant of worship and music.
In reflection, did the reasons you wanted to go into the ministry play out as you actually served in it?
Yes and no. Yes — I went into ministry because I love the people of God’s church, and after 39 years, I still do! No, because I did not anticipate the constraints of church administration, which often prevented me from the one-on-one pastoral care I enjoy the most.
What do you think is the number-one challenge facing churches and pastors today?
We’re trying to catch up with tectonic changes in the world because of the digital revolution. God is in the relationship business. But how do we build relationships with God and others in the digital age? With God, nothing is impossible, and we’re just beginning to see the possibilities.
What is the number-one challenge facing members of congregations today?
The biggest challenge of being a member of a congregation is the same as it has always been: loving others as Jesus loves them. It’s not easy to love people. First, we have our own concerns and we’re exhausted. When we do engage, we find that others have different perspectives and experience and politics and ways of doing things. Loving others gets messy. But I think that’s why God puts us in congregations, to really learn to put love in action. And the reward is beyond words. When you have been through thick and thin with a diverse group of people, you get a glimpse of the deep, cosmic dream of God for the world.
What does your faith in God tell you about how these challenges will be met?
This doesn’t pack churches, but it’s sacrifice. Our Story is of a suffering God; a God who will go to any length to restore wholeness. We’re at an interesting moment in our national life. People are ready to make sacrifices to restore wholeness, but our leaders are unwilling to ask for it. Genuine sacrifice is the most powerful instrument of human change. Jesus knew it. And we do, too. That’s why we come to tears when we remember a parent, a grandparent, a coach or a friend who sacrificed for us.
You’ve had an opportunity to serve with many other pastors…how much have you appreciated your colleagues?
I’ve been propped up and sustained by colleagues more than I can say. Fr. John Herzog at St. Patrick’s Church gave me lodging when I was homeless! Pastor Jim King at First United Methodist introduced me to the community. More recently, Pastor John Molacek at Central Presbyterian has been an inspiration to me as I pass the torch to a bold, capable new generation of pastors. My two Memorial associates, Ellen Taube and David Burling, taught me so much. Ellen taught me the power of sacrifice for the common good. David taught me about the power of grief and loss, the importance of presence and the listening ear, and the joy (OK, goofiness) of faith. Pastor Burling and I served 15 years together – one of the longest partnerships in our church body. I’d like to think it was one of the most fruitful, too. Last, but not least, is the partnership of Deacon Jodi Schuman. She is one of the most capable church leaders I know, and she serves with utter humility.
What accomplishments of Memorial Lutheran are you most proud of during your time as pastor?
I am proud of the practices that Memorial has adopted in the last 20 years. Doing almost everything across generations, so seniors, adults, youth and children grow and serve side by side. Sitting in silence with God and one another. Making decisions by consensus. Electing our leaders through an open-ended prayer process. Being a teaching congregation for seminary students. I am probably the proudest that Memorial has become an “outside” church, not an “inside” church. This congregation has a deep commitment to serve the needs of Nevada and eastern Story County on God’s behalf. Our leaders talk about being an “incubator” for service to the community. Harmony Clothing Closet is a good example. These people intend to stay engaged. In early September, Memorial is joining with other churches and agencies to host a conversation about new opportunities for wholeness in our community.
Can you give us a hint of what your final sermon will be about?
I’ve been pretty tempted to stand up and give a one-sentence sermon, “Love God, love one another, because God first loved you. Amen.” But, I’m a preacher, so I’ll probably have to elaborate a little!
Tell me a bit about the members of your family and what they’re doing today?
My wife, Kim, continues her private practice as a clinical social worker in Ames and intends to continue into next year. Our son, Max, is completing a Ph.D. in developmental neuroscience with the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. He’s been teaching undergrads and doing research with brain imaging. At the end of July, he married Ellen Nikodym, who is in a master’s degree program in public policy at the University. They will both be graduating in May, 2020. Our daughter, Lydia, received a degree in nursing at Marshalltown Community College in June and will take her state RN Board Exams Sept. 17. She hopes to serve as a nurse in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area. Our Nigerian “son,” Adamu Ibrahim, is director of telecom services for McFarland Clinics. His wife, Khadija, is also a student at MCC. They live with their 3-year old son, Sadiq, here in Nevada.
What are your plans for retirement?
Spending time with Sadiq! Pastors are in short supply, so I will probably do some interim work. I also hope to be a tutor for children with dyslexia in Grinnell.