SILVER RUN — Returning to school in 1987 and entering the ministry last summer was a frightening proposition for the Rev. H. Lee Brumback.
A cooperative extension agent in New York for 12 years, the pastor of St. Mary's Lutheran Church had hoped to return to his native Virginia and continue working with agriculture.
But as one door of opportunity after another closed, he began to accept his friends' suggestions.
"God really works with people where they are, and some have to be kicked in the rear end to move," Brumback said. "Everyone said I should go to seminary, but nothing wouldseem to sink in.
"I told my pastor, 'This is ridiculous, stupid, crazy. It's been 24 years since I've been in school; I can't go back and study Greek and all those hard subjects.' "
But Brumback finally decided to do just that, selling his home and moving wife Ann, andsons Hubert, 18, and Jacob, 14, to Pennsylvania.
"It was really hard and a scary, scary thing," he recalled. "But it was freeing at the same time. Each semester was an affirmation that I had done the right thing, not by my experiences, but by what others said to me."
The experience of answering the call to the seminary has taught Brumback how to trust divine guidance, he said.
"Most of trust is being able to let go," Brumback said. "Too many times, we try to control life when it's really a matter of accepting our personhood as servants of God."
The 51-year-old became the Silver Run parish's first full-time pastor in August after graduating from the Lutheran TheologicalSeminary in Gettysburg, Pa., last spring.
St. Mary's had shared apastor with St. Matthew's in Pleasant Valley, a union church with Lutheran and United Church of Christ congregations sharing the same building. When St. Matthew's dropped its Lutheran affiliation, St. Mary's sought its own minister.
In guiding the 389-member congregation,Brumback said he wants to focus on meeting with the families and learning their hopes and concerns. About 100 members attend regularly, he said.
"I have put a high priority on visiting, because how can Iknow what to preach unless I'm more aware of what they're interestedin?" he said.
Brumback said he also wants to visit new families in the community, spreading evangelism and an ecumenical attitude.
"I tell my people to tell me about new families or families in crisisand I'll try to follow up," he said. "I say 'If you make the first call, I'll make the second.' "
But for Brumback, increasing the membership rolls is not as necessary as helping the congregation grow spiritually.
"I'm not so concerned about being successful; numbers are not that important," Brumback said. "We're called to be faithful, not successful."